ASADI - International Board of Governors

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

International Governor

Adoor Gopalakrishnan is India's most acclaimed contemporary filmmaker. Born in 1941 in Kerala, a state in south India, he belongs to a family with strong links to the performing arts, especially Kathakali, a highly-stylised form of dance drama. From the age of eight Adoor began acting for the stage, later producing and directing over twenty plays, several written by him. He is the author of two books on the theatre as well as a book on the cinema, "The World of Cinema", for which he won a national award in 1983. In 1962 Adoor enrolled in the Film and Television Institute in Pune and graduated in 1965 with a diploma in Scriptwriting and Direction. The same year he founded the Chitralekha Film Society of Trivandrum as well as the Chitralekha Film Cooperative. Both played a key role in the development of film culture in Kerala. In 1972 Adoor made Swayamvaram/One's Own Choice, his first full-length feature film. It launched the New Cinema in Kerala and became one of the major films of the Indian New Wave. He has since made seven more films (along with over 25 shorts and documentaries), all of which have won major national and international awards: Kodiyettam/Ascent (1977); Elippathayam/Rat Trap (1981); Mukhamukham/Face to Face (1984); Anantaram/Monologue (1987); Mathilukal/The Walls (1990); Vidheyan/The Servile (1993), and Kathapurushan/Man of the Story (1995). Elippathayam received the prestigious British Film Institute Award in 1982; Mukhamukham won the FIPRESCI prize in 1985; Kathapurushan was honoured in India in 1995 with the National Award for Best Film. Retrospectives of Adoor's films have been held in Pesaro, Helsinki, La Rochelle, Nantes, Munich, and New York. All of Adoor's films draw on the history and culture of his native Kerala. Kerala's transition from feudalism to modernity serves as a backdrop to his complex meditations on the psychology of power, the nature of oppression, the corruption of patriarchy, and the coexistence of the modern and the feudal in post-Independence democratic India. Elippathayam, his masterpiece, vividly captures the descent into paranoia of a man trapped within his feudal universe. In Mukhamukham, a study in failed idealism, a Communist leader gives up on revolution and decides to go to sleep instead. Vidheyan, a parable-like story, deals with the abuse of power, the plight of the outsider, and the nature of a master-servant relationship. The more recent films--especially Anantaram, Mathilukal and Kathapurushan--display a new concern with interiority and reflexivity, foregrounding time, memory, consciousness, and the nature of storytelling itself. Adoor's genius lies in his ability to create visually complex films that operate on multiple levels, that are culture-specific and yet universal in significance.