‘Sukhantyam’ is about how life has to be experienced: Adoor Gopalakrishnan

The auteur on the first stand-alone short film in his career

A private limited company that promises happy endings! With that intriguing one-liner, Adoor Gopalakrishnan narrates a forthright story on contemporary society in Sukhantyam, his first stand-alone short film in his illustrious career spanning nearly 48 years.

With this 30-minute movie, the septuagenarian reflects upon isolation and loneliness experienced by people of all ages in Kerala today and their emotional fragility that prompts them to think of taking their own lives.

Sukhantyam was screened as part of the ongoing Soorya festival of films. Adoor participated in a question-and-answer session soon after the screening of the film at Ganesham, Thycaud. Later, at Soorya Krishnamoorthy’s house, surrounded by figurines of Ganeshas in all sizes, he sits down to talk about the film and its making.

Reflecting reality

“I make films when I have something to share with viewers,” says the auteur. A remark he has always reiterated about his repertoire that covers a wide range of themes, each of which holds a mirror to the period of time the film has been set in.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan with Alencier on the sets of ‘Sukhantyam’

Adoor Gopalakrishnan with Alencier on the sets of ‘Sukhantyam’
| Photo Credit:
Special arrangement

Right from his first feature film Swayamvaram, Adoor’s films have reflected upon issues that caught his attention. Be it his latter-day films such as Nallu Pennungal and Oru Pennum Randaanum, which were based on Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s stories, or earlier ones such as Kodiyettam and Elippathayam, each has a specific context and a political or social relevance subtly woven within.

Sukhantyam is no different. The film has been inspired by the play Karakku Company, “a farce by the late Jagathy NK Achary.” It is a take on the circumstances and mindscape of people who opt for suicide in an outburst of spontaneous negative emotions.

“I had acted in this play during my school days. The farce was popular those days and the theme must have stayed in my mind,” he says. So, when Adoor was requested by Kolkata-based Royal Stag Company to make a short film of his choice, he told them that he would do one when he found a story or theme that kindled his interest.

Padmapriya in a scene from Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s ‘Sukhantyam’

Padmapriya in a scene from Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s ‘Sukhantyam’
| Photo Credit:
special arrangement

“That was when I remembered this play and managed to dig out the slim book in which it had appeared. It is no longer in print. Deriving inspiration from its premise, I wrote a script and created characters for the times we live in. The climax and the situations are all different,” elaborates Adoor.

Although they wanted a 20-minute film, they agreed to a 30-minute format that Adoor insisted on. Through the characters who come for an appointment at the Happy End Company, the director highlights the flimsy reasons that drive a person to contemplate ending his/her life.

Life is beautiful

“I read about a mother who took her life because her son had failed in an examination. Is that all there is to life? We have all read about how a suicidal person can be counselled to see the error in their thinking and choose life over death. That is the premise of my film. It is pro-life and how life is beautiful and has to be experienced,” says Adoor.

“The idea works on the psychological truism that those attempting suicide could be dissuaded if handled with tact and sensitivity,” adds a statement from the director.

The film has Padmapriya, Indrans, Mukesh, Alencier, Sudheer Karamana, Krishnan Balakrishnan, Aadithyan and Alex Vallikunnam and it has been filmed by MJ Radhakrishnan. Bijibal has composed the music.

“The producers are making a series of shorts by directors from all over India. It is all for an online series. So I doubt if there will be a theatrical release. However, I plan to get the film censored since there has been a number of requests to send this film for various festivals,” says Adoor.

And which would be his preference, short films or features? “I have made feature films and documentaries. Our cinemas want full-length feature films that go up to two hours and more. Making short films requires a different set of skills because you have to be crisp in what you have to communicate, much like a short story. It has its own challenges. Nowadays, short films have their own space and viewers,” he says.

He adds that as of now, he has not been thinking of a new feature film. “It will happen on its own accord. I never make a film just for the sake of making one.”

Adoor’s tryst with theatre

“I was an ardent theatre person during my student days and used to enact plays in school. I read all the plays I could lay my hands on and began writing plays when I was in middle school. Our group of friends staged and directed plays in our school and at home too. I was crazy about theatre,” says Adoor with a smile.

Short takes

* Sudheer Karamana’s father, the late Karamana Janardanan Nair, has played some unforgettable roles in Adoor’s films such as Elippathayam, Mukhamukham and Mathilukal

* This is Padmapriya’s second film with Adoor

* Alex Vallikunnam, a theatre enthusiast in the city, acts as a postman in Sukhantyam. He had played the same role in Adoor’s previous feature film, Pinneyum.

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