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January 10, 2001

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'The films I consider bad win awards!'

Shobha Warrier

Bharat Gopi Bharat Gopi was picked from theatre by Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

He was given a very small role in Gopalakrishnan's first film, Swayamvaram.

He then became the hero in the directorís next film, Kodiyettam, which won him the best actor award nationally.

Since then, he came to be known as Bharat Gopi. There was no looking back for the actor after that. And he became the pillar of the 'middle cinema' movement of the Eighties.

He is perhaps the only actor with such unconventional looks to be cast as a hero in so many films.

He had a dream run until he suffered a heart attack in the mid-Eighties. It left him paralysed. Soon, he was a bitter and angry man.

Even though he played major roles in the films made by Aravindan and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Gopi opines that the real art films were those made by Padmarajan, Bharatan, K G George, etc -- the middle cinema torchbearers!

Gopi, too, is worried about the present state of Malayalam cinema and the direction in which it is going.

"Just because Malayalam films have won 14 National Awards, you can't say that we make good films," he counters.

More of Gopi:

I think Malayalam cinema is going through a period of change. Nobody can predict which direction it will move.

Will it deteriorate further? Or will it grow?

I don't think anyone can answer that question right now.

One thing is certain. Even now, we have two kinds of films.

But the number of good films is very, very few.

I also wonder whether the films that I describe as 'good' are really good. I have certain convictions and ideas about good films but now I donít see that kind of films at all.

We are not the people who judge films these days; a new generation has come in and their tastes and ideas about films are totally different from ours.

I don't watch films these days because my taste and that of today's audience are totally different.

The films I consider bad win awards, too! A film like Narasimham may also get the best film award!

That is the state of Malayalam films now.

So I don't think just because Malayalam cinema bagged 14 National Awards this year indicates that the standards have improved.

Earlier, we respected the judgment of the award committee. But now...

They cannot even find one best performance these days.

How can you justify giving the best performance award jointly to two actors? This kind of judgment is sub-standard.

There was a time in the history of Malayalam cinema when films were based on the great literary works of great writers. Those characters had strength and they were rooted to the soil. That was because the writers felt the pain and agony of their creations.

Today when you write for the sole purpose of making a film, how do you expect the characters to have strength and roots?

They create not men rooted to the soil but supermen who fly high up in the air!

Filmmaking has become more a business venture than a creative medium now. People invest money and try to get it back.

Good films will be made only if we have a good platform. Commercialisation of art is the order of the day.

Why did this happen? Consumerism.

A capitalist like Ravindran Nair produced the earlier films of Aravindan and Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

Why did he stop? Because he found that the money was not coming back to him as he wanted. Filmmaking was only a business for him.

The KSFDC (Kerala State Film Development Corporation) is the best example of how even a government body cannot make good films.

Why haven't the KSFDC made films for Adoor Gopalakrishnan or Shaji N Karun? Because filmmaking is a business for the government body, too.

The government has formed just Film Corporation and not a film development corporation. Neither KSFDC not NFDC has 'film development' in their agenda.

Their aim is only to create jobs! Is it not sad that great filmmakers like Girish Karnad, Girish Kasaravalli, G V Iyer, etc, have stopped making films these days?

Recently, I was called to see a film called Mazha, based on a short story by Kamala Das.

It was a beautiful film. But there were only a handful of people in the theatre to see it.

When I came out, I saw a big queue for another film in the same complex. I was told that the queue was to watch an Adults Only film, not Mazha

Men are sex-starved here. Why else would they watch such films?

I believe the era of middle cinema is over.

Middle cinema is real cinema. Those films were understood by people unlike the so-called 'intellectual art films'. They were beautiful unlike other crass commercial films.

The makers of the so-called art films treated art films as an intellectual exercise. They wanted to show the world that they were more intellectually superior than ordinary people.

The real art cinema was the 'middle cinema' of filmmakers like Bharatan, Padmarajan and K G George.

Those films catered to the needs of the audience and were commercially successful. I was also part of the middle cinema movement. Remuneration never bothered me. It was my passion to work with such filmmakers.

We were not the typical heroes but we were accepted by the people of Kerala as heroes.

There was a big group of filmlovers who enjoyed good films; there were quite a few committed filmmakers... And there were people like us who wanted to be part of such a movement.

To go back a little, Ramu Kariat's Chemmeen is not a landmark or a milestone in the history of Malayalam cinema.

It is only an accident.

Do you know what happened Kariat's next film, Ezhu Raathrikal (seven nights)? It did not even run for seven nights!

If you look at the period between 1965 and 1999, you will see several points in the graph. Chemmeen is only one such point. Adoor's Swayamvaram is another. Aravindan's Chidambaram yet another.

You cannot draw a line linking them.

As for the superstars, what have they contributed to Malayalam cinema but themselves?

It is said that Mohanlal and Mammootty get more than Rs 30 lakhs to Rs 50 lakhs for a film.

If I had acted for only money, I would have been a very rich man today. I have acted in only 75 films. I refused to act in 250.

After I won the National Award for Kodiyettam many offered me same kind of roles. I refused. After Govind Nihalani's Aaghath, was offered similar roles in Hindu but I declined.

Why? Because I worked only in the films that I loved, regardless of the money.

ALSO READ

God's own films!
'Malayalam cinema's definitely growing'
'Pain drives all great creations'
'It's the filmmaker's duty to entertain'
'I love the films of the '60s and the '70s'
'Today we have only copycats'
'Cinema is both art and industry'
'We have a long way to go'
'You don't see emotion these days'

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