QUEEN'S ROAD: Girish Kasaravalli has just completed his documentary on filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, a subject he much admires.
About a year-and-a-half ago, when the Films Division approached Kasaravalli with this project, he readily agreed.
“Amid all the loud films, I appreciate Adoor’s minimalist approach in which many things remain unsaid, or sometimes, are merely whispered,” says Kasaravalli.
And, he says, while Adoor as a person is forthright, not one to mince his words, as a filmmaker he is not limited to a ‘binary perspective — a simple good and bad’.
He observes that Adoor’s films, while being rooted in Kerala and its politics, manage to speak a universal language.
The two stalwarts of parallel cinema, who made their foray into the field about a decade apart, have always shared mutual respect and a common love for films, but the process of making this 90-minute documentary has drawn them closer, Kasaravalli says.
“I’ve talked about his films many times; we had interacted and were aware of each other’s works. But we bonded more while making the film,” he says, adding that the documentary, awaiting a censor certificate, brings to light aspects of the filmmaker that were little known.
“For example, I found out that he’s a Gandhian. Not many people know that about him,” he tells City Express. Another revelation was how Adoor’s narrative style was influenced by Malayalam poet Ezhuthachan.
“I ask him questions and he responds. So when I asked why so often in his films the narrator is not necessarily the protagonist, he explained how he had been inspired by the poet.” The 16th-century poet popularised the kilippattu form, where the narrator is often, as the term indicates, a parrot, or even a bee or a swan.
Kasaravalli has used clips from all 11 of Adoor’s feature films and combined them with interviews of people who know him intimately, including his daughter and sister. The filmmakers also discuss how Adoor’s films were perceived when they were made and how interpretations have altered since with the changing social climate.
“Some shots are taken at his house, and some others at the locations of his films,” Kasaravalli says. The documentary has been divided into five segments, each named after one of Adoor’s own films, thus reinforcing Kasaravalli’s idea that ‘the man is not different from his films; a filmmaker speaks through his medium.’
Adoor’s journey as a filmmaker has been documented by others too, through films and books, most of which Kasaravalli has researched. But his focus is on Adoor’s philosophy, ideologies and aesthetics, hence the title ‘Images/Reflections’.
“It’s my image of him and his image of him, or — not and — my reflections on him and his reflections on himself. As it is a documentary on a filmmaker, I also felt that the title should include the word ‘images’,” Kasaravalli adds.
Before working on this project, Kasaravalli had made a film on writer U R Ananthamurthy, so is there another documentary in the making? He replies, “No, maybe later, if a fascinating subject comes up once again. I haven’t made a feature film for four years, and that’s what I want to work on this year. But it’s at too early a stage to say any more.”