From working in the Government as an investigator of statistics to taking Indian Cinema to France and the U.S., Padma Shri Adoor Gopalakrishnan has managed to constantly innovate himself. Madhur Tankha shares his Journey so far.
Though forever bound to his cultural roots, noted filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan ensures that he doesn’t repeat a subject and tries to give something new to the audience each time. “But there is a danger that people expect something on the lines of my earlier work, so there is an element of friction but it is positive and one learns and imbibes new things this way,” he says.
Describing himself as “just a filmmaker” even though critics prefer labelling him as an art filmmaker, Adoor says he is not just narrating a story through his film. “In fact, the story is a disguise to keep the audience seated in the hall. The film should engross the audience, make them experience life at its core and not in its superficiality. The more artistic a film, the more enjoyable it will be. It should also be made with integrity and originality of treatment.”
Speaking about his rich cultural background, Adoor says he was born into a family that patronised various art forms. “My foray into theatre was not an aberration but a natural growth. Right from my school days I was writing plays, even acting out and producing them. Theatre was my first love. Since my uncle owned a cinema hall, I used to frequently watch movies there.”
Reminiscing about his earlier days, Adoor says for two years he worked as an investigator of economics and statistics with the Union Government. “I travelled across Kerala but was interested in specialising in theatre. I made inquiries about the National School of Drama but it had courses only in Hindi so I decided to study screenwriting and direction from the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune. There I realised that you cannot do theatre as well as films. There I started discovering the best of European cinema.”
God’s Own Country forms the backdrop of most of his films. “It is part of the culture you live in. Our country has one culture with several tributaries. Just like there is not one but several schools of literature, similarly there is not one but several cinemas. I don’t make films in Hindi because I don’t know the nuances of the language and of life in that part of the country.”
Adoor’s debut film “Swayamvaram” brought about a paradigm shift in the average Keralite’s approach towards cinema. The national award winning film was exhibited widely in various international film festivals.
His other important film “Nizhalkkuthu” takes a dispassionate look at capital punishment. “The film narrated the experiences of an executioner who gets to know that one of his subjects is innocent. It was based on an original story. In 1992 I read a news item about the last hangman and it captured my fancy. So I worked on the subject and in 2002 I made the film,” says Adoor, who is also the chairperson of Public Service Broadcasting Trust.
While Adoor’s films are awarded and shown at film festivals abroad, they do not reach out to the audience in a big way in his motherland. “We have unpardonably failed to show the different kinds of cinema to the audience. There is total absence of distribution at the national level. A distributor should have love for cinema, understanding of international cinema and must be resourceful enough to take cinema to multiplexes. We are running after star-studded stories with no original thinking. My films get national distribution in France and the U.S. but not in my own country,” says the filmmaker.
Adoor’s latest film “Naalu Pennungal” that was screened in the Capital recently is about four women belonging to different social strata. Apart from feature films, he has over 30 short films and documentaries to his credit.