On the fateful day of January 30, 1948, when Mahatma Gandhi fell to assassin’s bullets in Delhi, a seven-year-old in faraway Kerala was so heartbroken that he cried the whole day and vowed to become a Gandhian and wear khadi.
“Nobody could console the little Adoor Gopalakrishnan that day. In some vague way he could understand that a great man had been killed, and he was upset about it,” says a biography on the eminent filmmaker.
“That day, Adoor became a Gandhian. It may not have been apparent, but later at school, as early as that, he spun the charka and wore khadi. He still wears them, and the charka continues to be part of his life and work,” writes journalist-critic Gautaman Bhaskaran in “Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life in Cinema“.
In this first authorised biography of the Dada Saheb Phalke award winner, Bhaskaran traces the ebbs and flows of the life of the enigmatic director.
From his birth during the Quit India movement to his lonely childhood at his uncles’ house; from life at Gandhigram, where Adoor studied rural development, to his days and nights at the Pune Film Institute; and from his first film .
“Swayamvaram” to his latest “Oru Pennum Rantaanum”, the book tracks the twists and turns of Adoor’s life, finding an uncommon man and a rare auteur.
The incident of Adoor’s family breaking the news of Gandhi’s death, the effect on the little boy and other related things have been recreated in the filmmaker’s “Kathapurushan” in all its poignancy.
Adoor was born on July 3, 1941 in Pallickal to Madhavan Unnitahn, a forest ranger, and Gouri Kumjamma. He was the couple’s sixth child.
According to the author, there is a lot of Gandhi in Adoor. “Even today, he likes to do his own work, instead of asking others...He never asks anybody to do anything he himself can,” the book, published by Penguin, says.
Adoor’s film “Nizhalkkuthu” also strongly reflects Gandhian values.
“A powerful indictment of capital punishment, the work shows in an ironical twist how the son -- who spins the charka and follows Gandhi, even taking an active part in his freedom movement -- is forced to step into his hangman father’s shoes and carry out an execution when the old man falls ill just before the hanging,” the book says.
“At school, Adoor began to wear khadi and study Hindi.
The Hindi Prachar Sabha conducted courses in the language, and he passed the Madhyam examination. Gandhi evoked an abiding national feeling in young Adoor, a sentiment that pushed him to join the Gandhigram Rural Institute in 1957, a year after it opened.”
One of the pioneers of the New Indian Wave, Adoor has made just 11 feature films in nearly four decades. His characters are drawn from real people, real lives. His cinema manages to frame details that often escape our everyday glance, turning the mundane into the magical, the commonplace into the startling.