People think Hindi cinema is national cinema. It's not: Adoor Gopalakrishnan

The internationally acclaimed filmmaker returns with Pinneyum (Once Again) after a gap of eight years but still has a problem with the terminology 'regional cinema'.

Shriram Iyengar

It has been eight years since his last film, and 50 years since his first, but Adoor Gopalakrishnan has lost none of the fire which drove him to become one of the fiercest protectors of new-age Malayalam cinema in the 1970s.

Now ready with his next Pinneyum (Once Again), the director spoke against the branding of cinema as 'regional' and 'national' at the Press Club in Mumbai today.

"We have this wrong habit of calling films made in different languages as regional cinema," the director remonstrated. "This is a very wrong term. We have no national cinema as such. People think Hindi cinema is national cinema. No, it's not. It is made in one language amongst the 30 official languages in the country.

"In the absence of a single national cinema, every film made in this country is a national film... an Indian film. We have films made in Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil, Bengali, Oriya, they are all part of national cinema. So it is very important for audiences outside the respective region to see these films." 

As an aside, Adoor admitted that only Satyajit Ray had managed to transcend this barrier. "Ray is the only person to have transcended the barriers between regional and national cinema," he said. "Nobody calls him a Bengali filmmaker. They call him an Indian filmmaker. That's the right way to call the filmmakers of this country."

Speaking about his latest film, Adoor said it is the first time his film is getting released outside Kerala. It will be released in all metros and major cinemas. “This movie is about human relationships, crime, family, love, the human craving for material wealth while basic human values are being sacrificed,” he said. Pinneyum stars Malayalam stars Dileep and Kavya Madhavan in the lead roles, while Marathi actor Subodh Bhave is part of the supporting cast.

In a celebrated career spanning five decades, Adoor has made 12 films which have won 16 National awards among them. Speaking of his choice of Bhave in the cast, the director said, "I noticed his face in a magazine article and decided to cast him. I needed an actor who looked like Dileep but also stood apart from him. In addition, he is a remarkable actor and a sensitive human being."

Speaking of the growth of 'regional' cinema, Adoor said, "I have been familiar with Marathi cinema since the days of Rama Shastri (1944). I used to study in Pune, and several of my teachers were veterans of Marathi theatre. I used to watch films screened in Pune at that time. One of the main attractions for me was Prabhat Studios, because V Shantaram had worked there. Before coming to Pune to study, I had watched only one Hindi film – Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957). Many of the current Marathi films I have seen are great little films. I share a common value with many of the filmmakers, some of whom I know. A film like Court (2013), I loved." 

On his 50 years in cinema, the director said, "It is the advantage of making films after a long time. Most of the 50 years, I was not making films. If you take an average, it works out to some four years per film. I am neither an insider nor an outsider. I am on the periphery of cinema. When there are common issues, I am an insider. When there are specific issues to be taken up, I am an outsider. Even the industry doesn't consider me a part of them. They have given me honorary membership."

In the past, Gopalakrishnan has been quite vocal about his distaste for the 'Bollywood' brand of cinema. Asked if he still finds such cinema boring, he said, "At one festival where my films were being screened, somebody walked up to me and said 'Oh, so they make this kind of films in India too?' Their idea of Indian cinema was the so-called 'Bollywood'. It is sad that so many good films don’t get the recognition and adulation they deserve as they get overwhelmed by Bollywood films, and that is why I was angry with the term."

He added, "There is no reason why it [the anger] should cool off now."

Another contentious point for the director is the idea of 'censorship'. "In a democracy censorship has no place," he said. "Censorship works only in dictatorships, not in a democracy. I am opposed to any kind of censorship. I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do and what not to do."

Asked if the process of making cinema had grown simpler over the years, Adoor said, "I do not experiment with my films, so not much has changed for me. But yes, the technology has changed. It has become digital. It has made it much more accessible. Much more than the old optical film. So that is the only big difference."

Asked whether this accessibility had changed audience sensibility, and made people open up to his style of cinema, Adoor said, "No, I don't think so. I don't think the audience has changed at all."

Pinneyum is set to release nationally on 18 August.