A man who set the stage for path-breaking cinema
Veteran art director S. Konnanatt, who did pioneering work in Malayalam cinema, died at his home in Mugalivakkom here on Saturday. He was 88 years old. Mr. Konnanat, whose filmography includes landmarks such as Chemmeen, Nirmalyam, and Bhargavi Nilayam, is survived by wife Kanagam, son Srikanth and daughter Vichitra.
Among those who paid their last respects at the cremation, held here on Sunday were film-maker K. Hariharan and representatives from the Cine Art Directors’ Association.
P.K. Ajith Kumar writes fromKozhikode: “He did a lot of pioneering work in art direction in Malayalam cinema,” said director I.V. Sasi, while talking to The Hindu over telephone on Sunday, about Konnanatt.
Konnanatt, a native of Kozhikode, directed art for more than 500 films in a career that spanned over four decades. Padayottam, Vellam, and Thacholi Ambu are among his prominent films. He also directed a film, Surumayitta Kannukal. He gave shape to Malayalam cinema at a time when it was shot almost completely indoors. If you needed to shoot a scene inside a house, the art director will have to make it, you could not just find a house and shoot it, as you do today.
“Those days, you simply would not be able to make a film without an art director; now you could,” said Mr. Sasi, who was himself an art director before becoming one of the most prolific directors of Malayalam cinema.
“And Konnanatt was the last word in art direction in Malayalam cinema. To me, he was a guru; it is because of him that I went to Chennai with celluloid dreams. He was a relative of mine and whenever he came to Kozhikode, I used to request him to allow me to join him in Chennai.”
Mr. Sasi added that he worked with Konnanatt in about 30 films. “I remember working with him for films like Ammaye Kanan,” he said. “When I turned director, I did the art myself initially, but later when I became too busy, I felt the need of an art director and Konnanatt was the obvious choice. And he did brilliant work for me in films such as Alavuddeenum Albhuthavilakkum and Vadakakkoru Hrudayam. Among my favourite works by him for films of other directors are Chemmeen, Vellam and Padayottam.”
Santhosh Raman, one of the leading art directors today in Mollywood, too rates the sets created by Konnanatt for Padayottam highly. “I have always admired the film for the sheer beauty of its art work, be it the ship or the huge chess board on water,” he said. “And the dilapidated temple inside the forest in Aranyakam too was an amazing piece,” he said.
Mr. Santhosh said Konnanatt was an inspiration for art directors. “He gave the proper direction to art direction in Malayalam cinema,” he said.