Mr. Adoor Gopalakrishnan:
Born into a family of Kathakali patrons in a village called Adoor in Pathanamthitta District, Kerala, Mr. Gopalakrishnan made his acting debut at the age of nine and since then got actively involved in theatre in various capacities as actor, playwright and director. On graduating in Economics and Political Science from the Gandhigram Rural Institute, Madurai, Mr. Adoor Gopalakrishnan went on to join the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune pursuing his passion for the theatre. In 1965, back home in Kerala, he pioneered the Film Society movement in Kerala by founding the Chitralekha Film Society of Trivandrum with the active support and co-operation of his friends and film enthusiasts. The same year, India's first co-operative in the film sector was also founded with the aim of production, distribution and exhibition of quality films.
In 1972, he made his first feature film, 'Swayamvaram' (One's own choice) narrating the story of a run-away couple struggling to find a new life together in a small but unfamiliar town without the usual support of the family net work. The film won the National best award for the best film, best director, best cameraman and best actress.
'Swayamvaram' was followed by 'Kodiyettam' (Ascent) in 1977, centering its story round a simple and innocent villager – basically portraying the individuation of a flotsam character who is eventually rough-hewn into a responsible and self-respecting person.
The beginning of eighties marked a milestone in Adoor's filmmaking career, when he made the masterpiece work 'Elipathayam' (Rat Trap- 1981). The film examines with incisive precision the lonely and withdrawn world of a petty landlord who has inherited the degeneration and vestiges of a bygone feudal style of life and attitudes.
Mr. Adoor followed it up with another notable work, 'Mukha Mukham' (Face-to- Face) on the subject of the real and the image coming face to face. Made in 1984, this has been a fervently debated film. It unfolds against the background of Kerala's communist movement. Then came 'Anantaram' (Monologue -1987) a very complex work which probes the areas of experience and perception and the very process of creativity itself - a film about story telling.
His noted films in the nineties include 'Mathilukal' ( Walls -1990) based mainly on the veteran Malayalam writer Vaikom Muhammed Basheer's well known short story and 'Vidheyan' (The Servile -1993) a free adaptation of Paul Zacharia's novelette, 'Bhaskara Patellar and My Life'. The protagonist in 'Mathilukal' overcomes his confinement and seclusion in the jail by carrying on a series of amorous conversations with a female voice from the women's prison ward across. 'Vidheyan' examines the psychology and structure of power as detailed in the strange relationship between a poor settler from south Kerala and the mindless and brutal village chief – the patelar in the neighboring state of Karnataka
In 'Kathapurushan' (Man of the Story – 1995), an Indo-Japanese co-production, Mr. Gopalakrishnan shifted his focus to recent and contemporary history of Kerala that spans a period of about forty years from the 1940-s. It examines the relationships between the individual, his family, the society and the State. How an individual goes about to change a society and in the process gets himself changed as well.
His last film, 'Nizhalkkuthu' (Shadow Kill -2002) a multi-layered film focusing on the issue of death penalty as well as the fast disappearing trait of empathy, co-produced with Artcam International, Paris, was warmly welcomed by the film lovers of Kerala. It once again emphasizes the fact that irrespective of odds haunting the film industry, good films continue to catch the attention of film lovers. The film has been commercially released in France and the US to great critical acclaim. It is now due for release in Switzerland and the German speaking countries. Adoor also has about 25 short films including The Myth, Krishnanaattam, Kalamandalam Gopi and Koodiaattam to his credit.
Mr. Adoor Gopalakrishnan's contribution to cinema and Indian cinema in particular has been proven beyond doubt. This master filmmaker's works have been widely acknowledged for their technical as well as artistic excellence. He is today the most admired filmmaker among his contemporaries in India. The Nation honoured him with the title of Padmashree in 1984. He is the recipient of several national film awards and several state awards. Among the international awards Mr. Adoor has received is the British Film Institute award (BFI Award) of 1982 for his masterpiece film 'Elipathayam' (The most original and imaginative film of 1982). The only other Indian film director to receive this award is Mr. Satyajit Ray. Recently the French government honoured him with the title of 'Commander of the order of Arts and Letters' the highest French honour in the field of culture - for his outstanding contribution to international cinema.
The International Film Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) has gone to him six times successively for 'Mukhamukham', 'Anantaram', 'Mathilukal', 'Vidheyan', 'Kathapurushan' and 'Nizhalkkuthu'. Winner of several international awards like the UNICEF film prize, OCIC film prize, INTERFILM Prize etc, his films have been shown in every important festival round the world. Last year, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington honoured him by holding a complete retrospective of his work. This was followed by tributes by the Cinematheque at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Cleveland Cinematheque and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Other major retrospectives of his films include those at the Cinematheque in Paris, La Rochelle, Pesaro, Lincoln Centre, New York, Fribourg, Alexandria, Helsinki, Figuera de Foz, Brussels, Madrid etc.
His collection of essays, 'The World of Cinema' was given the national award for the Best book on Cinema in 1984. He has served on several international juries including that of Venice film festival, Hawaii, New Delhi, Alexandria, Singapore, Sochi etc. He has chaired several national institutions like the Film &TV Institute of India, his alma mater. Currently he is chairing the Public Broadcasting Trust of India.
His peers hold him in high esteem, and the new generation looks up to him for guidance and advice. Mr. Adoor Gopalakrishnan's undying zeal for artistic perfection and his quest for novel themes holding humanity above everything else make him an author worthy of the trust the discriminating audiences have bestowed on him.