Filmgoers have stopped taking cinema seriously: Adoor Gopalakrishnan (Lead, Interview)

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS
Monday, November 22, 2010

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM/NEW DELHI - Renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan is unhappy with Indian ‘masala’ movies and the way regional cinema is treated. And he doesn’t spare film-goers too.

“Ideas for good cinema should have the potential to develop into a dramatic story. The plot should engage the audience…But commercial cinema does not believe in having anything to do with life. In many movies, the underworld rowdy - usually a colourful character - is the hero,” Adoor told IANS in an interview at the recent Week Hay Festival in Thiruvananthapuram.

“Another thing that commercial cinema depends on is dialogue. Every character, including the hero, talks non-stop and the speech has to be delivered at high pitch. Cinema is very vocal now and it is a very dangerous trend,” the Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner said.

Born Moutatthu “Adoor” Gopalakrishnan Unnithan in Kerala in 1941, the filmmaker-scriptwriter revolutionised Malayalam cinema. His first film “Swayamvaram” (1972) set the new wave cinema movement rolling in Kerala.

Honoured with the Padma Shri in 1984 and Padma Vibhushan in 2006, Adoor was conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2004. The filmmaker is known for award-winning movies like “Mathilukal”, “Vidheyan”, “Elippathayam”, “Mukhamukham”, “Oru Pennum Randaanum” and “Naalu Pennungal”.

He believes that “cinema as a genre has been taken over by the mainstream industry” and blames the audiences equally for the trend.

“Bad films made in Tamil Nadu and rejected by the audience do well in Kerala. Film-going audience don’t seem to have any intellect - it is a way to kill time. They have stopped taking cinema seriously,” he rued.

Adoor, who believes in the power of reality in movies, has been trying to promote meaningful cinema in Kerala since 1965.

“I started the film society movement in Kerala over 30 years ago. One of our achievements is the International Film Festival, an annual feature that began 15 years ago. It is a travelling festival which changes venue every year. But in the last five years, it has acquired a definite shape in terms of participation and is established now,” he said.

The festival is now scheduled in Kerala next month.

“It is a big festival with 200 movies spread across 10 cinemas and 10,000 people have already registered…It is a small trickle in the ocean of bad cinema,” he said.

According to him, what Indian cinema lacks is enterprising distributorship.

“The country is in need of enterprising distributors. If my movies can be screened in France and Germany, why not in Indian theatres? Private television channels show foreign films. Earlier, Doordarshan screened ‘panorama’ films (language cinema) but they have stopped now. They are comfortable with more of Bombay (Mumbai) ‘masala’.

“The masala movies find their share of national awards too. Look at the constitution of juries at the National Awards. They have no understanding of cinema… What kind of movies do you expect them to choose?” he asked.

As movies in India are made in several languages, “the National Awards jury should have important practitioners of regional cinema”, he opined.

“…By awarding a leading film, they are not only doing disservice to the cause of cinema, but something which sets a bad trend. I am not saying they should be banned, but mainstream Bombay ‘masala’ are now represented in the panorama too.”

Visitors to international film festivals look for language panorama, not mainstream movies, he said.

“I don’t think commercial mainstream cinema is India’s soft power. When these films from India are shown to NRIs, they spoil their outlook to Indian cinema,” Adoor said.

Adoor’s films, which are made at rather long intervals, also help promote good cinema in his state. “Not in villages - because people rarely go to the movies. But my movies are released commercially in every urban and semi-urban centre,” he observed.

Resource is a hurdle in India, the filmmaker said.

“The NFDC (National Film Development Corporation) rarely doles out money to established filmmakers. You hardly hear of films produced by NFDC or other government agencies. Where will the money come from, where will they screen the films? Multiplexes are devoted to mainstream cinema and foreign movies.

My movies have better chances of being distributed abroad,” he said.

Known for his detailed work and psychological drama, Adoor is now contemplating a new movie. It either has to be based on his own idea “or a short story because a short story allows a filmmaker the freedom to develop a script”, he said.

Three of Adoor’s movies, “Mathilukal”, “Vidheyan” and “Oru Pennum Randaanum” are based on short stories.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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