The veteran filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday. Adoor, who has not directed any film after his last film Pinneyum tells why he is not at all in favor of letting any actor read the script before he or she starts shooting for it.
There has been a big gap since your last film!
The last film that I made was Pinneyum, which was four years ago. I made it at a cost of just one crore of rupees. I have not made any more films because first of all I didn’t get the right script. I was also busy making two documentary films- one on Mohini Attam and another one on Kathakali, each of 72 minutes duration.
Did you also have to struggle after graduating from the FTII in 1965?
It was what I’d call a seven year itch for me, because at that time, no one believed that acting can be taught and I had to make several attempts to convince the established producers to let me make a film for them.
When did you discover cinema as such?
While learning what screenplay was at the FTII, I discovered cinema and its nuances and also realized that I was learning a new language and a new way of expressing things.I did not have the habit of watching films when I was directing theatre before setting out to make a film and hence was not corrupted, though now I feel that by watching bad films, one can also learn how not to make bad films.
How do you convince stars like Mammootty to act in your films?
A director may be motivated by a great shot but artists who work in more than a dozen films cannot be loyal to one kind of film. Though money does drive all of the stars, there are good and intelligent actors who want to do different films because they know that it will add to their stardom. Mammootty is a fine actor, who has acted in my films like Mathilugal, Vidheyan and Anantharam. It isn’t a sin if he is also a star. I am not against stardom. Those who want to see an actor in my films will be happy though those who come to see a star will be disappointed. I cast a star only if he suits the role and looks the part and not just because he is a star and also my friend.
Is it true that you do not ask your actors to go through the script before they are ready to face the camera?
As a director, I reiterate that right from the time I made my debut as a director with Swayamvaram, I have never wanted my actors to read the script of any film of mine because he I am of the opinion that there is the danger of the actor trying to interpret the script according to his or her own whim and end up forming a wrong perception instead of adhering to my vision of the director, though I do not start a film without zeroing on a script.
What is the secret of your success as a director?
Nothing is easy in filmmaking. I feel that every director should have a lot of patience. Tarcos from Spain said once that it is very easy to make a film but very difficult to make a good film. I feel that it is very important to make a film and have it seen by people.
How do you look back at your career from Swayamvaram, which was made 42 years ago?
I do not look back. I have to look ahead as a filmmaker. It is too early for me to evaluate my growth as a filmmaker. All that I can say is that it has been a constant struggle for me. I keep on struggling, not just for finance but to not repeat myself as a filmmaker and say new things and be totally involved with what I do and at the same time enjoy doing what I am doing. In this ongoing process of constant struggle, I discover many things including myself which enables me to function better as a filmmaker. I feel that struggle is essential or else you are finished, whether you are a filmmaker or for that matter a human being.
How do you react to being referred to as a serious filmmaker?
I feel that without proper attention to details nothing can be done in filmmaking. If you are a serious filmmaker your work also will be serious. I may make serious films but then since I enjoy making them, my audience also enjoys watching them.
What is your approach to a film?
I feel that if you have no concern for others, you have absolutely no right at all to make a film. It isn’t inexpensive to make a film. So people decided to market a film by making it merchandise. Cinema was born the day people decided to pay and watch films. For me, it is tiring to see someone dance on the screen. It is boring and I may walk out. To express love, you need not have 100 extras. It is sad that we enjoy it too because there is this archaic tendency to go back to our roots.
You seem to be skeptical about the advent of multiplexes helping independent filmmakers!
It has always been difficult for independent filmmakers to make films the way they want. The multiplexes are feeding entirely on completely different kinds of cinema where the audience is also different and really don’t care about good cinema. I am afraid there is not much hope as far as good cinema is concerned.
Why do you not make films in Hindi like say the prolific Priyadarshan does?
Hindi is a language with which I am not at all comfortable. It is wrong to say that Hindi is our national language. We do not have one national language. We have several of them and I am making films in one of those languages. I do not have access to the North and hence I am clueless about the various nuances of the Hindi language. I do not want to depend on someone else when I am shooting a film on the sets and hence I do not like keeping an assistant who knows Hindi to execute my vision. I am happy making films in Malayalam.
How do you look back at your career from Swayamvaram to Pinneyum?
I do not look back. I have to look ahead as a filmmaker. It is too early for me to evaluate my growth as a filmmaker. All that I can say is that it has been a constant struggle for me. I keep on struggling, not just for finance but to not repeat myself as a filmmaker and say new things and be totally involved with what I do and at the same time enjoy doing what I am doing. In this ongoing process of constant struggle, I discover many things including myself which enables me to be a better filmmaker. I feel that struggle is essential or else you are finished, whether you are a filmmaker or for that matter a human being.