Shyamaprasad he has never ever disappointed us

Shyamaprasad is a well acclaimed director of
Malayalam cinema.His films have been shown in numerous International film
festival and his movies always win Kerala State Film Awards and National Film
Awards more frequently. In the last 15 years he has done only a few movies. Yet
his movies are always suggested by critics for best movie and best director
category in Malayalam cinema.
. His movies are story centric, emotionally rich and are closely related to the
realities of life.Dealing with the intricacies
of human relationship has always been the successful forte of storytelling for Shyamaprasad.
And while dealing these kind of themes, he
has never ever disappointed us from the beginning of his career as a film
maker, as he attempts a family only when a potential subject urge him to make
one visual beauty on that. He knows how to craft a beautiful movie while
resorting to the good story lines of established literary figures like K
Mohanan, Lalaithambika Antharjanam, Tenessee Williams, S.L.Puram, Ganga Prasad,Vimal
and Albert Camus .And that is why he emerged as a master story teller in a
short time, a rare breed of director who has no complaints on the lack of good
story material.

The release of his ‘Agnisaakshi’
in the year 1999 was a milestone in the career of Shyamaprasad. The movie was
adapted from the novel Agnisakshi of
the renowned Malayalam writer Lalithambika Antharjanam and attained fame in
both the state and national level. The movie was selected as the best film in
regional language in the 1998 National Film Award and also brought home many
awards, including the awards for the Best Film and Best Director. Agnisakshi is the story of a Nampoothiri
woman’s struggle to rise above the shackles of tradition and her journey
towards self-realization.  It is the
difficulty of the antharjanam to rise above the fetters of tradition that is
portrayed in the film.  Agnisakshi,
set against the turbulence of the freedom struggle, depicts the conflict between tradition and progressive reforms, the
caste system and the emancipation of women. Tradition makes the dwellers of Maanamball
iillam be tied to their beliefs and it is impossible for them to accept the
thoughts of the advancing society.

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       Devaki and Thankam come to occupy spaces
they had not originally desired, and somehow ranged in opposition to one
another. Devaki was brought up with all freedom and knowledge by her brother
whom she calls Oppa. For her, the marriage and life at Maanamballi Illam
was very difficult. To be bound by traditions was similar to being chained by
it. They excommunicate Devaki’s family members for the
reason that Oppa got arrested. They did not even allow Devaki to go and visit
her mother.  For Thankam also the
life at her illam was not the life she desired for. She has dreams of
studying and earning a job and looking after her family. Even
though Thankam is Apphan Namboothiri’s daughter, she is not allowed to touch
her father once the rituals have been done after his death.

       But both of them had to occupy spaces
they never wanted to. They are isolated from each other and more or less
absorbed in the pursuit of their narrow goals. Chance events disturb the normal
flow of lives. Thankam takes to life as the wife of a well-placed official and
as the mother of a son.  Thankam’s friends at her hostel sees Devaki’s
photo in the newspaper and says that only namboothiri women would go out
breaking the chains and fight for freedom. 
Because, it is the namboothiri women who suffer more than other
women. It is with vigour and verve that she speaks as the representative of
women. She is not the representative of any caste or society but of women who
are suffering for years. She wants to save them. She first becomes a social
worker and then becomes a disciple of Gandhi. Later she is also led into the
roads of spirituality. She realizes that her’s and her husband’s destination
were the same- that of spirituality. They took different paths to reach it.

                     Apart from Thankam and
Devaki, there are other women characters- Thankam’s mother, Unni’s mother and
Unni’s mother’s sister. They are all women bound by traditions and are victims
of it. They live inside the box built by the Namboothiri traditions and are
afraid to break it.  It is a story about
the age old struggle of old and new, the traditional and the modern, told from
the twilight hour when the change is imminent but is not yet there.

                     Akale  is based on Tennessee
Williams play “The Glass Menagerie” tells the story of an
Anglo-Indian family in Kerala. The film is an honest transposition of “The
Glass Menagerie”, with four characters playing out the story. In Akale there are two main
women characters-Margaret and Rose- in the film and one minor character-
Kamala.

                 Margaret and Rose are like two
poles. Margaret is introduced as a woman
who is not given in to delusions; but as one whose memories of the past, when
her beauty and vivacity was appreciated by all, create a tragic illusion in
her, which she gives vent by her pathetically comic display of energy to help
her children.  Margaret is very strong and self-reliant
women. She is an extremely controlling mother. The challenge that a single
mother faced at that time was much greater than today. However, she managed to
endure the difficulties of life, taking care of her extremely shy daughter and
determined son.
In the first scene Margaret’s self revelation unfolds. She insists her refined
ways on Neil, teaching him how to eat dinner. She escapes into her illusory
past. That was a defense against mental depression, a therapy that her
mind has fashioned. She is the most practical among all the three. She knows
what would sustain them. She wants her daughter not to be dependent on
anyone.  Rose’s handicap seems only a very slight defect to her. She takes
effort to brace the times they live in and sustain her family.Margaret, the extrovert gregarious
mother, who hides her anxiety of a woman deserted by her husband
had brought up her children with great difficulty by stitching and making small
handicraft items.

               Rose is a delicate, shy girl
with one leg shorter than the other and held in a brace. She is a contrast to
her mother, who is physically energetic with a will of her own.  She
understands her mother but is unable to live up to her dreams. She is perhaps
belittled by her mother’s stories of her gentleman callers. She does not escape
into dreams like her mother, but lives in a dream of her own, with her glass
dolls and just like them, she is fragile. Rose
retreats from reality. She has no social interaction. She quits the typewriting
classes and goes to the church where she spends her time alone. Neil says that
the world of speed is not theirs. Her fingers could not move according to the
speed of the world. Rose’s
physical disability not only restrains her physical mobility but also seriously
curtails her capacity for involvement in society and wipes out her confidence
in her worthiness for another’s love. She cannot get over it
and into the real world. Her inability to overcome this defect causes her to
withdraw into her world of illusion. The limp then becomes symbolic of Rose’s
inner nature. She lives like a
recluse, her only source of joy being the tiny, fragile, glass figures that she
has collected.

                The
film also focuses on the helplessness of women and their extreme dependence on
men.Both Margaret and Rose escape into a fantasy world when faced with
the cold facts of their existence. They dream of what might have been but never
really come to terms with their present situations. Margaret slips back into
her youth and finds comfort in reveling in her past and re-living the
popularity she enjoyed with young men who found her inordinately attractive.
Both the female characters are disenchanted with life.  One woman is
strong and would not break under any circumstance. The other is as glass,
pretty to look at, but easily broken.

                  The
film is based on Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhya’s classic HeerakDeepti.
Director Shyamaprasad has changed the milieu from Kolkata of the early
twentieth century to a modern metro.In Ore Kadal  Deepthi
is portrayed as a plain and simple woman who came from a villageto the city.
Her dressing and gait reveals her innocence and purity of mind. She is a woman
who falls into a pit from which she could not escape. She is a victim of her
own desires. She was very studious and active and hoped to study further. As a
girl she wished to see the sea. Her dream was never realized by her father. The
sea which she never saw became a symbol of all her unrealized dreams. Just like
any other lower middle class woman, she accepted the life that was offered to
her.

               Being a prey to a man’s lust,
she regrets her dreams. She dreamt of the outside world where she could receive
more love and happiness. But her desires turned out to be the cause of her
ruin. She was elated when Nathan showed interest in her. She is a woman who
wished to be noticed and praised by someone. And when she was noticed, she
committed the sin from which she could not escape. Deepthi is not the woman looking for stimulation through a series of
affairs. Rather, in a city with grey, colourless lives and where she can’t
communicate with any other adult except her frequently absent husband, she is
forced to look for companionship with a man whom she initially admires.
The woman in her, just like any other woman, longs to love and be loved by a
man. Unfortunately it is not her husband but a stranger who satisfies her. For
Deepthi love is primary and sex is secondary.  She offered herself to the man who, she
thought, loved her. She did not receive what she expected- love.. Her craving
for pure love and care made her surrender to Dr.Nathan. She would have
justified her act if he had love for her. Unfortunately she realized that it
was not love but lust for her body that Dr.Nathan had for her.  Being a woman with values, the thought that
she cheated her husband starts troubling her mind. This leads to her mental
imbalance. Deepthi is a woman with moral values. Her innocence and dreams led
her into committing the sin. After coming back to her normal life, she tries to
find comfort and relief in the company of Gods. She starts worshipping Gods
which is new to Jayan. It is with great difficulty that she manages to stay
inside her house when Nathan comes to see her. 
The moments when she received love were when she was with Nathan. She
cannot forget him and this makes her go back to him.

                 Deepthi and Bela are the two
contrasting characters .Bela is the practical, intelligent high class call
girl, a friend and soul mate of Dr Nathan. She tries to identify herself with
some of the stark realities of life. She is a socialite modeled after many
socialites we see in urban India Bela is a result of her bitter experiences.
She travelled a path full of stones. She fell many times. She got up as a new
brave woman who was ready to face life as it is. Yet, she is passionate and
sensitive to human suffering and pain. Bela runs a restaurant and bar. She’s a survivor of incestuous abuse and poverty and
now a successful business woman. Life taught her to be strong and she is strong
enough mentally to handle the drunkards who make nuisance at her bar.
She faces the hardships of life boldly. It is surprising that she was strong
enough to be a man’s companion and advisor. She had love affairs. But she never
regretted loving anybody. Bela is strong and bold as opposed to the weak and
innocent Deepthi.

                     In all the films it is seen that women are
struggling in one way or the other. In Agnisakshi, it is struggle of Devaki to
rise above the shackles of tradition and to fight for her country. In Akale, it
is the struggle of a woman to look after her children and also the handicapped
woman’s struggle to find love. Ore Kadal shows Deepthi’s struggle to realize
her dreams and also Bela’s resistance against the life that doomed her.The life
of most of the characters in Shyamaprasad’s films is doomed right from the
beginning. Devaki, Rose, Deepthi.

  Men
occupy less important roles as compared to women. Unni, Neil, Jayan, Dr.Nathan
and Shanthanu are victims of what happens around them. All the male characters
have a world of their own. Unni lives in the world of spirituality, Neil in the
world of dreams, writing and cinema, Dr.Nathan in the world of economics.

.
   All the films of Shyamaprasad transcend the
period, time and location and give the story a universal appeal. The films seem
to be real life happenings where the audience can relate to the happenings and
characters in the film. Simplicity in theme, costumes, settings and characters
help in conferring the films with rationality.