Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life In Cinema: A Review

By John Cheeran
There is cinema in India outside of Bollywood and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, a classicist in the mould of Satyajit Ray, has made significant contributions to sustain such alternative ways of light and shade. Adoor, an auteur celebrated internationally, but in India and, especially in his native Kerala, is regarded as an aloof man and, as happens mostly, is branded arrogant.
Film critic Gautaman Bhaskaran’s authorised biography of the director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life In Cinema, disappointingly does not offer enough insights and inputs that will help one understand the auteur better.
Adoor who has made films such as Swayamvaram, Kodiyettam, Elipathayam, Mukhamukham and Vidheyan deserves a biography that should read more than the reviews of his eleven features he has made in a long career.
Adoor is not an easy man or a film-maker to understand. As Shyam Benegal reminds us Adoor’s movies are meditations on the human condition. Bhaskaran, who has closely watched Adoor’s career from the vantage point of a journalist, has a written biography largely based on conversations that he had with the filmmaker. It’s challenge for any biographer to make Adoor confess about his life and movies. Bhaskaran, however, is unpretentious and writes lucidly and has succeeded to a great extent to give the reader an overall view about Adoor’s world. Adoor says: “Cinema is actually one’s experience. One’s vision of life. The filmmaker’s. That is his cinema.”
Adoor’s first movie (Swayamvaram) was released in 1972. Except for Nalu Pennungal and Oru Pennum Randaanum, the interval between his movies has been an excruciating four years, most of the times. The interval only reflects the time and thought that Adoor puts into his movies. He is a careful filmmaker. There is not a single frame in his oeuvre that is inessential. And he is a careful and cagey talker too which rules out a brutal self-portrait.
Adoor is not a stranger to controversies and, in Kerala, fellow filmmakers in art film circuit has had many bones to pick with him. It’s quite disappointing that Bhaskaran could not persuade Adoor to explain why he did not work with Kodiyettam Gopi after the successful 1977 effort (Kodiyettam) that gave the actor the national award. The lack of critical observations on the filmmaker from his contemporaries will, of course, invite the charge of the biography being a hagiography. Had Bhaskaran talked to Adoor’s heroes (Mammooty, Madhu, MR Gopakumar) and heroines (Sobhana, Mini Nair) the portrait would have been fuller.
And if you want to understand Adoor as a friend, lover, husband and father, you will have to wait longer.

Title: Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life In Cinema
Author: Gautaman Bhaskaran
Publisher: Penguin Viking

1 comment:

Jay said...

Read this book and liked it. I'm glad that at least now there is a document on Adoor's life.
It's a pity that none of his documentaries on Kerala's artforms are available on DVD, and his movies (except for one or two.) But you can find a number of mohiniyattom and kathakali performances on DVD in shops targetted at tourists. I had read a news (2 years back, I guess)that Pune FTI is planning to release his documentaries and features on DVD. Still havent seen them in stores.

John Cheeran at Blogged