Kerala: Harikumar’s movies pulsated with life & emotion

The director-screenwriter leaves behind an array of films, including 'Sukrutham', 'Udhyanapalakan', 'Ezhunnallathu' and 'Ayanam'.
Malayalam movie director-screenwriter Harikumar
Malayalam movie director-screenwriter HarikumarPhoto | Special Arrangement

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For him, the middle path held a world of possibility. By traversing the path flanked by commercial success and critical acclaim, Harikumar went on a unique journey, unearthing tidbits of life and capturing them in frames of human emotion. His death on Monday, after a long fight with cancer, adds to the list of Malayalam cinema’s stellar talents who have bid adieu.

The director-screenwriter leaves behind an array of films, including 'Sukrutham', 'Udhyanapalakan', 'Ezhunnallathu' and 'Ayanam', for fans of the medium to cherish. Harikumar’s tryst with films started early, in his own words, through books that gave him not just perspective but values that shaped his art of storytelling. “I am more interested in how a story is told than the story itself,” he once said in an interview.

His contemporaries remember him for his qualities of ambition and hardwork, a filmmaker who made movies that bore the scent of life and upheld values, and above all as a friend. “I worked with him on his first movie 'Ambal Poovu'. He didn’t strike me as a newcomer. Instead he displayed a seasoned grip of the subject matter and his craft,” says actor Jalaja, who went on to act in another of his movies, 'Oru Swakaryam' sharing screen space with Venu Nagavally.

For veteran filmmaker Shaji N Karun, Harikumar was part of the golden age of Malayalam cinema, when films were hallmarks of the doyens of the art. “The films of the period bore the signature of the minds that made them. Harikumar was symbolic of the times. He had a unique way of choosing subjects. He was planning his next project when death came calling,” Shaji said.

As a member of several state and national award juries, he also had the role of guiding others on movies that deserve to be highlighted. “The films that were selected with his input were indeed richer in content. His absence will be felt in selecting movies that will set an example or benchmark for good cinema,” Shaji added.

Noted lyricist and Harikumar’s friend Prabha Varma feels the beauty of his movies was in their lyrical quality. “They were culled from life and portrayed such sensitivity that they elevated the craft of storytelling to a different level,” he says.

Harikumar’s movies straddled the path between ‘parallel’ cinema and commercial films and remained aesthetically qualified to belong to both genres.

‘Harikumar’s frames had a universality to them’

His training in films was mostly through observation, study of the finer elements of the craft and the rich influence that storytellers such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Bhattacharya, Bharathiraja, Balu Mahendra, and Malayalam’s own Bharathan and Padmarajan had on him.

“What made his movies unique was the simplicity in narration that cut through layers of the complex emotions portrayed. His frames had such a universality. ‘Sukrutham’ was arguably his best and he will be remembered for that movie,” says Prabha Varma. Harikumar, who left his job with Kollam municipality to pursue his passion, had a track record comparable to his esteemed contemporaries. From his first movie to the last ('Autorickshawkarante Bharya'), his films bear a class that is more noted for the values that he defined his life. “He chose content with care and sharpened it with hard work. Films and the way they portray life mattered to him. Rest was left to how nature would treat his work,” Varma says.

Times change, yet some things remain constant. Like hard work to match ambition, values that meet goals, and ideas that meet the artist. In the likes of Harikumar, all these confluence. The times they live in then freezes. As Shaji says, the golden age.

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The New Indian Express