Tuesday 8 January 2013

Kathapurushan (Man of the Story) [1995]

One of renowned Malayalam filmmaker Adoor’s most acclaimed and complex works, this was a rich tapestry covering over 4 decades of political history of the Indian state of Kerala, using the cinematic equivalent of a bildungsroman. The film brilliantly, and in exquisite detail, followed the coming-of-age story of Kunjunni (Vishwanathan), born in pre-independent India and belonging to a feudal family. He experiences both personal and political upheavals and milestones in his fascinating journey – abandonment by his father, declining fortunes of his family, arrest and torture by the police during the Naxal movement for his Leftist beliefs, marrying his childhood sweetheart, and achieving both success and struggle as a writer. The story of the protagonist’s life was seamlessly and beautifully juxtaposed in the script against highly dynamic sociopolitical environments – colonialism, Gandhian nationalism, hardline Communism, draconian police state, and finally, a centrist government that is desperate to obliterate the darker chapters of the past. The influence of Ray’s Apu Trilogy on the film is unmistakable – both in terms of its structure and aesthetics, and insofar its deep-set humanism was concerned. Despite facing hurdles and tragic consequences at various instances, he is never shown losing faith on life or the people around him. In fact, quite ironically, while he is shown as a cry-baby as a child, his smile becomes his perennial companion as an adult. And, in the most delicately crafted finale, he breaks down in laughter when faced with his greatest moment of disillusionment. The acting was decidedly the weakest element in the film, save for a couple of exceptions, but that blemish was easy to disregard in this layered, affecting, and marvelously shot and scored epic.

Director: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Genre: Drama/Historical Drama/Political Drama/Romance
Language: Malayalam
Country: India

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