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KG George retrospective: Tracking influence of Malayalam auteur's cinema on contemporary filmmakers

The retrospective at the Habitat Film Festival 2018 will begin with the screening of the documentary 8½ Intercuts: Life And Films Of KG George by Lijin Jose and Shahina K Rafiq, which looks at the legacy of George’s films.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

The “psychologist of Malayalam cinema”, veteran filmmaker KG George is known for revolutionizing Malayalam cinema in the 1970s with his exploration of bold new themes and the psychological analysis of characters and their motivations. A retrospective of the auteur’s works at the Habitat Film Festival 2018 bring some of his most acclaimed films to the audience in New Delhi. The retrospective will begin with the screening of the documentary 8½ Intercuts: Life And Films Of KG George by Lijin Jose and Shahina K Rafiq, which looks at the legacy of George’s films.

Born in British Travancore, George graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, and went on to assist the legendary filmmaker Ramu Kariat, who made the iconic film Chemmeen Laharen (1965). George wrote the screenplay for Kariat’s film Nellu (Paddy) in 1974 and made his directorial debut with Swapnadanam (Dream Voyage) in 1975. An unusual psychological drama focusing on a doctor torn between his marital duties and love for his girlfriend, the film became very successful and received the National Award for the Best Malayalam Film. The film also pioneered the use of a series of flashbacks that illuminated the mindscape of the protagonist undergoing clinical therapy.

In the following decade, his films explored a variety of unusual subjects, foremost amongst them being the tragic predicament of a circus clown who is a dwarf, the protagonist of Mela (1980). The film also featured Mammootty, a rising star at the time, who went on to play important roles in several of George’s films. 

George’s engagement with theatre found expression in his 1982 film Yavanika (The Curtain), which explores the backstage drama of a travelling theatre group. One of the earliest suspense thrillers in Malayalam cinema, the film is structured around the disappearance of an unpopular table artiste from the troupe. The film won the Kerala State Award for the Best Film and was very successful commercially as well. 

His two films in 1983 — Lekhayude Maranam: Oru Flash Back (Lekha’s Death: A Flashback) and Adaminte Variyellu (The Rib of Adam), engaged with the issues of women in society. The former was loosely based on the suicide of actor Shobha, who was married to cinematographer-director Balu Mahendra at the time. The film offers a critique of patriarchy and the power structures in the film industry. Adaminte Variyellu, seen as a feminist film, tells the stories of three women from different social classes, whose lives are meant to play out male desires for power and pleasure. But the women destroy the ideal of womanhood in different ways, breaking out of the system that shackles them. 

The thriller Irakal (1985) explores the psychology of violence, through a tale of a ruthless rubber baron, who raises his sons as criminals. But when one of them turns into a serial killer, the father is stung. While George’s films engage with women trapped in roles under patriarchy, he also explores men imprisoned in an image of masculinity. Thus, Baby in Irakal, despite being a villainous character evokes sympathy, as we are able to see what led to the making of the monster. 

George’s last film was the period film Elavamkodu Desam (The Kingdom of Elavamkodu) in 1998. He was honoured with the JC Daniel Award in 2016, the highest honour for outstanding contribution to cinema instituted by the government of Kerala and has been the recipient of nine Kerala State Film Awards for his various films.

The documentary 8 ½ Intercuts: Life and Films of KG George looks at the tremendous influence of KG George’s cinema for contemporary filmmakers and attempts to understand his influences. Drawing a comparison with the master of Italian neo-realism, Frederico Fellini, the documentary foregrounds George’s contribution to Malayalam cinema through his path-breaking films, unconventional characters and engagement with the socio-political milieu, while also revealing the frailties of the man.

The Retrospective includes the following films at the Habitat Film Festival 2018. 

8 1/2 Intercuts: Life and films of KG George 
(Malayalam/2017/120mins) | Director: Lijin Jose/Shahina K Rafiq
18 May | 7pm | Gulmohar

KG George Retrospective - Yavanika 
(Malayalam/1982/147mins) | Director: KG George
19 May | 11am | The Stein Auditorium

KG George Retrospective - Aadaminte Variyellu 
(Malayalam/1983/142mins) | Director: KG George
22 May | 9pm | The Stein Auditorium

KG George Retrospective - Lekhayude Maranam: Oru Flashback 
(Malayalam/1983/172mins) | Director: KG George
25 May | 8.15pm | The Stein Auditorium 

KG George Retrospective - Irakal 
(Malayalam/1985/142mins) | Director: KG George
26 May | 11am | The Stein Auditorium

Related topics

Habitat Film Festival