Monday, May 15, 2006

Remembering Pavithran

Remembering Pavithran

Pavithran may have made only a handful of films in his three decades long career, but his presence and now his absence can never be measured by it. Even in this seemingly small oeuvre, marked by long spells of inaction and revelry, there were all kinds of films – personal, milieu, realistic, historical, farcical etc. This diversity itself marks him off. But more than that, life itself was his medium par excellence.

Enamored of films from his teens, he went to Pune to join FTII. But institutions were always allergic to him, and he couldn't get admission. So he was forced to hone his skills outside the ramparts of the Institution. Evidently, he was after something radically different, which one finds reflected in his early works. In a period when everyone crawled when asked to bend, he and his friends like Backer and Chandran made Kabani Nadi Chuvannappol. It was a very daring film and one of the few films made during Emergency that dared to revolt.

His first independent work Yaro Oral (1978) is undoubtedly one of the most significant works in the history of Malayalam cinema. One of the very few 'personal' films in Malayalam, it was a film that broke all the rules. It was a quintessential Pavithran film, with its dark, pungent humour, utter disregard for naturalism, deep sense of humanity, total negation of realism and linearity etc. Though it was a typical film of the period with its long static shots and extended spells of silence, no other film had dared to take it to such extremes, and the critics hailed it as a 'surreal fable about death'.

In his next films, Uppu (1986) and Utharam (1989), he indulged in the very same realistic styles he spurned earlier. But he did it with a definite style and mastery over form and narration, something that further validated his rejection in a way. Uppu still remains one of the most sensitive films about the Muslim milieu in Kerala, and Utharam was a fast-paced psychological thriller parading all the stars of the period. In his last work, Kuttappan Sakshi, he tried to develop his own style further and make it address the challenges of the changing times. It was a hilarious but severely critical journey through the history of Kerala, looking at the life of the subaltern that has remained unchanged beneath the glossy surface of Kerala's progress and progressiveness. Made with a shoestring budget, this very disturbing and introspective film didn't get the exposure it deserved.

But beyond these handful of films, Pavithran will be remembered for his warmth, his vitriolic sense of humour, his ability to make every moment of life into a celebration, his keen understanding of music (this was something that was lacking in almost all the filmmakers of his generation, especially of the 'new wave' group. Incidentally, he did the music score to TV Chandran's Krishnankutty), his anarchic love that transformed the life and understanding of many of his friends like me, for his total indifference for recognition of any kind, and above all, for the way he valued friendship and camaraderie over everything else.

Adieu, Pavi..


Blogger റോബി said...

I know you are working in media and I have read many of your articles from mathrubhumi weekly. I read your post remembering pavithran. It is very sad that none of his films other than utharam are available (in video)in kerala. I think same is the case with any of the new wave directors in malayalam. I lived in kerala for 25 years and 2 years in bangalore. I could not find most of the movies by adoor(i have seen only one-nizhalkuthu), aravindan, pavithran, KG george or John. What I want to say is, shall we do something to make these great films of malayalam available in DVD? what is your opinion? we can even market them through internet. Some of the film enthusiasts from west had contacted me for getting information about these directors and their films.
I think you will seriously think about the possibilities.

another thing is, I hope you may be familiar with senses of cinema web site. our malayalam is not having a single representation in their acclaimed database. I would like to suggest you to write about some of our directors and their films and submit to this database, if your time permits. I am from another academic stream (I am doing research in chemistry in US) and my language doesnt suit an academic study on cinema. I think you are the perfect person whom I can ask this.

I hope you will consider my requet.
my e mail is

2:11 PM  

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