Adoor Gopalakrishnan is an Indian film director, script writer, and producer. Adoor Gopalakrishnan had a major role in revolutionizing Malayalam cinema during the 1970s and is regarded as one of the notable film makers of India.
Adoor’s first film Swayamvaram (1972, script by K.P Kumaran the director of one of the best Indian film ” Athidhi “.) pioneered the new wave cinema movement in Kerala along with ” Olavum Theeravum ” (1970) and ” Athidhi “(1974). Most of his films go to festivals around the world, and are released in Kerala.
Gopalakrishnan was born on 3 July 1941 in the village of Pallickal ( Medayil Bungalow ) near Adoor, present day Kerala, India as the son of Madhavan Unnithan and Mouttathu Gauri Kunjamma. He started his artistic life as an actor in amateur plays when he was 8. Later he shifted his base to writing and direction and wrote and directed a few plays. After securing a degree in Economics, Political Science and Public Administration in 1961 from the Gandhigram Rural Institute, he worked as a Government officer near Dindigul in Tamil Nadu . In 1962, he left his job to study screenwriting and direction from the Pune Film Institute. He completed his course from there with a scholarship from the Government of India. With his classmates and friends, Adoor established Chithralekha Film Society and Chalachithra Sahakarana Sangham; the organization was the first film society in Kerala and it aimed at production, distribution and exhibition of films in the co-operative sector.
Adoor has scripted and directed eleven feature films and about thirty short films and documentaries. Notable amongst the non-feature films are those on Kerala’s performing arts.
Adoor’s debut film, the national award winning Swayamvaram (1972) was a milestone in Malayalam film history. The film was exhibited widely in various international film festivals including those held in Moscow, Melbourne, London and Paris. The films that followed namely Kodiyettam, Elippathayam, Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Mathilukal, Vidheyan and Kathapurushan lived up to the reputation of his first film and were well received by critics at various film festivals and fetched him many awards. However, Mukhamukham was criticized in Kerala while Vidheyan was at the centre of a debate due to the differences in opinion between the writer of story of the film Sakhariya and Adoor.
Adoor’s later films are Nizhalkuthu, narrating the experiences of an executioner who comes to know that one of his subjects was innocent, and Naalu Penungal, a film adaptation of four short stories by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai.
All his films have won national and international awards (National award for best film twice, best director five times, and best script two times. His films have also won his actors and technicians several national awards). Adoor’s third feature, Elippathayam won him the coveted British Film Institute Award for ‘the most original and imaginative film’ of 1982. The International Film Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) has gone to him six times successively for Mukhamukham, Anantharam, Mathilukal, Vidheyan, Kathapurushan and Nizhalkkuthu. Winner of several international awards like the UNICEF film prize (Venice), OCIC film prize (Amiens), INTERFILM Prize (Mannheim) etc., his films have been shown in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, London, Rotterdam and every important festival around the world.
Style and trademarks
Adoor has been known as a director who completely dictates every fine detail of his films. On the performance of actors in his movies, he stated that – “It is not the artist’s job to do the detailing. I do not want different interpretations of roles that may clash with each other. It has to be absolutely unified.” He normally does not encourage his crew to read the script or even the stories. The actors are told at the time of shooting about the role and the scenes before conducting several rehearsals. According to Adoor “[i]n movies, the actor is not performing to the audience like the stage actor. Here they are acting for me. I am the audience and I will decide whether it is correct or not, enough or not
2013 – Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award C. B. Kumar Endowment for Cinema yum Samskaravum (Essay)
2010 – Honorary Doctorate [D.Litt] from University of Kerala
2006 – Padma Vibhushan — Second highest civilian award from Government of India
2004 – Dadasaheb Phalke Award — Lifetime Achievement Award in Film awarded by the Government of India
1984 – Padma Shri — Fourth highest civilian award from Government of India
1984 – Legion of Honour — French order, the highest decoration in France
National Film Awards — Various categories for Swayamvaram, Kodiyettam, Elippathayam, Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Mathilukal, Vidheyan, Kathapurushan, Nizhalkkuthu and Naalu Pennungal
Kerala State Film Awards: — Various categories for Kodiyettam, Elippathayam, Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Vidheyan and Oru Pennum Randaanum
International Film Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) — won consecutively for six feature films (Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Mathilukal, Vidheyan, Kathapurushan and Nizhalkkuthu)
London Film Festival — Sutherland Trophy — in 1982 for Elippathayam
British Film Institute Award — Most Original Imaginative Film of 1982 — Elippathayam
Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by French Government (2003)
Lifetime achievement award at Cairo International Film Festival.
National Film Awards (Detailed):
1973 – Best Film – Swayamvaram
1973 – Best Director – Swayamvaram
1978 – Best Feature Film in Malayalam – Kodiyettam
1980 – National Film Award – Special Jury Award / Special Mention (Non-Feature Film) – The Chola Heritage
1982 – Best Feature Film in Malayalam – Elippathayam
1984 – Best Book on Cinema – Cinemayude Lokam
1985 – Best Director – Mukhamukham
1985 – Best Feature Film in Malayalam – Mukhamukham
1985 – Best Screenplay – Mukhamukham
1988 – Best Director – Anantharam
1988 – Best Screenplay – Anantharam
1990 – Best Director – Mathilukal
1990 – Best Feature Film in Malayalam – Mathilukal
1994 – Best Feature Film in Malayalam – Vidheyan
1995 – Best Film – Kathapurushan
2003 – Best Feature Film in Malayalam – Nizhalkkuthu
2008 – Best Director – Naalu Pennungal
Kerala State Film Awards (Detailed):
1977 – Best Film – Kodiyettam
1981 – Best Film – Elippathayam
1984 – Best Film – Mukhamukham
1993 – Best Film – Vidheyan
2008 – Best Film – Oru Pennum Randaanum
1977 – Best Director – Kodiyettam
1984 – Best Director – Mukhamukham
1987 – Best Director – Anantharam
1993 – Best Director – Vidheyan
2008 – Best Director – Oru Pennum Randaanum
1977 – Best Story – Kodiyettam
Best Screen Play
1993 – Best Screen Play – Vidheyan
2008 – Best Screen Play – Oru Pennum Randaanum
Best Documentary Film
1982 – Best Documentary Film – Krishnanattam
1999 – Best Documentary Film – Kalamandalam Gopi
Best Short Film
2005 – Best Short Film – Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair
Best Book on Cinema
2004 – Best Book on Cinema – Cinemanubhavam
A retrospective of his films was conducted in
Kolkata, by Seagull Foundation for the Arts and Nandan, 2009.
The Slovenian International Film Festival, 2009.
The Munich Film museum, 2009.
The French Cinematheque,Paris, 1999