Filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan discusses his latest project based on the short stories of Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai.
Movies must be made for all times. They must be timeless in appeal and universal in impact. For instance, both the themes of this project are universal and timeless.
PHOTO: SHAJU JOHN
Truly experimental: Adoor Gopalakrishnan.
His handloom cloth file with the elephant motif and his khadi kurta exemplify the man's choices purely Indian. Even in the Indian context, he sticks to an ambience he is at home in when he makes films. Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner Adoor Gopalakrishnan makes movies in his mother tongue, Malayalam; yet audiences worldwide enjoy them and can relate to them, which proves how well he communicates through visuals, that global language.
In a span of nearly four decades, his oeuvre is compact. Apart from his 30-plus short films and documentaries, he has made just nine feature films. Now, Adoor is working on his 10th film project, shooting at Thiruvananthapuram and Alappuzha. His last movie, "Nizhalkuthu", was in 2002.
The themes of Adoor's films have been diverse. While his first movie, "Swayamvaram", dealt with a young couple who struggled with life in a small city; his last movie, "Nizhalkuthu", told the tale of a hangman grappling with the reality of his profession.
His latest is truly experimental. It is a twin project, based on the short stories of Jnanpith Awardee Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai. While one is called "Moonnu Pennungal" (These Three women), the other is "Kallante Makan" (The Thief's Son). Each will comprise three stories. He started shooting for these films on March 11. Excerpts from an interview:
Why twin movies now?
Doordarshan asked me to make a 225-minute programme, based on Thakazhi's works, to be telecast in its slot where tributes are paid to classical literature of India. When I read all his novels and short stories, I thought it was a shame to limit them to just 10 programmes and considered making films. DD agreed to collaborate. So I selected six short stories. I am making those programmes, but I got the film rights. It is a joint production like many of my earlier films. One film will have three stories each.
How is it different from the conventional film?
Well, you are used to seeing a film with a single hero and heroine and one full-length story. This will have three small stories with a common theme. Satyajit Ray's "Teen Kanya" was made like that and Kurosawa also made a movie like this. There have, of course, been several such instances in the history of cinema. The twin movies will be made simultaneously. "Moonnu Pennungal" will deal with the lives of three different women. The first is a spinster to be played by Nandita Das. Kavya Madhavan plays her sister. The second is a housewife played by Manju Pillai. The third is a sex worker; Padmapriya does that role.
Men do have good roles in these. Bharat award winner Murali and Mukesh are in "Moonnu Pennungal". The underlying theme of the second film, "Kallante Makan", is an inquiry into how our legal system deals with the common man. Nedumudi Venu, Vijayaraghavan, Lalitha, Manoj K. Jayan, Ashokan, M.R. Gopakumar, Jagadeesh and Sudeesh act in this. In one of the six stories, there are no women characters at all.
You are not very particular about casting big stars, though Mammooty acted in two of your films.
I must get their dates when I want them. I work on an austere budget. Everything is ready when I begin shooting. For this project, I started shooting on March 11. I must finish it by April 20. So, I don't wait for busy actors' dates. Secondly, I have to know them and be convinced of their potential. Most importantly, they must look the character I have in mind. I coach my actors myself.
You don't have professional assistants then?
No, I do almost everything myself. My set is not like a corporate set-up; no colourful umbrellas or chairs with the director's name written on it. (Laughs) Here the director is not settled in any seat. In fact he is a `moving person'. Meera Sahib, a close friend, works as my constant chief assistant. I do even location hunting myself because I am always looking for a particular place and I have to find it. For instance, if it's a temple, it just cannot be any temple but a particular one needed for that scene. Of course I have assistants to do assigned jobs like keeping the continuity of scenes.
Is it a period film?
Not really, it is set in the recent past. Movies must be made for all times. They must be timeless in appeal and universal in impact. For instance, both the themes of this project are universal and timeless.
Most of your movies have dialogues in the Central Travancore dialect. Is it the same here?
Yes, the stories have a Kuttanadan background. Dialogue has an important role to play in cinema. It is not just for communicating an idea. It not only conveys what the character wants to put across but also reveals the character's class, culture... I have grown up listening to and speaking in the Central Travancorean dialect, so it comes handy when I am telling a story set in that region.
What about music in your films? You use it judiciously whereas song and dance sequences abound in Indian commercial films.
Music is a useful device to convey a mood, interpret a situation and for several other creative purposes. Popular cinema uses song and dance as it caters mostly to urban populations comprising mostly people uprooted from their rural moorings. In cities like Bombay, there has been a constant influx of rural folks looking for work and livelihood. Movies tried to provide them with what they were missing in their new existence of loneliness, poverty and estrangement. So those `start-up' moviemakers tried to entertain them with singing and dancing. And they thought they were providing the masses with what they were craving for.
Getting back to his twin projects, Adoor says that the Kallante Makan's role has not been fixed yet.
"There are three boys who are listed as finalists. I need to bring them to watch the shooting and normally they gain a lot of confidence while watching the elders perform."
This is Adoor's method of making movies, very avant-garde. The one-hour time's up, the crews comes into the hotel room at Alappuzha, the files with the script are collected and he is ready to leave for the shoot.
Methodical and therefore economical way of making movies, sans any brouhaha.
Send this article to Friends by