When two giants of cinema meet, it is bound to sparkle. If the two meet through the lens of a camera, there is bound to be masterly moments. The other day, Girish Kasaravalli and Adoor Gopalakrishnan met in Thiruvananthapuram.
Kasaravalli -- one of the giants of India's parallel cinema who made his debut feature in Kannada, Ghatashraddha in 1977, and followed it up with movies like Tabarana Kathe, Thaayi Saheba and Dweepa among others -- has just begun to shoot his documentary on Gopalakrishnan.
Read: Book Review: Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life in Cinema
Adoor, one of the pioneers of the New Indian Wave whose first creation, Swayamvaram (in Malayalam), stormed Kerala's conservative citadel in 1972, has authored 10 more features, all in Malayalam. Some of his classics include Elippathayam, Kathapurushan, Vidheyan and Mathilukal.
Kasaravalli says that he plans to complete the Doordarshan-sponsored documentary in three schedules, and hopefully before the end of this year.
Last month, when Girish and Adoor met, they visited places like Adikad (where Elippathayam was filmed), Adoor (where Kathapurushan was made) and Ambalapuzha (the scene of Naalu Pennungal). All these are in Kerala.
Elippathayam, or The Rat-Trap, is one of the finest works on Kerala's dying feudalism and we see this in all its transparency through the lead character, Unni, with his debauch ways, cowardice and general disdain to the world around him. The movie was screened at Cannes in 1982. And Mrinal Sen who was on the main jury that year, said that had Elippathayam been in competition, he would have certainly voted for it.
Read: Our films were in reaction to the mainstream: Girish Kasaravalli
Kathapurushan is the most autobiographical of all Adoor's films. It was shot in Medayil, the house in Pallickal, Adoor district, where Gopalakrishnan was born and spent much of his childhood. It was a majestic two-storey structure which in the 1940s was such a rarity that passers-by would stop to stare. Kasaravalli and Gopalakrishnan had a session there.
Kathapurushan and Elippathayam -- as well as Vidheyan -- are all powerful documentation of the changing social order in Kerala that Gopalakrishnan himself witnessed. We see how Unni in Elippathayam degenerates, because he refuses to move with time. We see how Veluchar, the man servant in Kathapurushan, disappears -- taking along with him the last vestiges of feudalism.
We also see how the rich, arrogant and cruel landlord in Vidheyan is eventually humiliated and destroyed. In the end, he has to eat and rub shoulders with the servant he had all along ill-treated.
Finally, Kasaravalli's road trip with Gopalakrishnan took him to Ambalapuzha, where Naalu Pennungal was shot. Ambalapuzha is part of the Allepey district with its picturesque lakes and backwater, a great spot for houseboat tourism. One of the segments in the work had Nandita Das.