Award-winning director and able tutor

John Sankaramangalam   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

John Sankaramangalam, who died on Monday at Thiruvalla at the age of 84, was a director of award-winning films and widely respected teacher and administrator at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. He had a long innings at the internationally renowned institute, from where he retired as director two decades ago.

His maiden work, Janmabhoomi, had won the National award for the best film for national integration. He went on to direct Aval Alpam Vaikippoyi, Samantharam and Saramsham, besides several short films.

Bina Paul was the editor of Samantharam, the 1985 film which had Babu Namboothiri and Soorya playing the lead. That was the first feature film for Bina, who was also his student at Pune.

“I would always remember him with gratitude for the break he gave me,” she told The Hindu. “I wasn’t familiar with Malayalam at the time. And there was hardly any woman working behind the camera in Indian cinema then.”

She does not recall much about the film, though she remembers some pretty frames. “Its primary cinematographer was Prabhat Parida, but, if my memory is right, Santosh Sivan had also worked on it,” she said. “Some scenes were even shot at his house in Thiruvananthapuram.”

Bina had also watched Janmabhoomi. “I was studying in New Delhi at the time,” she said. “The National-award-winning films used to be screened in Delhi then.”

Bina’s husband and cinematographer-director Venu was also a student of Sankaramangalam. “He taught me direction at Pune and I still recall the appreciation I got from him on the short film I did after the first year,” he recalled. “He was an excellent teacher and was particularly fond of me, as I was the only Malayali student at Pune in that batch.”

Sankaramamgalam himself was a student at Pune; he had studied in the second batch, in 1961. Fourteen students had started the course, but only five, he said in an interview, lasted till the final year. One of them was Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

He said he also enjoyed his stint as a teacher and administrator at Pune. “Because of the institute, I didn’t ever have a lean period, unlike most filmmakers,” he said. “I could associate with films all the time. Because of my background as a director, I could bring to Pune some of the world’s greatest filmmakers, including Krzysztof Zanussi and Akira Kurosawa.”

As for Sankaramangalam’s films, it is doubtful if they are easily available any longer, but you are very likely to have heard some of the songs from them. Melodies like Vellikudakkeezhil... (Aval Alpam Vaikippoyi) and Maanathe mannaathikkoru... (Janmabhoomi).

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 7:41:12 AM |

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