Tuesday, May 31, 2011

sajith paintings

Mapping The Neural Networks of Civilisation -

On the Paintings by A.S. Sajith

C S Venkiteswaran

The Terrain Named Diamond White -

According to Sajith what he is attempting to do in this series of paintings and drawings titled The Terrain Named Diamond White is "to observe body through a different faculty which is "neural" in nature. Sense organs furnish only the external in body. We approach the internals through the faculty of consciousness, which is lauded as a thing capable of seeking itself. We think that we think therefore we are." And he places himself outside the usual binaries that we are fond of and seek refuge in. For he is not "a romantic who believes that human being is miniscule before infinity. The capability of human to destroy and construct, to bring about dramatic changes to the environment are rendered in the Terrain series . The paintings unfold repetition, growth and transformation rather than a clear cut preplanned visual."

If his earlier show 'Kari' tried to sketch these intensely and overwhelmingly multiplying details in charcoal, here he breaks out in colour. In these canvases you encounter sights that one could describe as 'out of the body', as they look at our life-world, life and civilization from a perspective or angle that one could term aerial, one that reveals us in our fatal contexts – physical, natural as well as civilisational. Sajith's paintings thus attempt to map the neural layout of perception as well as human condition.

These canvases are an invitation to a maze; they invite you into an engrossing yet dispassionate journey, full of enigmatic encounters and discoveries, and traverse extremes - the most miniscule and the gross, the organic and the inorganic, natural and man-made. While the organic realm teem with flora and fauna – miniscule and proliferating – the other, the man-made yet impersonal realm is busy engrossed in their seemingly repetitive activities and motions. These oneiric images drenched in dull yet luminous hues, are populated by monocultural forests, both of vegetation and urban habitat. Sometimes you find upright phallic structures and formations – a mount, a flag pole - rising up against the teeming and pullulating mass that envelops it. Other times, the growing mass is ruptured by chasms and openings that gape into the void. One encounters such stillness and silence in the middle of the tumultuous animation, like stark and silent reminders of the dark potentials of life and civilization, as it were. Like hope or despair, they persist against the abundance of presence around it, as if mediating between life and death, organic and inorganic. On the other, you also have the crystalline lilac mount rising up from the fluid oceanic vastness that surges around it, a huge yak-like figure submerged in water, its hump and horns sticking out, and a bluish forest of entwining branches with snake-like proliferation below it. All his images place the explosive presence of life and living against the ominous presences of its other.

Terrain of Diamond white- City 3 sajith.jpg

These paintings encounter us with visions that are somehow freed from our everyday corporeal selves and its perspectival bounds. Accompanying it is a certain sensation of extreme involvement and also non-attachment, a willful duplicity that privileges us with disturbing yet clinical insights into our-selves.

The all-pervasive desolation that arises out of perspective offered by these paintings reminds us of the baffling complexity and boundedness of our life-world – both of body and consciousness, the most subtle and the atomic, the gross and the big. Thus these images follow and map the neural networks of our civilization, one that is simultaneously inside and outside.

On the Exhibition of Paintings by A.S. Sajith at Lalit Kala Akademy Hall, Vailoppilli Sanskriti Bhavan, Thiruvananthapuram in
January 2009

on videos

Videos - Against the Pace of Television and Glitter of Cinema

As a medium, videos exhibit an immediacy, vigour and spontaneity that go beyond both television and cinema. While television frets and fumes, trying to keep pace with the world, these video documentaries pause and pose disturbing questions, pry into the interstices, contemplate upon the uncanny and the 'ordinary' in our life and polity. If cinema is all about spectacles and melodrama, these video features do not conceive or address a passively consuming mass audience, but consider spectators as fellow-travellers in this unpredictable journey of thrilling experiences and troubling thoughts. In other words, these works look at things from below, and are astounding in their diversity.

What distinguishes them is the keen sense of history and location. They are firmly rooted in their space and time, and excavate angles, viewpoints and layers of experience that we often miss in this supposedly 'media-saturated' world. Lalit Vachani's The Salt Stories revisit Gandhiji's legendary Salt March to map the legacies and memories it has left behind in Narendra Modi's Gujarat today. This journey gradually turns into one through history, even while revealing how fragile and deceptive stuff like memories and 'History' are. Here video becomes yet another tool to fight forgetfulness and to reclaim history and memory. Likewise R V Ramani's Nee Yaar? (Who are you?), a film about Sundararamaswamy, the eminent Tamil writer, gradually unravels the conflicting facets of his life – domestic, literary, social and political. Here the video is as unobtrusive as a friend, moving through reminiscences and reflections of his contemporaries and relatives like fish in water. One could describe Sourav Sarangi's Bilal as a searing attempt at 'video neorealism'; this film plays an unflinchingly witness to the life of Bilal the adolescent son of blind parents who are struggling to make a living at the fringes of a metropolitan city like Kolkata. Here, the video camera is a witness to the grind of the everyday, with all its frustrations, violence, and also hopes and dreams.
Ranjan Palit's Forever Young is an enchanting human document about Lou Majow, a rock singer from Shillong, and a great admirer of Bob Dylan. Tracking his life and following him in his nomadic adventures, the film brings out the enigmatic power of music that transcends all barriers. . Anirban Dutta's 'In for motion' is an interesting look at the IT industry in India, its lineage, trajectories of development and the dilemmas it is mired in now, with the personal narrative of the director woven into this 'historical-analytical' narrative. M R Rajan's Cinemayude Kalpadukal (Footsteps of Cinema) looks back at a vibrant period in the history of Malayalam cinema, through the experiences of Sobhana Parameswaran Nair, a producer. For this, it uses film songs along with first person narratives and evocative visuals. Ramachandran's Saamam traces the legacy of an enigmatic singer like MD Ramanathan, where his biography meshes with comments and reflections.

Similarly, in the fiction category also, the videos have a different take on various themes and formats. Most of them do away with 'cinematic' conventions and search for narrative structures that challenge the viewer. A film like Many Stories of Love and Hate (Shyamal Karmakar) weaves a very complex narrative about human relationships, in a very contemplative manner, composing his images and monologues poignantly to create drama. Sherry's Last Leaf is a very daring attempt portraying the love between two nuns that swings between the divine and the carnal, the spiritual and the physical. Murali Manohar's Karna Motcham (a student film) takes a very simple and mundane situation, but succeeds in finely juxtaposing the traditional and the contemporary. Tony Sukumar's When This Man Dies is a dark satire on middle class urban poverty and aspirations, while Shyam Arjun Salunke The passion of cricket takes a hilarious look at how a collective frenzy like cricket sucks us into its vortex turning everyone into a player. If Vishnu Shyamaprasad's A Writer's Affair tries to probe into the very process of script writing, Sreejith Remanan's Yakusha Co Ltd sketches the despair of an actor at the fag end of his career.

The strength of these videos is the easy and effortless use of the camera, which is employed like a pen (a la Astruc's camera stylo), innovatively and freely mixing monologues, texts, multiple screens, chapterisation and commentary. Unlike the documentaries we are used to in its Films Division and Television avatars, these are intensely introspective, and never pose the author as invisible or omnipotent, instead they are very much present and active in the unfolding narrative, hence the prevalence of intimate autobiographical voice-overs in many films.

Ironically, despite the huge audience for film festivals in the state, films from Malayalam seem to be working in isolation from the rest of the country. Most of them seem to be obsessed with the big screen format and tend to use video as its apologetic substitute and not as a medium in itself. This gets reflected in treatment styles also, which is more often very stilted and self conscious, instead of being self-reflexive. One hopes that festivals like this will inspire them to break conventions about the technologies of narration and the fear of bringing oneself into one's work.

(written for SIGNS 2009 Video Festival Book)


TV Chandran talks to C S Venkiteswaran


All the films of TV Chandran explore and map the plight of female life in Keralam. Films like Alicinte Anveshanangal, Mangamma, Susanna, Padam Onnu Oru Vilapam, etc look at malayalee women and their lives during the last decades in Keralam. In his latest film, Bhoomimalayalam – literally, Malayalee perception of the world – Chandran weaves together the lives of several women whose lives are struggles for existence and survival, if not, expression and exuberance to excavate the world we inhabit. Bhoomimalayalam received John Abraham award for the Best film this year.

How did this film first occur to you? Was it an image, an incident, a person or a thought?

This film was actually in my mind for a long time. In a way it springs from my film ‘Kathavaseshan’ in which I wanted to use the song of a Pakistani singer. It went like this: “At night, when alone, why are women scared?” (Rath mein andhere mein, ladkiyam kyon darthi hei?). Due to copyright issues, I couldn’t use that song in that film. Instead I gave these lines to Gouhar Raza and created songs for that film. It is from this song that this film sprang, this image of the fear of women when alone. In that way, this film is a continuation of Kathavaseshan in many ways. So, when you say that my film is ‘female-oriented’ it doesn’t make sense, since there are many common elements recurring, and certain moments and characters finding their place in all my narratives..

The issues dealt with and the structure of the film is not something that I ‘thought up’ or developed through research. There are several things happening simultaneously in my mind. For instance, in the film though there are references to many real incidents, none of them are shown in the film. They do not appear as such in the film, but the film is ‘about’ those incidents. More than the incident itself, what becomes important is those who are affected by it. They stand within it and it triggers nightmares in them. Maybe that boy didn’t get drowned like this or that brother was not exactly beaten to death in front of his mother. Maybe these things happened in a different way. And that girl is actually dreaming about a suicide that never happens. The past events in Thillankeri are actually recollected by the daughter who was not even born then. So these incidents are in the background and what the film explores is the aftermath, the effects and affects.

All your films have looked at the plight of women, but Bhoomimalayalam is structurally different from the earlier attempts. Can you elaborate on that?

I think it is a transformation from one to many. In earlier films, I placed one single individual at the centre of the narrative. In this film there are several women. This film weaves together the experiences of seven different young women from different walks, times and parts of Kerala. All of them share something between them - fear – something that pervades their lives. And they all have nightmares.

What I am trying to do is to map the consciousness of a region through the lives, experience, dreams and anxieties of these women. In this narrative, the conscious and the unconscious mesh together. That was what I was trying to explore

I have also tried to map it in time and space; you have incidents and places of 1948 and then the present; likewise you can also find the narrative stretching geographically across Keralam. It is also a rumination upon our present ‘state’ – a stocktaking of sorts through time. This, I think is a shift from my earlier films.

In a way it is history, history as nightmare..

But each woman experiences, understands and faces them differently. In the film you find that one girl accepts the murder and then the death of two men in her lives, another one escapes a rape attempt, yet another one survives a divorce, while one girl is pregnant and alone, she is helpless. Finally one girl triumphs and makes a leap, out and away, from this nightmare. This is how the film is structured. And I don’t end the film on the girl who wins. Instead it ends with the other girl who is witness to it, who for me represents all the others. Maybe they all desired that triumph, like her, the winner. So again, more than the incident itself, it is the look and experience triggered by it that the film follows..

Where does this film find a place in your oeuvre?

I consider the words of Mani Kaul, who was the Jury chairman for the John Abraham Awards about the film a great recognition. He said we are nobody to judge a film. So what one can do is to see whether a film is able to move the medium of cinema a bit forward. Judgment is all about this and not comparing one with another and placing one against and above the other.

I found those words of Mani Kaul very important and inspiring. For I believe that through each and every film, what I am trying to do is to move an inch forward from where we are, to make a budge..

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Producer of a Film Era in Malayalam


“Our cinema should not be like what it is now. The characters should speak like the way we speak and eat the way we eat. And they should wear the same clothes as we do” said Shobhana Parameswaran Nair in an interview about how they made Neelakuyil (1955). Along with other pioneers of the time like Ramu Kariat, P Bhaskaran, A Vincent and KS Sethumadhavan, Vayalar and Devarajan, TK Pareekutty, Sathyan and Kumari, he was one of those persons who was instrumental in giving Malayalam cinema a body and soul of its own.

The departure of Shobhana Parameswaran Nair marks the end of an era in Malayalam cinema, one that was marked by camaraderie and cooperation, one in which a fledgling industry was freeing itself from its several dependencies, and finding its own form and voice. But for a producer and visionary like Parameswaran Nair, Malayalam cinema would have been poorer by several towering legends.

In Cinemayude Kalpadukal, M R Rajan’s 3-hour long documentary on Shobhana Parameswaran Nair, the latter reminisces that it was after watching B N Reddy’s film Devata (1941), that he fell in love with the medium. Devata was a landmark film in the history of south Indian cinema that attempted to break away from the loud theatricality of the times and to find an ‘indigenous’ idiom. The period in which Shobhana Parameswaran Nair entered film production (early 60’s) was also one when Malayalam cinema was breaking away from the claustrophobic studio sets and melodramatic modes to rediscover itself in local soil and idioms. The period witnessed a spate of films that were realistic in approach and progressive in their concerns.

Shobhana Parameswaran Nair, a still photographer by profession, represents that fraternity that ushered in radical change in Malayalam cinema, and it included actors and actresses, scenarists and lyricists, producers, technicians and musicians. He associated with some of the best works of the period like Neelakuyil, Bhargavinilayam and Rarichan Enna Pouran before becoming a producer. Though he produced only a handful of films – the most significant of them between 1963 and 1978 – he represents the spirit of his times in various ways. Through these films he led the way to virtually transplant Malayalam cinema to Kerala, both physically and thematically. It was not just the discovery of locations like the surroundings of Bharathapuzha, but was also through symbiotically linking cinema with our literary, imaging and musical traditions. Suddenly, our cinema began to vibe with our longings and belongings.

An ardent reader, he was close to many creative writers of the period like Vaikom Muhamed Basheer, M T Vasudevan Nair etc with whom he had lifelong association. It was he who persuaded the latter to write film script – Murappennu in 1965 which was his first, and then Nagarame Nandi in 1967, thus virtually inaugurating a new age in Malayalam cinema. The film scripts of established writers like MT and Uroob, firmly placed cinema in contemporary space, time and culture. In their commitment to realism and reality, they rediscovered and literally re-located Malayalam cinema in local spaces, communities and locales. For instance, Bharathapuzha and its surroundings, and Valluvanadan slang which became the norm in Malayalam cinema in the decades to come, were identified and celebrated first by MT Vasudevan Nair scripts; regional slang, milieu and ways of life, folk music and rustic comedy thus became part of cinema. If till then, Malayalam cinema industry as well as its themes and even storylines and musical scores were drawn from Tamil and Hindi, this period saw a new self-awareness and consciousness about one’s own tradition and surroundings. And Parameswaran Nair was in the forefront of that transition, catalyzing and facilitating it.

His films are landmarks of Malayalam film industry and they map the emotional and thematic concerns of the period. For each film, Shobhana Parameswaran Nair chose different writers and directors. For his debut film Ninamaninja Kalpadukal he chose a novel by Parapurath. It was directed by N N Pisharoty and won Silver medal at the national level. If his next two films were written by MT Vasudevan Nair, he chose the story of Perumbadavan Sreedharan for Abhayam, which was a film about a female writer, and was directed by Ramu Kariat. For this film, he used a bunch of original poems by legendary writers like Vallathol, Changampuzha, Sugathakumari, G Sankara Kurup etc. His next film Kallichellamma was based on a G Vivekanandan novel and was directed by P Bhaskaran, and Ammuvinte Attinkutty, children’s film by Ramu Kariat was based on a story by DK Pottekat. Apart from their deep sense of milieu and emotional intensity, his films will also be remembered for unforgettable songs of haunting quality and charm.

What makes Parameswaran Nair different from other producers – even of that period – was his ability to play the role of a catalyst to the whole process of filmmaking. For him filmmaking was not just about finance and profits, because his capital was not money but passion, and he wanted to make films that were really contemporary and timeless. As a producer, his involvement and commitment was total in all departments of the art. Whether it be the identification of the story, choice of actors (artists like Madhu, Jyotilakshmi etc played their first major roles in his films), scenarists, lyricists or directors (Ninamaninja Kalpadukal was N N Pisharoty’s debut film), Parameswaran Nair followed his own tastes and hunches, most of which proved to be trendsetters later. And it was a period when filmmaking was a celebration of friendship and creativity. It was this quality that endeared ‘Paramu Annan’ to filmmakers and films lovers of his generation and of the future.


- The Achani of ‘Art’ Cinema

K Ravindran Nair

K Ravindran Nair, fondly called ‘Achani Ravi’ or ‘General Pictures Ravi’ could be described as a single-man army who sustained the ‘art film’ movement in Malayalam. From the late 70-s to the mid-90’s, he produced some of the most significant films that won national and international acclaim and put Malayalam cinema on the world map. The most important films of the two great auteurs of that period – Aravindan and Adoor Gopalakrishnan – came out under the banner of General Pictures.

What brought Ravindran Nair, a cashew producer and exporter, into cinema was his lifelong passion for literature and arts. A successful businessman, he was able to hit the right combinations from the beginning. His first film ‘Anveshichu Kandethiyilla’ (1967) based on a novel by Parapurathu and directed by P Bhaskaran was an instant hit. It told the story of a woman fighting against all odds to make a life of her own. It was a passionate story that raised troubling questions about the role of women in our society. He followed it up with two more films by P Bhaskaran in 1968 (Lakshaprabhu and Kattukurangu) which were also successful. His next film Achani (The Axle) directed by A Vincent was a big box office hit and` eventually became his first name. From then on he was known as “Achani Ravi”. Achani was about a self-sacrificing elder brother who toiled all his life for others in the family. The theme definitely touched some raw nerve in the Malayalee psyche and had several ‘remakes’ in Malayalam cinema in the coming decades. And it marked a turning point in the career of Ravi also.

From the beginning Ravi was committed to the quality of films that he produced, which was evident in his choice of themes and directors. He never considered cinema as a means for money-making alone. In cinema, he sought expression for his ‘non-commercial’ dreams. And he entered cinema when well established producers and production houses dominated the scene. So, from the beginning his aim was to carve a niche for himself, not just through instant and local commercial successes, but through quality and experimentation, and in creating brand equity of his own.

During the next one and a half decades, he produced films that broke all norms and transformed the very idea of cinema in Malayalam. Before him, no other producer would have given such free rein to his directors, and that too, with absolutely no pressures to conform with any norms – commercial, aesthetic or formal. And his was not an intervention that was half-hearted or half-baked. He consistently produced films, year after year. Aravindan’s most memorable films like Kanchanaseetha (1977), Thampu (1978) Kummatti (1979) Esthapan (1979) and Pokkuveyil (1981) were produced by General Pictures. Kanchanaseetha, one of the most poetic films in Malayalam, was a freakishly free adaptation of a CN Sreekantan Nair play; it had no stars; nor did it even have a ‘proper’ storyline or follow any narrative conventions. Likewise, Pokkuveyil was a film that used a young poet and his poetry to weave a tragic narrative of the creative and political hallucinations of the time. It still remains one of the most haunting films of the period. Interestingly, for this film, music was recorded first (Hariprasad Chaurasia in flute and Rajeev Tharanath in Sarod, both elaborating upon Rag Shubha Pantuvarali), and then visuals were rendered to suit those musical scores

In the following years, Ravi went on to produce a series of films with Adoor Gopalakrishnan: Elipathayam (1981) Mukhamukham (1984), Anantharam (1987) and Vidheyan (1993). These films, like Aravindan’s, are some of the best cinematic works of Indian cinema. The first two films look at men caught within the traps that systems raise around them. While Elipathayam excavated the claustrophobic world of a man caught within a decadent feudal system, Mukhamukham is one of the most introspective of films on the degeneration of communist movement in Keralam. Anantharam, most enigmatic of love stories on celluloid, dwelt upon the splintering inner world of a man yearning for love. Vidheyan, the last film produced by Ravi, is an adaptation of a Zachariah novelette, an intense portrayal of a sado-masochist relationship between a ruthless master and his ‘self-less’ slave. In 1982, Ravi also produced Manju (1982) directed by MT Vasudevan Nair based upon his own novel.

It was because of visionaries like Ravi that the tradition of ‘parallel’ cinema still survives in Malayalam cinema. It did not die out like it did in other languages with the retreat of state agencies. What makes Ravi different is his vision and commitment. According to him, “I did not make ‘experimental’ cinema. I only made good cinema.” He was a producer that any filmmaker would dream of. He dared to make films that he believed in and would outlive their times. And for that, he put full faith on his directors, and they made works that gave a sense of pride and identity to Malayalam cinema. Those films are sure to inspire generations of cineastes. This year’s J C Daniel Award is a fitting recognition of his contributions to the spirit of good cinema.


Fear and Freedom –

Exhibition of Photographs by Shaju Subramanian

Photography is the most frustrating of occupations in today’s world. When everyone is a photographer happy clicking on digital cameras and mobile phones, how does a professional photographer find space and seek the attention of others with what is one’s bread and butter, and also life, blood and tears? In a world that is inundated with photographic images, can yet another image hope to signify something? Shaju Subramanian’s photograph exhibition at Trivandrum Press Club – Fear and Freedom – addresses this challenge by inviting the viewer to ponder and reflect upon that primal object of all imaging – the human body. Obviously, Shaju is not a photographer who revels in excess, but an intense observer who waits for the right light and moment and all the attendant risks and surprises. Placing the human body against our vision, these photographs invite us into a dialogue with the human form, one that is increasingly being devalued both by mental and physical intrusions – through the excess of digital/ized images that assault our minds and eyes, and the various prosthetic devices that invade our body.

At the centre is the body, our only and ultimate prison, only means for expression and exuberance, and the only vehicle to freedom as well as fear. These images of the naked male body celebrate its corpo-reality, as the world grinds its way through it, leaving its marks and signatures all over. Here, the body stretches, squirms, and writhes, as if engrossed in itself and creates abstract forms revealing the world in its bodily affects and effects. Pure and resplendent in its nakedness, the world is inscribed on it and the body itself becomes the eye and the object for the eyes of the beholder. Shunning the digital and its ‘post-shoot’ techniques, these images are moments of that enigmatic encounter between the lens and the body; and they work through variations in colour temperature, lighting and tonalities, mapping the most visceral and the abstract, or, History and his-story.

These images - often contorted, partial, and enclosed upon itself - are also an invitation to the freedom and exuberance of nudity; they open our vision into ourselves through our own bodies, naked and direct, plain, unmediated, freed and abstracted from its various shackles – of attire, backgrounds and settings. They are never placed against anything except the light that burns it and the darkness that looms all over. In their pristine solitariness, these images celebrate the body and its image, and in the process, the possibilities of freedom and also that of fear.


MP Sukumaran Nair talks about his new film Raamanam

Raamanam is an adaptation of ‘Smarakasilakal’ the celebrated novel by
Punathil Kunhabdulla. What were the challenges in making a film out of
a much-read novel that was written decades ago?

It was a daunting task and there were difficulties at different
levels. The novel is actually set in the 1940’s as can be guessed from
its reference to the Onchiyam incident. When you take up such a story,
one cannot mechanically reproduce it today. After Babri Masjid
demolition, one cannot conceive of the Muslim society in Keralam or a
character like Thangal in such a manner. Maybe one can take such
liberties in literature, but in a visual medium like cinema, it’d look
totally apolitical and retrogressive today..

What about the narrative style followed by Punathil?

Punathil has his own style that is very readable. But though he is
descriptive in a sensual way and very articulate about sensual
aspects, he does not give us many visual clues. Moreover, I had to
visualize a milieu with which I was not very acquainted.His
descriptions about life in the Thangal family indicate a big joint
family, but character-wise, it looks like a small family. Thangal’s
relationship with Neeli itself is very ambiguous. All this made the
task of fixing the visual coordinates arduous. But Punathil’s novel is
rich with stories about people, places, incidents etc. I have drawn
this aspect into the film.

still from Raamanam

You’ve placed your narrative in the period between 1970 and 1990’s.
How and why did you’ re-historicize’ the narrative?

The novel is apparently set in the 1940’s when independence struggle
was raging all over. But the only indication of this is the mention
about Onchiyam incident. Historically, I begin the narrative of the
film in the 1970’s when a split occurs within the Muslim League with
one faction moving closer to the left. You can see that Thangal
belongs to the pro-left faction, and so, the film traverses that
historical trajectory followed by two other historical moments: the
Emergency and Babri Masjid demolition. That is how I structured the
narrative time of the film.

Thangal is more of a libertine in the novel and his sexual escapades
are numerous and dominant…

One cannot possibly portray him like that now. If I do so, it will
distort the very image of the community and can lead to dangerous
readings in the present context. For instance, a scholar who had done
research on the novel told me that the violent death he meets with in
the end was in a way a punishment to his actions in life. But my
attitude to this character was different; I didn’t want to portray him
like that, especially now. Despite everything, he has a certain kind
of eccentricity in him, which prompts him to give refuge to Neeli,
adopt her son as his own, educate him and his daughter, and teach the
latter an art like Nangiarkoothu etc. He is not a normal person in
that sense. All this places him in a very different manner in the film

But there is a strong thread of goodness running through the novel.
For instance the personal care he takes for someone like Eramullan,
the horse, Neeli etc. It is something that defies any kind of
stereotyping. I took that element too from the novel.

In all your early films, you have worked with other contexts and
communities. How was your encounter with this milieu?

During the shooting of the film, I had the opportunity to mingle with
many people there, both men and women. I met a lot of old women who
were active in the communist party and had taken part in street
processions etc. But in the present, I felt that there is a certain
sense of insecurity running deep within the community. I don’t know
whether it is fear or anger or suspicion. This was evident in the way
local people interacted with us. Majority of them earnestly wanted to
help us in the shooting by finding locations etc but were reluctant to
do so; they seemed to be afraid of something. I felt very sad about
it, because it is not at all a healthy. It indicates the positions
into which we’ve driven a progressive community like the Muslims in
Malabar. Evidently, the Babri Masjid demolition has affected the
community in a very profound manner. So, I think its inclusion in the
film was also justified by my experience during shooting. I never
thought its repercussions were so deep..

This is also being telecast as a television serial, isn’t it?

Yes, but I shot the film and teleserial in different formats and with
two different camera setups. The serial dwells much more upon details,
subplots and other characters in the novel. But a film can’t afford


A Film and A Time

Njatadi – The Film and its Time

Films follow curious lives. While some films are remembered for their
memorable story, character or acting, certain films stand apart for
their radical otherness and refusing to play to the dominant tunes of
the time. The latter kind are rediscovered as moments in history. The
case of ‘Njatadi’, debut film by Gopi made in 1979, is one such story.

Gopi, director of Njatadi at the sets

Literally ‘njatadi’ means the bed of seedlings in a paddy field; it is
the site where fresh seedlings are weeded, sorted and kept for
planting. Thought njatadi itself does not result in any yield, the
tender plants in it provide the future harvest. In that sense,
‘Njatadi’ the film could be seen as a metaphor of sorts. Most of those
who were part of this venture went on to make significant
contributions in cinema and other fields: Gopi, its director, actors
like Murali, K R Mohanan (now Chairman of Kerala Chalachitra Academy)
and Aliyar, cinematographer Vipin Mohan, etc. It featured several
other first-time actors like veteran journalist V R Korappath,
Kalamandalam Girija, MK Gopalakrishnan etc. It was also entirely shot
and processed in Keralam.

Paradoxically, the film was screened only twice and its print still
untraceable. For a film like that, which was seen only by a few, there
is every chance of it being relegated to the oblivion. But in the case
of Njatadi it was not so. On September 24th , after 30 years, the
group of youngsters who made that film possible got together to
refresh their memories.
They paid homage to the stalwarts who departed during this long
interregnum: director Gopi, Murali, Korapath, producer-organiser Dr KN
Sreenivasan etc.. In that sense, Njatadi is more than just a film.
Though the film in its physical form is irretrievable, the spirit
behind it survives.

A Still from Njatadi

To mark the occasion, a book and a video documentary on the film was
also released. The book – Njatadi Smaranakal - edited by K Bhaskaran
contains personal memoirs of those who took part in the making of the
film. Apart from such reminiscences, the 20-minutes video documentary,
pieces together the narrative of the film through poignant stills from
it. The book and the documentary, unique in their mission, are earnest
attempts at recapturing a lost film, and in the process, memories,
incidents and experiences that such an experiment involved in the late
70’s. What transpires through these personal flashbacks, are the sheer
joy of doing something new, the exhilaration of collective, selfless
action and also its attendant frustrations.

As one of the main organizers and the scenarist of the film, TK
Kochunarayanan recalls the period: “All over the world, 1970’s mark
radical changes in political thinking. Naturally it had its resonance
in India and Keralam too. There were fresh sprouts of an ideology that
was committed to providing the villages a new life and vigour. In
Keralam, it had the resonances of a rural wake up song and was the
indigenous version of an ideology that inspired the youth and rattled
the old. Caught in its tune and rhythm were some young minds, who were
ready to take up that arduous journey to achieve lasting peace.”
According to him, this was the background that made ‘Njatadi’

Any act of remembering is also an act of defiance against forgetting.
By keeping memories alive, we make vital links not only with the past,
but also to the future. Such remembrance is sure to inspire the
njatadis in the present too.


Another Great Actress Leaves the Stage


C S Venkiteswaran

Acting in cinema is not like any other vocation. Appearance in films and the ‘recognition’ that invariably follows transports the actor/actress into a magical world where nothing else matters. It holds a fatal attraction despite umpteen disappointments, ups and downs all along - in the form of one’s role being editing out, films bombing at the box office or never getting released, and almost invariably, bounced cheques that never get realized or even regretted. But the lure of the tinsel world is such that once there, one is doomed for life. In the case of artists who survive by doing ‘side roles’ this can be an especially frustrating experience. For even while one floats over the tinsel froth and tides, there persists a certain emptiness within, a lurking feeling that one hasn’t been able to play a fulfilling and challenging role that is equal to one’s talent and experience. Many an artist fades out and dies with this feeling, neither making it big personally or financially.

The demise of Adoor Bhavani augurs such sad thoughts in one’s mind. She had been a very impressive presence in Malayalam cinema for at least five decades (1953-2003). Yet she never got a real break like some of her colleagues, like for instance, Premji in Piravi, Adoor Bhasi in Cheriyachante Kroorakrithyangal, Bahadoor, though very late in his life, in Thilakkam, Oduvil in Oru Cherupunchiri etc. She had to remain at the margins throughout her carrer like many other stalwarts of her generation: S P Pillai, Paravur Bharathan, Alummoodan, Kuthiravattom Pappu, Meena, Philomena etc. Yet they all firmly etched themselves into our memory through small roles yet striking performances.

Adoor Bhavani virtually stumbled into films with Sariyo Thetto in 1953. From the beginning, she had a style of her own, for she was neither a conventional ‘beauty’ nor was she known for her dancing skills. But her persona had a rustic charm and vitality that immediately vibed with the audience, an unassuming style that was intimate and neighbourly. As she could effortlessly transform herself into the character, her very presence added a certain rootedness to the ambience of the narrative. In that sense, she was a ‘milieu actress’; all her impressive performances were of characters belonging to a definite milieu, for eg. as a fisherfolk woman Chakki in Chemmeen, the self-effacingly loyal Nair sister to her brother in Koottukudumbam, the friendly Muslim neighbour in Kadalpalam, Chellamma’s guaradian-neighbour and fellow street vendor ‘Valliakkan’ in Kallichellamma or the proud but caring mother-in-law in Kodiyettam

No wonder her gradual sidelining within Malayalam film narrative coincided with the retreat of such milieu-based narratives, and its withdrawal into male-dominant, upper caste/middle class homes, where aged people and women were mere appendages. If actresses like Kaviyoor Ponnamma and Sukumari graduated to motherly roles and those like Meena and Philomena tried their hands at comedies, Adoor Bhavani persisted with small but serious roles. Though she was often typecast, she was able to handle all such roles with equal charm and ease. Like many of her contemporaries, for whom acting was never just a career, her last days too were spent in loneliness and penury: another instance of our utter disregard for art.

Adoor Bhavani was one of the last representatives of a generation of actors who came to cinema from theatre; their acting style drew its energy from stage experience. With the varied and direct encounters they thus had with spectators all over Kerala, they could make their presence felt in film too without resorting to any kind of antics or exaggeration, even in very small roles and brief appearances. They easily became part of the narrative milieu and merged perfectly with its ambience. Sadly, Adoor Bhavani was one such actress, of whose talents Malayalam cinema could only capture a few glimpses.


Raoul Peck


C S Venkiteswaran

“I am not interested in avant-gardist narrative form, but rather in ideological deconstruction. The idea is by multiplying angles and superposing layers of narrative, you can create a different perception, closer to reality. I advance step by step, trying all possible combinations.”

The Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck’s oeuvre deals with some of the most troubling questions of contemporary Third World politics and life: the exploitation under the new global economic order, lack of visionary leadership within and fragmentation of the socio-political fabric, and the haunting memories and the harrowing present of diasporic life. All these themes recur in Peck films, though they are set in various milieu, cultures and nations.

The life of Raoul Peck also traverses a very curious path. Born in Haiti, his parents fled the Duvalier dictatorship when he was 8, and found asylum and a new life in the recently independent Republic of Congo. He was educated in Haiti, Zaire (Congo) and later studied engineering and economics at Berlin University, worked as a journalist and photographer from 1980 to 1985, and received his film degree from the Berlin Academy of Film and Television in 1988. For a brief period, he was also the Minister of Culture in Haiti. His oeuvre includes short experimental works, political documentaries and features. His first feature film feature The Man by the Shore (1993) was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1993. His later films, Lumumba: Death of a Prophet (1992) and The Man By The Shore (1993), Lumumba (2000) Moloch Tropical (2009) etc have received international acclaim.

It was indeed a very strange journey for an African filmmaker like Raoul Peck, who is always haunted by his roots and frustrated by its historical trajectories. For Peck, it has always been a struggle of discovery and reinterpretation. Though his films have been consistently criticized by his opponents for its ‘partisan’ views, he has never relented. Film after film, he has dug into the very roots of the condition of Africa today. Haitian Corner, the film which first drew international attention to him, is about a Haitian in New York who, like his parents fled Haiti during the Duvalier dictatorship. One day in the street the protagonist thinks he recognises someone who tortured him and from then on, he is obsessed with the idea of revenge. It is a film about the conditions to which the dispossessed are driven. In The Man by the Shore Raoul Peck takes up the complex relationship between the victim and torturer, and the diabolic dimensions of violence in sociopolitical life. His most well known film is on Lumumba, first a documentary and then a feature, which chronicles the events surrounding the leader’s assassination - an event that shattered of the great hope of African unity and self-determination. It has been hailed as a heartwrenching film both for cinematic and political reasons, as it depicts a visionary leader caught in the crossfire of colonial economic interests on the one side and African ethnic intrigues on the other.

In Desounen: Dialogue with Death, is a fantastic dialogue between Death and a peasant, interspersed with interviews with Haitians from different walks of life. Formally, this film uses an open, dialogic format where fantasy and reportage converge. Sometimes in April, another landmark film, deals with the traumatic events surrounding the massacre in Rwanda, the fatal procrastination of justice and the criminal indifference of the international community. Raoul Peck's most recent work Moloch Tropical is an clinical examination about the workings of the mind of a tyrant, ruler of a country but ultimately a petty human being caught between personal-psychological and global-political forces. His documentaries also have probed the same themes incisively. His Profit and Nothing But! is about another dictatorship - that of global capital that has devastated "developing nations" like Haiti. In Haiti, Silence of the Dogs, he returns to the theme of political intrigues and the eventual betrayal of the people.


television and malayalee

Television and Malayalee Life

C S Venkiteswaran

Television is an ubiquitous presence in Malayalee life. Within a brief period, it has emerged as the most popular and influential medium in our society and polity. Setting our political agenda, voting patterns, culinary preferences, and even our personal tastes, this omnipotent medium virtually wields the power to create, sustain and destroy. Many an issue has been raised and erased by it, and many a politician and public personality made and demolished by it, throwing all notions about the private and the public into disarray,. Nowadays, it also creates singers or performers out of all of us, through its umpteen ‘reality’ shows.

The televisual experience of a Malayalee household is a multilayered affair and functions at least at four levels: the local cable television channel that beams local news, events and programmes, the language channels that now address Malayalam-speaking population across the globe, the ‘national’ channels in Hindi and English, and the international channels. And these channels together provide an astounding variety of programmes - news and entertainment, education and spirituality, movies and sports. It is impossible to imagine how anyone could wade his/her way through this maze every day.

If one takes the Malayalam telecast by Doordarshan in 1985 as a beginning, Television, has never since ‘looked back’. The new economic policies of the 90’s and the ‘opening up of the sky’ brought in its wake, the cable TV revolution, which virtually opened the flood gates of images, information and narratives into our homes. In 1993, the first non-Hindi satellite channel in the private sector in India, Asianet, came and transformed the entire scene; Sun (1998) and Kairali (2000) soon followed. Yet another major initiative came in the form of 24 Hours news channel, Indiavision in 2003. If anyone thought that for a narrow strip of land with a media-hungry population of around 30 million, this was too much, they were proved wrong. Still more channels entered the scene: Jeevan, Amrita, Manorama, People, Kiran, and Yes, apart from the umpteen spiritual channels. Yet another important sector that often goes unnoticed is the overwhelming presence of cable TV networks and their local channels. The cable TV networks in Keralam are not mere distributors of electronic signals but producers as well. Many of them have regular news bulletins and telecast local events live to their audience. The ACV and its Rosebowl (the only metro channel worth its name in Keralam), and Kerala Vision, which is a state-wide channel, also beam programmes round the clock. As for the economic model that sustains such proliferation of channels, one is left clueless, for this has not happened in any other language in India. Of one thing one can be sure, the size of total television ad revenue has definitely not grown in proportion with the increase in the number of channels. Yet, the channels manage to survive! That is Kerala Model in television for you. Obviously, such proliferation is driven not only by economic and political interests, but also by communal, regional and other interests. Surely, it also has to do with the insatiable media appetite of Malayalees.

When television sector was opened up for private players, it was feared that it would lead to ‘MTV-isation’ of our culture. But when one looks back, what one finds is not an one-way flow, but a complex process of acceptance, rejection as well as adaptation. But has proliferation actually led to diversity in content? Sadly, no. If one flips through these channels one is struck by similarity rather than difference. Channel after channel follow the same patterns, formats and even time schedules. The crucial question is, despite this massive expansion of media time and space, whether real issues and the marginalized in our society find a place there.

One significant change that has occurred during the past decade is the capture of television by the people. Till recently, spectators were passive consumers of television content: they watched serials, news programmes and live events, heard professional singers and enjoyed trained performers. But now, the roles are reversed. With the reality shows, all hitherto avid viewers of television have become performers with the ‘professionals’ watching and judging them. With citizen journalism, anyone with a mobile is a potential TV journalist.

So is the case with news. Every other issue becomes ‘Breaking News’ and issues often reduced to mudslinging. If people discussed politics in tea shops and reading rooms earlier, now they discuss about TV news and reports about it. With television’s overwhelming emphasis on the local, are we losing sight of the national and the global and its perspectives?

Anyway, television is here to stay and very much part of our lives. What comes of it depends upon what we make of it.


Master of the Realm of the Senses

P Padmarajan - Master of Realm of the Senses

C S Venkiteswaran

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me

Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the fields, and lodge in the villages;

Let us go out early to the vineyards, and see whether the vines have budded,

Whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom.

There I will give you my love”

- Song of Solomon, VII:10-12

It is unbelievable that two decades have passed since Padmarajan left us! It may be because of the fact that he and the enchanting words and images he created never lost their charm and are still close to our heart.

Though his life was short, Padmarajan (1945-1991) was very prolific as a writer and filmmaker. He was one of the youngest authors to receive Kerala Sahitya Academy Award for his very first novelNakshathrangale Kaval at the age of 27. He went on to publish around 17 books of fiction, wrote as many highly successful scripts for filmmakers like Bharathan, KG George, IV Sasi and Mohan, and directed 18 films during the brief period between 1979 (Peruvazhiyambalam) and 1991 (Njan Gandharvan), apart from editing many of his own films! And even when he was busy making films, he continued to write till the end.

In literature, he belonged to a generation of writers who were in many ways the midnight’s children: born into a period of great hope they matured into a bleak era of utter loss of belief. Devoid of the baggage of ideologies or legacies, they vociferously quarreled with everything, though they were not sure about their dreams. In their works was a virtual and ‘literal’ explosion of sensuality. Padmarajan’s works of fiction like Nanmakalude Sooryan, Shavavahangalum Thedi, Manjukalam notta Kuthira, Prathimayum Rajakumariyum, Pukakkannada, Syphilisinte Nadakkavu andRithubhedhangalude Paarithoshikam belong to that tradition and charged with existential angst and carnal yearnings. Even the very titles suggest an earthy otherworldliness about them.

In the mid-70’s, Padmarajan started writing film scripts, and established enduring partnerships with directors like Bharathan, Mohan, and IV Sasi, whose films ushered in a new sensuality in Malayalam cinema. Even after becoming a director himself, he didn’t stop writing for others. Starting in 1975 with Prayanam for Bharathan, Padmarajan went on to write scripts for other directors till the end: his last script was Eee Thanutha Veluppankalathu in 1990 for Joshi. And all his screenplays invariably dealt with his favourite themes: desire, passion, memory, love, sex and violence.

He was basically a storyteller par excellence. Though apparently, his stories and films teem with ‘ordinary’ men and women, and very ‘local’ cityscapes and villages, these people and places are charged with a raw and explosive kind of passion and desire; they lie dormant within them and is aroused at the slightest instance: it can be the arrival from outside of a man or woman, an unexpected turn of events or an accident. At the centre of all his films is this sudden intrusion of the ‘real’ that leads to the eruption of tempestuous passions lying behind the placid surface of these lands and mindscapes.

His first film Peruvazhiambalam (1979), one of the finest films in Malayalam, is an incisive examination of how violence or totalitarianism works in our society that dealt with disturbing questions relating to masculinity and how people adore and dread it at the same time. Very few people resist it directly; some exile themselves in space, while others do the same in time, hoping for better times. It is the meek who are forced to resist and rebel, but once the act of violence is perpetrated, the mantle of ‘heroism’ is thrust upon them too, which is nothing but another invitation to domination.

In Oridaththoru phayalvaan (1981), which won an award at Asian Film Festival, it is the arrival of a wrestler that creates ripples in the village, and sets passions in motion. His towering body is an alien object that triggers desire, admiration, jealousy and also avarice. In the end, the village spits him out, and regains its calm, but in the process, several hearts have been wounded and minds set aflame. Both Kallan Pavithran (1981) and Arappattakettiya Gramathil (1986) are voyages into another world. While Pavithran, a smalltime thief is accidentally transported into a world of wealth and luxury, in the latter, the casual sexual escapade of the group of youth all of a sudden turns into a nightmare of sorts. Transgressive love is a recurring theme in Padmarajan. Both in Prayanamand Rathinirvedam (both directed Bharathan) love breaks the barriers of age and caste. In Thoovanathumpikal (1987) and Desadanakili Karayarilla (1986) Padmarajan explores the polymorphous dimension of desire, always placing the female at the centre of the narrative. In Thoovanathumpikal, one of the most romantic of Padmarajan films, it is Clara who enters the hero’s life like a rain and exits it as easily to break away and seek freedom. Similarly, Desadanakili Karayarilla deals with two school girls who elope from school to seek their own freedom – social and sexual. Though the normative, heterosexual regime catches up with both the eloping duo and Jayakrishnan in Thoovanathumpikal, the taste of freedom and difference is destined to mark their future lives.Namukkuparkkan Munthirithoppukal (1986) revisits the theme of sexuality in both its forms – that of inhuman lust and romantic love, weaving the evocative Songs of Solomon into its narrative.Innale (1990) deals with the ultimate male fantasy: that of the sudden gift of a dream girl sans memories; without a past, she can take any form that love wills.

In Padmarajan’s narratives, male and female sexualities, though fatally attracted towards each other, follow different trajectories, often to tragic effect. While male sexuality easily tends towards violence and aggressive possession, female sexuality is almost always enigmatic and mysterious, breaking out into freedom and exuberance. Characters like Clara or Shali, Sophia or Savitri, Chakkara or Gouri portray the wide spectrum of female desires that can never be pigeon-holed or cast into the moulds of male desire. They rebel and provoke, yearn and splurge, never afraid of taking control of their lives and destinies. It is men who come in the way, coercing them into violence, like in Novemberinte Nashtam (1982) and Koodevide (1983), or force them to run away to freedom like in Nombarathipoovu (1987) and Parannu parannu parannu (1984). More than relationships themselves, what Padmarajan films deal with is the havoc that these fatal attractions wreak upon the person. And it is female desire that stretches the narratives into a triangle, as they almost invariably break out of their prisons (Prayanam, Arappattakettiya Gramathil, Namukkuparkkan Munthirithoppukal, Thoovanathumpikal, Oridathoru Phayalvan). Aparan, Thinkalazhcha Nalla Divasam, Season and Moonam Pakkam are films that stand apart in his oeuvre; these films focus on death, loneliness, longing, old age, revenge and the fascinating theme of the double.


kochin haneefa

Adieu, Kochin Haneefa

C S Venkiteswaran

The departure of Kochin Haneefa is like the sudden and unexpected exit of a character in the middle of a play. He was at his prime and in the middle of so many things. As a noted actor, director, scenarist and producer, he was very active both in Malayalam and Tamil for more than three decades. In his own words, “I played several roles in life: actor, writer, scenarist, director and politician. But I loved acting above all. I appear before you, changing through time and your tastes. And, upon seeing me, if your mind is aroused and whispers ‘Kochin Haneefa’, my life is fulfilled.” He was also one of those rare artists from Kerala who made a mark in the South Indian film industry.

Salim Ahmed Ghoush alias Kochin Haneefa was many things at the same time. Though he was one of the first products of Kalabhavan to enter films, his acting was not defined by ‘mimicry’ style. He entered films playing villain roles, but ended up as a comedian. And even when he shifted to comedy in Malayalam, he was an acclaimed villain in Tamil films. Till the end, he went on producing, writing and directing, not comedies, but films dealing with serious issues, social and familial.

Even as a college student, Haneefa had made his mark as an actor, and like many others he too was lured by cinema and went to Madras to pursue his dreams. He yearned to be an actor and did manage to get some minor roles, but he was more successful in script writing, something he literally stumbled upon. His acting debut was in Azhimukham in 1972 as a boatman, followed by a handful of films in the 70’s. He couldn’t find a niche for himself in that period and had to be satisfied with supportive roles. The first break came for him when he became a script writer of Aval oru Devalayam, which starred major actors. He went on to write Irumpazhikal (a remake of Sholay), Raju Rahim, Adimachangala etc. followed by commercial successes like Kadathanadan Ambadi, Lal Americayil, Inakkili and Puthiya Karukkal. Meanwhile he continued to appear in villain roles. The second turning point in his career was Kireedom (Siby Malayil, 1989) in which he played the role of a village ruffian, who is a coward. This role that combined the villain and comedian, in a way encapsulates his career till then and also of his future fame. One can never forget the hilarious characters in films like Punjabi House, Narendran Makan Jayakantan Vaka, CID Moosa, Meesa Madhavan, Thilakkam, Mannar Mathai Speaking, Harikrishnans, Friends, Suthradaran, Ee Parkkum Thalika, Sundarapurushan, Kunjikoonan, Swapnakkoodu, Pulivalkalyanam, CI Mahadevan 5’ 4”, Chathikatha Chanthu and Udayananu Tharam.. He was a noted actor in Tamil also, with films like Annyan, Pattayan, Mahanadi, and most recently Vettaikaran. In Mahanadi he plays a crafty villain who traumatizes the life of the hero (Kamal Haasan). He was at ease with both the film worlds and loved to switch roles, languages and styles. Like many actors of his kind, who constitute the magic of cinema but are not rewarded by recognitions, Haneefa too had to satisfy with public adulation rather than official recognition. The only state award that came his way was as Second Best Actor for his performance in Soothradharan in 2001.

His directorial ventures in Malayalam include Bheesmacharya (1994), Valtsalyam (1993), Veena Meettiya Vilangukal (1990), Aankiliyude Tharattu (1987) Oru Sindoora Pottinte Ormaykku (1987),Moonnu Masangalkku Munpu (1986) and Oru Sandesam Koodi (1985). Most of these films did well at the box office and dealt with social and emotional issues.

Though his acting career spanned more than three decades from Azhimukhan (1972) to Bodyguard (2010), and he made notable contributions in various fields, what made him a popular figure were his comic roles. In comedy, he was able to create a style of his own. His acting was situational rather than something that emerged from himself through mere idiosyncrasies or dialogues. It had more to do with the dynamics between his body and the context in which it found itself. For instance, like many of his contemporaries and competitors, his comic identity is not fixed onto or one arising out of his regional slang or mannerisms. It was his body as a whole that was at the centre: one that stands out, never accommodated by the ‘normal’/normative system that envelops it. Haneefa character is always a ‘misfit’ and the comedy arises out the mismatch between body and mind, appearance and reality, words and deeds, status and ability. For instance, in several films, he plays the role of a police officer, but he is invariably a coward, a stooge or corrupt to the core. In Kaliveedu, he is a psychiatrist, who hypnotizes people, but in the end he himself falls prey to a smarter woman, who becomes his wife. In Oravadhikalathu, he is a physical trainer, but has to send letters addressed to himself to prove his worth. In Swapnakoodu, though he is a distant relative of the hapless family that includes two beautiful girls, in the end we find him trying to sell them off in the flesh market. In films like Punjabi House, Pulivalkalyanam, Narendran makan Jayakantan vaka etc, he plays hilarious roles where humour arises out of a body that is out of place, one that can’t neither flaunt nor hide itself from public gaze. In film after film, he celebrated this state of being that is always caught between the rhetoric heroism on the one side, and the sheer necessity to survive on the other. Like any comedian, his roles stand apart and above the narrative, never seeking closures and finales but always bursting forth with mirth and laughter in the present. These comic characters had no axe to grind or point to prove, they were neither nostalgic about the past nor worried about future goals, but always lived here and now to light up our lives in unexpected and uncanny ways.

One of his most striking his qualities was that he knew his role really well; small or big, central or marginal, he always played it to the hilt and with total commitment. Most importantly, never in his life, art or career was he parochial or partisan in any way, the reason why he was dear to all. The Malayalam film industry will surely miss him very badly, especially in times like these when any sense of camaraderie is sorely lacking.

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