`There are different levels of reality'
Adoor Gopalakrishnan does not make any distinction between features and documentaries.
I make documentaries out of love for the subject and it is creatively very satisfying
THEREBY HANGS THE TALE A still from `Nizhalkuttu.'
There is a belief that Adoor Gopalakrishnan, like his films, is supremely inaccessible. Both the myths were conclusively destroyed at Cinema Ghar last week when the master filmmaker's latest film Nizhalkuttu was screened and Adoor interacted with the audience post the screening.
The film, set in the pre-Independence era, is deceptively simple. Nizhalkuttu is like the proverbial box of chocolates with layers upon layers of meaning and interpretation with none of the retinal fatigue inducing fast cuts. The rhythm, that is at once dreamlike and taut, carries one along on a wave unforgettable images and sounds all the while giving one time to ponder about the happenings on screen.
Though Nizhalkuttu was released two years ago, the master filmmaker has been busy, "Making documentaries," Adoor says with a disarming smile. "I made two feature length documentaries - one on a Kathakali maestro and the other on the Kerala dance form, Mohiniattam."
Adoor does not make any differentiation between features and documentaries. "I make them simultaneously. I do not distinguish between the forms. And yes John Grierson's 1926 definition of the documentary as a `creative treatment of reality' still holds true. There are just different levels of reality. It is not just what one sees on the surface. A lot depends on the interpretation as well."
There is no question of feeling limited while making documentaries. "I feel absolutely free. I make documentaries out of love for the subject and it is creatively very satisfying. While making documentaries, I read a lot and the research teaches me so much. For example, while researching performing arts, the question of why a particular art takes a particular shape at a certain point of time and space is fascinating. When I was researching a documentary for UNESCO, I discovered that Kuddiyettam is the oldest form of theatre and is more than 2,000 years old. It is a pity that we are made to believe that art of the First World only counts. We are poor and hence our art is also poor. This is something we have accepted as true."
Ask Adoor about the economics and he retorts, "I don't look at economics while making films. I do not live beyond my means either so it is not that I need a lot of money."
MARKET MATTERS `Selling is the idea not the idea itself.' PHOTO: SATISH. H
The theatrical release of Michael Moore's documentary, 9/11 Fahrenheit, is nothing to get "particularly excited about. The film was sensational, its victory at Cannes and the fact that it was an indictment of the Bush administration all made it a much talked about film. I would not say that it proves there is a market for documentaries."
Categorically stating that he does not make "Parallel films," Adoor says, "I just make films. I am happy if people come and see my films and unhappy if people do not. The media has made the distinction between mainstream and parallel cinema."
The multiplexes have created a new kind of problem. "I thought they would be good for small films but the ticket prices are very high and to run the multiplex, the theatre owners need big blockbusters. The multiplex caters to the newly rich who perhaps will not be giving small cinema a chance."
Adoor feels the common complaint that the audience have become increasingly insensitive is because of "looking at cinema as a separate entity. You must look at the issue holistically. A literate audience will appreciate good cinema."
Remakes Adoor feels are not a particularly new concept. "It used to happen before - if a film did well in one language, the rights would be bought to make it in another. This has nothing to do with creative bankruptcy. The primary idea is to sell. Selling is the idea not the idea by itself. There is an inherent contrariness in cinema in that it is an art that requires the patronage of the common man."
Adoor's attack on cable television and its `serial killers' are well known and he clarifies as he says, "When there was only cinema, there were certain standards adhered to by the makers as well as the viewers. Television signalled the entry of non-professionals who called themselves filmmakers. Audience were exposed to substandard work and the levels of expectation went down. As far as a solution goes, I hope the audience gets tired of this and demands quality."
The Dada Saheb Phalke award winner (apart from numerous national and international awards) has succinct counsel for young filmmakers, "Don't seek any advice!"
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