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Women in Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Cinema

naalu_pennungal.jpgAdoor Gopalakrishnan, a name parallel to the artistic cinema of India is a versatile film maker with different shades and his films are centered in Kerala and Malayalam life. He concerts on the Human and societal relationships.

Since his first film ‘one’s own choice’ (Swayamvaram) to the latest film ‘four women’ (Naalu Pennungal), all his films have their soul in culture of Kerala. He was born and brought up in the Kathakali (dance form) environment. He chooses to explore the inner and outer sides of the characters he unveils in his films.

His films are mostly open ending without giving any judgment or suggestion, He leaves to the audience to imagine and understand the options left at the end of the film.

Adoor’s Presentation is multilayered in his films with full of poetic and symbolic entities. Over the last three decades the craftsmanship of Adoor is more refined. His levels of expression is much deepened. His frames are embedded with natural and factual observations. The serious viewer of Adoor’s works experience the melody of the film making.

In addition to the human and social relations present in Adoor’s cinema we can observe the strong presence of women, either by presence or absence on the screen. Whether it is Sita in One’s own choice (Swayamvaram), Santhamma in Kodiyattam, Rajamma in Rat Trap (Elipathayam),the grand mother in Kathapurushan or the unseen in woman in The walls (Mathilukal) or the three women in latest film Four Women (Naalu Pennungal.)

The women characters are well structured with nicely woven in the script. Their presence is so involved that the viewer could not even identify them as separate entities.

The woman and protagonists of the films are independent and co passengers in disseminating the visual experience.

In some films of Adoor the outer layer of presentation may focus on the male protagonists but the female character flows as undercurrent in the entire subject of the film.

One’s own choice (Swayamvaram) the first film is about an unmarried young couple intensely in love, escaping to a small town to live together defying all the conventional systems and bondage. But the life is hard to realize, the struggles between ideals and the reality is hard to face. Swayavaram is one’s own choice but the facts and findings in this case are different. The film is a straight forward comment on the society. The women Sita in the film makes a choice at the beginning to go away with her lover to live, but after facing the actual situation in the society se has to change again. Her two neighbors, again two women, Janaki and Kalyani choose two different paths to live in freedom. Sita of one’s own choice had these two options to choose but Adoor ends the film open to the viewers without giving any decision to Sita.

The film The Rat Trap (Elipathayam) is wholly based on Malayalam society in Kerala and the process of its growth towards modernity.

In this film it is a beautiful house which encompasses two worlds. One is the world of a woman Rajamma and the other is of man her brother Unni’s world. The house is a witness of growth and fall of prosperity of the family with feudal way of life.

Only Rajamma and Unni remains as the memories of the past and off course Sridevi, the other member of the family, poised to flight. Even after Sridevi left away according to her choice, the two Rajamma and Unni are disturbed but face hard time to accept the reality. Unni protests himself with the rapid changes happening in the society and also in his family. Rajamma remains as a non paid servant in her brother’s house and she led to one phase to the other phase of change and even allowed it.

With all the failures Unni maintains status quo but Rajamma is unable to rebel and get free by herself even after seeing the flight of Sridevi. But at the end Rajamma collapsed physically and carried away. The women in Rat trap are the two different genre, Sridevi left in search of her own life but Rajamma left as a representative of traditional Indian Woman who did not change as the things roll, her character in the film is well sculptured by the film maker along with the protagonist Unni.

In the film ‘Monologue’ (Anantharam) Ajayan, the protagonist, is sexually obsessed and born with a stigma. The total film develops from Ajayan’s childhood to the grownup stage. He develops a great fascination and obsession for Suma, his foster brother’s young wife but at the end of the first part of the film she did not come close to Ajayan. In the second part of the film Ajayan loves Nalini who totally resembles Suma. She responds to him. But the reality and imagination are interchangeable. The film is totally complex and explores the state of the mind of Ajayan. The multi layered presentation of the film dealt with his orphanage, love towards the parents and monologues etc. Nalini, Suma, Ashram Mother are women characters present in the film are the lifelines of the narration.

Walls (Mathilukal) wrote by great novelist Vaikkum Mohmmad Basheer. This is the first subject that Adoor has made a film on other’s literary work. It’s rather autobiography of the writer. This is the story of prisoner falling in love with another woman prisoner lives on the other side of the wall, she is Narayani. This love grows, over the wall they exchange food etc. but they did not see to each other. They are very much longing to see but in vain. One day he is freed from the jail, he cannot say even goodbye to Narayani. She will be waiting to listen to his voice on the other side of the wall, she fall sick, go to hospital so see her lover with a red rose in his hand. In the whole film the woman is unseen but the viewer feels her presence in all the frames of the film.

The other women in films Ascent (Kodiyattam) and The Protagonist Kathapurushan are grand mother and Shanthamma are shown their presence in the films.

Now the tenth and Adoor’s latest film NAALU PENNUNGAL (Four Women) is dealt with four women who struggled for their life in Kerala. It is an anthology of four stories. It explains the traditional Kerala Society’s approach towards women and the film also deals with the social and psychological state of affairs that the women face in the society. The film depicts the lives of the women who live in the different social strata and fight hard for their existence. The film is adaptation of the four stories written by Jnanpeeth Awardee Thakhazhi Shiva Shankara Pillai. The presentation of the four women in the film lies in different shades a sex worker, a peasant, a homemaker and a spinster. The film goes on to talk about the situations they face and the decisions they take in their lives. The film begins with the story of a couple surviving on the streets of a town in the 1940s. Kunju Pennu, a sex worker, and Pappukutty live as man and wife, but their relationship has no legal sanction.

The next story is about a farm girl, played by Geetu Mohandas, who does not mind that her marriage to an impotent man is broken off.

Then there is Chinnu Amma, a homemaker played by Manju Pillai who rejects the advances of her childhood lover and the desire to have children in order to protect the sanctity of her marriage.

The last track revolves around Kamakshi (Nandita Das), a dusky girl who cannot find a match, supposedly, because of her complexion and opts for independence.

Each member of the ensemble cast gets only a limited amount of time on screen, but all of them make an impact.

Padmapriya sparkles as the streetwalker. Nandita as the spinster hogs the limelight as her story is the longest and her character comes out as the most sharply etched in the whole film. Kavya Madhavan, as Nandita’s younger sister, does a good job in a character with negative shades.

The master director treats a difficult theme with his usual deft finesse. In his hands, a film that could have meandered off into melodrama ends up as a realistic flick.
The next story is about a farm girl, who does not mind that her marriage to an impotent man is broken off. Then there is Chinnu Amma, a homemaker who rejects the advances of her childhood lover and the desire to have children in order to protect the sanctity of her marriage. The last track revolves around Kamakshi, a dusky girl who cannot find a match, supposedly, because of her complexion and opts for independence. The life of Kunju Pennu symbolizes the surrender but the other women represent the survival struggles of the women. The master director treats a difficult theme with his usual deft finesse.

The master director treats a difficult theme with his usual deft finesse. Thus the films made by Adoor Gopalakrishnan are not only depicts and explores the human values through his stylized and artistic approach towards the world but they also give Importance to the characterization of male and female also. The women in his films are so merged with the narration and presentation is artistically high.

One Response
  1. venkat June 11, 2008 /