Fresh lease of life for serious cinema

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM July 26. The prestigious Bharat award won by Murali for his outstanding performance in `Neythukaran,' the debut film of Priyanandanan, has lent a fresh lease of life to serious Malayalam cinema which was gasping for survival.

`Neythukaran' was perhaps a bold attempt to revive serious cinema and also the tradition set by the late John Abraham to popularise people's cinema by taking it to the masses. "I am indeed delighted by the honour. Though this is a coveted honour, I had never made any deliberate bid for the award,'' Murali told The Hindu today.

Murali, 47, who relinquished his job in Kerala University for a full-time career in theatre and cinema, had acted in over 300 films and won the State awards in 1990, '92, '96, '99 and in 2001. This fellow-traveller of the CPI(M) has taken life as an indefatigable pursuit of the progressive element in theatre and cinema. He had a stint in electoral politics too.

``The film, `Neythukaran,' is a critical essay on the Left movement in Kerala. The movement has had its own strength and lapses. Being part of the movement, Priyanandanan and the scenarist, Sasidharan, are raising some pertinent questions about its growth and evolution,'' Murali said.

The main character, the octogenarian weaver, Appa, who feels orphaned at the death of the Communist ideologue, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, was a true Communist. Just like AKG, E.M.S, P.Krishna Pillai, Azhikodan Raghavan and M.N.Govindan Nair, there were so many others who had strived hard for the Communist Party and never hogged the limelight. Appa too was one among them. Murali sensed the unfathomable commitment of that generation in waging a relentless war against the class enemy. Moreover, certain mannerisms of EMS, for instance the way he walks, has also influenced him.

Theatre is still a passion for Murali. He would fall into a trance before attempting a role on stage. He describes it as an inexplicable physical conditioning to perform on stage. "As a child itself I was lured to the theatre. Later I realised its immense potential too,'' he said.

The rich theatre experience has equipped him to sense the soul of a character. Appa the comrade was one character which really put his histrionic skills to test.

``Priyanandanan may not have academic backing, but he is well-versed in art, literature and politics. There are not many directors who have the ingenuity to extract the best from an artiste,'' Murali said.

A professional actor is destined to repeat the roles he had been doing time and again. Nothing changes except the names of characters and heroines. Following the success of his role in the Tamil film, `Gemini,' Murali has been signed up to do the villain in its Telugu version in addition to a couple of Tamil films.

Serious Malayalam cinema occupies a place of ride in world cinema. Still, it fails to have an intense understanding of social realities. The social struggles have not yet been duly reflected in Malayalam cinema. Iranian cinema is a model worth emulating, he said.

``Two years back, I had a plan to direct a film. Now I have given up the idea as I lack the patience,'' he said.

Priyanandanan too needs a special mention for the success of `Neythukaran.' He painstakingly took the film to the masses in a big way. He conducted mobile shows, a dream of the late John Abraham who pioneered the people's film movement.

Initially, Priyanandanan had a fear that the man on the street would reject the film as high-brow stuff. But Appa struck a chord in the heart of the common man.

The first show in Mannarkad attracted a good crowd and he was flooded with requests from neighbouring Thachanpara to show the film there. Priyanandanan still continues the journey with the film cans.

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