Mouttathu Gopalakrishnan Unnithan
3 July 1941
|Alma mater||Film and Television Institute of India|
|Years active||1965 – present|
Adoor Gopalakrishnan (born 3 July 1941) is an Indian film director, script writer, and producer and is regarded as one of the most notable filmmakers in India. With the release of his first feature film Swayamvaram (1972), Gopalakrishnan pioneered the new wave in Malayalam cinema during the 1970s. In a career spanning over five decades, Gopalakrishnan has made only 12 feature films to date. His films are made in the Malayalam language and often depict the society and culture of his native state Kerala. Nearly all of his films premiered at Venice, Cannes and Toronto International Film Festival. Along with Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, Gopalakrishnan is one of the most recognized Indian film directors in world cinema.
For his films, Gopalakrishnan has won the National Film Award 16 times, next only to Ray and Sen. He also won the Kerala State Film Awards 17 times. He was awarded the State honours Padma Shri in 1984 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2006. He received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2004 for his valuable contributions to Indian cinema. In 2016, he was awarded the J. C. Daniel Award, Kerala government's highest honour for contributions to Malayalam cinema. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have established an archive and research center, the Adoor Gopalakrishnan Film Archive and Research Center, at their Peck School of Arts where research students will have access to 35 mm prints of the eleven feature films and several documentaries made by Gopalakrishnan.
Gopalakrishnan was born on 3 July 1941 in the village of Mannadi (Medayil Bungalow) near Adoor, present day Kerala, he was the son of Madhavan Unnithan and Mouttathu Gauri Kunjamma. He started his artistic life as an actor in amateur plays when he was 8. Later he shifted his base to writing and direction and wrote and directed a few plays. After securing a degree in Economics, Political Science and Public Administration in 1961 from the Gandhigram Rural Institute, he worked as a Government officer near Dindigul in Tamil Nadu. In 1962, he left his job to study screenwriting and direction from the Film and Television Institute of India Pune. He completed his course from there with a scholarship from the Government of India. With his classmates and friends, Gopalakrishnan established Chithralekha Film Society and Chalachithra Sahakarana Sangham; the organization was the first film society in Kerala and it aimed at production, distribution and exhibition of films in the co-operative sector.
Gopalakrishnan has scripted and directed eleven feature films and about thirty short films and documentaries. Notable amongst the non-feature films are those on Kerala's performing arts.
Gopalakrishnan's debut film, the national award-winning Swayamvaram (1972) was a milestone in Malayalam film history. The film was exhibited widely in various international film festivals including those held in Moscow, Melbourne, London and Paris. The films that followed namely Kodiyettam, Elippathayam, Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Mathilukal, Vidheyan and Kathapurushan lived up to the reputation of his first film and were well received by critics at various film festivals and fetched him many awards. However, Mukhamukham was criticized in Kerala while Vidheyan was at the centre of a debate due to the differences in opinion between the writer of story of the film Sakhariya and Gopalakrishnan.
Gopalakrishnan's later films are Nizhalkuthu, narrating the experiences of an executioner who comes to know that one of his subjects was innocent, and Naalu Pennungal, a film adaptation of four short stories by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai.
All his films have won national and international awards (National award for best film twice, best director five times, and best script two times. His films have also won his actors and technicians several national awards). Gopalakrishnan's third feature, Elippathayam won him the coveted British Film Institute Award for 'the most original and imaginative film' of 1982. The International Film Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) has gone to him six times successively for Mukhamukham, Anantharam, Mathilukal, Vidheyan, Kathapurushan and Nizhalkkuthu. Winner of several international awards like the UNICEF film prize (Venice), OCIC film prize (Amiens), INTERFILM Prize (Mannheim) etc., his films have been shown in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, London, Rotterdam and every important festival around the world.
In consideration of his contribution to Indian cinema, the nation honoured him with the title of Padma Shri (India's fourth highest civilian award) in 1984 and Padma Vibhushan (India's second highest civilian award) in 2006.
Gopalakrishnan is settled in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in Kerala. His daughter Aswathi Dorje is an IPS officer (part of the Assam cadre, 2000 batch), currently acting as Deputy Commissioner of Police in Mumbai since June 2010.
Documentaries and 'New Cinema' movement
Apart from nine feature films, he has over 30 short films and documentaries to his credit. The Helsinki Film Festival was the first film festival to have a retrospective of his films. He has headed the jury at the National Film Awards and many international film festivals.
Apart from his films, Gopalakrishnan's major contribution towards introducing a new cinema culture in Kerala was the constitution of the first Film Society in Kerala, "Chitralekha Film Society". He also took active part in the constitution of "Chitralekha," Kerala's first Film Co-operative Society for film production. These movements triggered a fresh wave of films, called "art films," by directors like G Aravindan, PA Becker, KG George, Pavithran, and Raveendran. At a time this movement was so strong that even popular cinema synthesised with art cinema to create a new genre of films. Bharat Gopi starred as hero 4 times in his ventures.
Style and trademarks
Gopalakrishnan has been known as a director who completely dictates every fine detail of his films. On the performance of actors in his movies, he stated that - "It is not the artist's job to do the detailing. I do not want different interpretations of roles that may clash with each other. It has to be absolutely unified." He normally does not encourage his crew to read the script or even the stories. The actors are told at the time of shooting about the role and the scenes before conducting several rehearsals. According to Gopalakrishnan "[i]n movies, the actor is not performing to the audience like the stage actor. Here they are acting for me. I am the audience and I will decide whether it is correct or not, enough or not."
Awards and milestones
Some of the awards Gopalakrishnan has won for his films include:
- 2015- Biswaratna Dr Bhupen Hazarika International Solidarity Award
- 2013 - Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award C. B. Kumar Endowment for Cinema yum Samskaravum (Essay)
- 2010 - Honorary Doctorate (D.Litt) from University of Kerala
- 2006 - Padma Vibhushan — Second highest civilian award from Government of India
- 2004 - Dadasaheb Phalke Award — Lifetime Achievement Award in Film awarded by the Government of India
- 1996 - Honorary Doctorate (D.Litt) from Mahatma Gandhi University
- 1984 - Padma Shri — Fourth highest civilian award from Government of India
- 1984 - Legion of Honour — French order, the highest decoration in France
- National Film Awards — Various categories for Swayamvaram, Kodiyettam, Elippathayam, Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Mathilukal, Vidheyan, Kathapurushan, Nizhalkkuthu and Naalu Pennungal
- Kerala State Film Awards: — Various categories for Kodiyettam, Elippathayam, Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Vidheyan and Oru Pennum Randaanum
- International Film Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) — won consecutively for six feature films (Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Mathilukal, Vidheyan, Kathapurushan and Nizhalkkuthu)
- London Film Festival — Sutherland Trophy — in 1982 for Elippathayam
- British Film Institute Award — Most Original Imaginative Film of 1982 — Elippathayam
- Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by French Government (2003)
- Lifetime achievement award at Cairo International Film Festival.
- 1973 - Best Film - Swayamvaram
- 1973 - Best Director - Swayamvaram
- 1978 - Best Feature Film in Malayalam - Kodiyettam
- 1980 - National Film Award – Special Jury Award / Special Mention (Non-Feature Film) - The Chola Heritage
- 1982 - Best Feature Film in Malayalam - Elippathayam
- 1984 - Best Book on Cinema - Cinemayude Lokam
- 1985 - Best Director - Mukhamukham
- 1985 - Best Feature Film in Malayalam - Mukhamukham
- 1985 - Best Screenplay - Mukhamukham
- 1988 - Best Director - Anantharam
- 1988 - Best Screenplay - Anantharam
- 1990 - Best Director - Mathilukal
- 1990 - Best Feature Film in Malayalam - Mathilukal
- 1994 - Best Feature Film in Malayalam - Vidheyan
- 1995 - Best Film - Kathapurushan
- 2003 - Best Feature Film in Malayalam - Nizhalkkuthu
- 2008 - Best Director - Naalu Pennungal
- 1977 - Best Film - Kodiyettam
- 1981 - Best Film - Elippathayam
- 1984 - Best Film - Mukhamukham
- 1993 - Best Film - Vidheyan
- 2008 - Best Film - Oru Pennum Randaanum
- 1977 - Best Director - Kodiyettam
- 1984 - Best Director - Mukhamukham
- 1987 - Best Director - Anantharam
- 1993 - Best Director - Vidheyan
- 2008 - Best Director - Oru Pennum Randaanum
- 2004 - Best Book on Cinema - Cinemanubhavam
A retrospective of his films was conducted in
- Kolkata, by Seagull Foundation for the Arts and Nandan, 2009.
- The Slovenian International Film Festival, 2009.
- The Munich Film Museum, 2009.
- The French Cinematheque, Paris, 1999.
Gopalakrishnan also worked in several respected posts in the film fraternity. He was a member of Sivaramakarath committee formed by the Government of India for framing a national film policy. He was a national film award committee member in 1974. He was a member of jury in Venice, Singapore, Hawaii and Delhi international film festivals. He was the chairman of International Film Festival of Kerala in 1999. He headed the National Film Development Corporation of India in the years 1980–1983. He was the director of Pune Film and Television Institute of India. In the years 1975–1977, he was a member of the advisory board for National Film Archive of India, Pune.
|1965||A Great Day||20 mins||Short fiction|
|1966||A Day at Kovalam||30 mins||Documentary|
|1967||The Myth||50 Seconds||Short fiction||Merit Certificate, Expo 67, Montreal|
|1968||Danger at Your Door-step||20 mins||Documentary|
|1968||And Man created||8 mins||Documentary|
|1968||Manntharikal (Grains of Sand)||20 mins||Documentary|
|1969||Towards National STD||20 mins||Documentary|
|1969||A Mission of Love||30 mins||Documentary|
|1966||Your Food||60 mins||Documentary|
|1970||Pratisandhi (The Impasse)||55 mins||Docu-drama|
|1971||Romance of Rubber||30 mins||Documentary|
|1972||Swayamvaram (One's Own Choice)||125 mins||Feature film||National Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Cinematographer. Entered into the 8th Moscow International Film Festival.|
|1973||Kilimanooril Oru Dasalakshadhipati (A Millionaire is Born)||20 mins||Documentary|
|1974||Guru Chengannur||17 mins||Documentary|
|1975||Past in Perspective||20 mins||Documentary|
|1977||Kodiyettam (Ascent)||128 mins||Feature film||National Awards for Best Feature Film in Malayalam and Best Actor|
|1978||Four Shorts on Family Planning||16 mins||Documentary|
|1980||Chola Heritage||20 mins||Documentary|
|1981||Elippathayam (The Rat Trap)||121 mins||Feature film||Sutherland Trophy at 1982 London Film Festival |
National Awards for Best Feature Film in Malayalam and Best Audiography
|1984||Mukhamukham (Face to Face)||107 mins||Feature film||FIPRESCI Prize, New Delhi, National Awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Audiography|
|1985||Eau/Ganga (Ganges-Water)||140 mins||Documentary||Grand Prize, Cinema du reel, Paris|
|1987||Anantaram (Monologue)||125 mins||Feature film||FIPRESCI Prize, Karlovy Vary. National awards for best director, best screenplay, and best audiography|
|1990||Mathilukal (The Walls)||117 mins||Feature film||FIPRESCI prize, Venice, UNICEF Film Prize, Venice, OCIC Prize, Amiens. National Award for best director, best actor, best regional film and best audiography|
|1993||Vidheyan (The Servile)||112 mins||Feature film||Feature FIPRESCI and Special Jury Prize, Singapore. Interfilm Jury Prize, Mannheim. Netpac prize, Rotterdam. National Award for best actor and best regional film|
|1995||Kathapurushan (The Man of the Story)||107 mins||Feature film||FIPRESCI Prize, National award for the best film|
|1995||Kalamandalam Gopi||43 mins||Documentary|
|2002||Nizhalkuthu (Shadow Kill)||90 mins||Feature film||FIPRESCI, Mumbai. National award for best regional film|
|2005||Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair||73 mins||Documentary|
|2007||Dance of the Enchantress||72 mins||Documentary|
|2007||Naalu Pennungal (Four Women)||105 mins||Feature film||National Award for best director|
|2008||Oru Pennum Randaanum (A Climate for Crime)||115 mins||Feature film||Kerala State award for best director 2009|
|2016||Pinneyum (Once Again)||Feature film|
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- Gautaman Bhaskaran (2010). Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life in Cinema. New Delhi: Penguin Books India.
- Lalit Mohan Joshi, C. S. Venkiteswaran (2006). A Door to Adoor. London: South Asian Cinema Foundation.
- M. F. Thomas, ed. (1986). Adoorinte Lokam (in Malayalam). Calicut, India: Mulberry.
- M. F. Thomas, ed. (2005). Adoorinte Chalachithrayathrakal (in Malayalam). Trivandrum, India: Sign Books.
- Akbar Kakkattil (2006). Varoo, Adoorilekku Pokam (Interview with Adoor Gopalakrishnan) (in Malayalam). Kottayam, India: DC Books.
- B. Sreeraj. Adoorinte Sarga Yathra (in Malayalam). India.
- R. Pavithran. Kazhchayile Kana Thalangal (in Malayalam). India.
- Gopalakrishnan, Adoor (2011). ""The Story Is Just an Excuse"" (Interview). Interviewed by Patrick McGilligan.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Adoor Gopalakrishnan.|
- Official website of Adoor
- Official Website of Information and Public Relation Department of Kerala
- Adoor Gopalakrishnan at IMDb
- Adoor's oeuvre on Rediff
- Collection of photos of Adoor
- Profile of Adoor on Weblokam
- Profile at 'Cinema of Malayalam'
- 'The Road to Modern Times', Naalu Pennungal and the cinema of Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mint Lounge 8 September 2007, by Arjun Razdan
- Adoorinte Sargaprapancham [Documentary] (in six parts). YouTube.