Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Adoor Gopalakrishnan is an Indian film director, script writer, and producer. and is regarded as one of the most notable filmmakers in India. With the release of his first feature film Swayamvaram (1972), Adoor pioneered the new wave in Malayalam cinema during the 1970s.[2] In a career spanning over five decades, Adoor has made only 12 feature films to date. His films are made in the Malayalam language and often depict the society and culture of his native state Kerala. Nearly all of his films premiered at Venice, Cannes and Toronto International Film Festival. Along with Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, Adoor is one of the most recognized Indian film directors in world cinema.[3][4]

Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Adoor Gopalakrishnan receiving Padma Vibhushan from Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam
Moutathu Gopalakrishnan Unnithan

(1941-07-03) 3 July 1941
Other namesAdoor
Alma materFilm and Television Institute of India[1]
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, producer
Years active1965 – present
Spouse(s)Sunanda (–2015; her death)
AwardsPadma Vibhushan (2006)
Padma Shri (1984)

For his films, Adoor has won the National Film Award 16 times, next only to Ray and Sen. He also won the Kerala State Film Awards a record 17 times. He was awarded the State honours Padma Shri in 1984 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2006. He received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2004 for his valuable contributions to Indian cinema.[5] The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have established an archive and research center, the Adoor Gopalakrishnan Film Archive and Research Center, at their Peck School of Arts where research students will have access to 35 mm prints of the eleven feature films and several documentaries made by Adoor.[6]


Gopalakrishnan was born on 3 July 1941 in the village of Mannadi ( Medayil Bungalow ) near Adoor, present day Kerala, India as the son of Madhavan Unnithan and Mouttathu Gauri Kunjamma. He started his artistic life as an actor in amateur plays when he was 8. Later he shifted his base to writing and direction and wrote and directed a few plays. After securing a degree in Economics, Political Science and Public Administration in 1961 from the Gandhigram Rural Institute,[7] he worked as a Government officer near Dindigul in Tamil Nadu . In 1962, he left his job to study screenwriting and direction from the Pune Film Institute. He completed his course from there with a scholarship from the Government of India. With his classmates and friends, Adoor established Chithralekha Film Society and Chalachithra Sahakarana Sangham; the organization was the first film society in Kerala and it aimed at production, distribution and exhibition of films in the co-operative sector.

Adoor has scripted and directed eleven feature films and about thirty short films and documentaries. Notable amongst the non-feature films are those on Kerala's performing arts.

Adoor's debut film, the national award-winning Swayamvaram (1972) was a milestone in Malayalam film history. The film was exhibited widely in various international film festivals including those held in Moscow, Melbourne, London and Paris. The films that followed namely Kodiyettam, Elippathayam, Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Mathilukal, Vidheyan and Kathapurushan lived up to the reputation of his first film and were well received by critics at various film festivals and fetched him many awards. However, Mukhamukham was criticized in Kerala while Vidheyan was at the centre of a debate due to the differences in opinion between the writer of story of the film Sakhariya and Adoor.

Adoor's later films are Nizhalkuthu, narrating the experiences of an executioner who comes to know that one of his subjects was innocent, and Naalu Penungal, a film adaptation of four short stories by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai.

All his films have won national and international awards (National award for best film twice, best director five times, and best script two times. His films have also won his actors and technicians several national awards). Adoor's third feature, Elippathayam won him the coveted British Film Institute Award for 'the most original and imaginative film' of 1982. The International Film Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) has gone to him six times successively for Mukhamukham, Anantharam, Mathilukal, Vidheyan, Kathapurushan and Nizhalkkuthu. Winner of several international awards like the UNICEF film prize (Venice), OCIC film prize (Amiens), INTERFILM Prize (Mannheim) etc., his films have been shown in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, London, Rotterdam and every important festival around the world.

In consideration of his contribution to Indian cinema, the nation honoured him with the title of Padma Shri(India's fourth highest civilian award) in 1984 and Padma Vibhushan(India's second highest civilian award) in 2006.

Adoor is settled in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in Kerala. His daughter Aswathi Dorje is an IPS officer (part of the Assam cadre, 2000 batch), currently acting as Deputy Commissioners of Police in Mumbai since June 2010.[8][9]

Documentaries and 'New Cinema' movement

Apart from nine feature films, he has over 30 short films and documentaries to his credit. The Helsinki Film Festival was the first film festival to have a retrospective of his films. He has headed the jury at the National Film Awards and many international film festivals.

Apart from his films, Adoor's major contribution towards introducing a new cinema culture in Kerala was the constitution of the first Film Society in Kerala, "Chitralekha Film Society". He also took active part in the constitution of "Chitralekha," Kerala's first Film Co-operative Society for film production. These movements triggered a fresh wave of films, called "art films," by directors like G Aravindan, PA Becker, KG George, Pavithran, and Raveendran. At a time this movement was so strong that even popular cinema synthesised with art cinema to create a new genre of films. Bharat Gopi starred as hero 4 times in his ventures.

Style and trademarks

Adoor has been known as a director who completely dictates every fine detail of his films. On the performance of actors in his movies, he stated that - "It is not the artist's job to do the detailing. I do not want different interpretations of roles that may clash with each other. It has to be absolutely unified." He normally does not encourage his crew to read the script or even the stories. The actors are told at the time of shooting about the role and the scenes before conducting several rehearsals. According to Adoor "[i]n movies, the actor is not performing to the audience like the stage actor. Here they are acting for me. I am the audience and I will decide whether it is correct or not, enough or not."[10]

Awards and milestones

Some of the awards Gopalakrishnan has won for his films include:

National Film Awards (Detailed):

Kerala State Film Awards (Detailed):

Best Film

Best Director

Best Story

Best Screen Play

Best Documentary Film

Best Short Film

Best Book on Cinema

A retrospective of his films was conducted in

Posts held

Adoor also worked in several respected posts in the film fraternity. He was a member of Sivaramakarath committee formed by the Government of India for framing a national film policy. He was a national film award committee member in 1974. He was a member of jury in Venice, Singapore, Hawaii and Delhi international film festivals. He was the chairman of International Film Festival of Kerala in 1999. He headed the National Film Development Corporation in the years 1980–1983. He was the director of Pune Film and Television Institute. In the years 1975–1977, he was a member of the advisory board for National Film Archives, Pune.


1965A Great Day20 minsShort fiction
1966A Day at Kovalam30 minsDocumentary
1967The Myth50 SecondsShort fictionMerit Certificate, Expo 67, Montreal
1968Danger at Your Door-step20 minsDocumentary
1968And Man created8 minsDocumentary
1968Manntharikal (Grains of Sand)20 minsDocumentary
1969Towards National STD20 minsDocumentary
1969A Mission of Love30 minsDocumentary
1966Your Food60 minsDocumentary
1970Pratisandhi (The Impasse)55 minsDocu-drama
1971Romance of Rubber30 minsDocumentary
1972Swayamvaram (One's Own Choice)125 minsFeature filmMadhu, Sharada, Bharath Gopi, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, K. P. A. C. LalithaNational Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Cinematographer. Entered into the 8th Moscow International Film Festival.[22]
1973Kilimanooril Oru Dasalakshadhipati (A Millionaire is Born)20 minsDocumentary
1974Guru Chengannur17 minsDocumentary
1975Past in Perspective20 minsDocumentary
1976Idukki60 minsDocumentary
1977Kodiyettam (Ascent)128 minsFeature filmBharath Gopi, K. P. A. C. Lalitha, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, Adoor Bhavani, AzizNational Awards for Best Feature Film in Malayalam and Best Actor
1978Four Shorts on Family Planning16 minsDocumentary
1979Yakshagana20 minsDocumentary
1980Chola Heritage20 minsDocumentary
1981Elippathayam (The Rat Trap)121 minsFeature filmKaramana Janardanan Nair, Sharada, Jalaja, Rajam K. Nair, SomanSutherland Trophy at 1982 London Film Festival
National Awards for Best Feature Film in Malayalam and Best Audiography
1982Krishnanattam20 minsDocumentary
1984Mukhamukham (Face to Face)107 minsFeature filmGanga, Balan K. Nair, Karamana Janardanan Nair, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Ashokan, K. P. A. C. LalithaFIPRESCI Prize, New Delhi, National Awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Audiography
1985Eau/Ganga (Ganges-Water)140 minsDocumentaryGrand Prize, Cinema du reel, Paris
1987Anantaram (Monologue)125 minsFeature filmMammootty, Ashokan, Shobana, Balan K. Nair, BahadoorFIPRESCI Prize, Karlovy Vary. National awards for best director, best screenplay, and best audiography
1990Mathilukal (The Walls)117 minsFeature film"Mammootty", Murali, Thilakan, K. P. A. C. Lalitha (Voice), Karamana Janardanan NairFIPRESCI prize, Venice, UNICEF Film Prize, Venice, OCIC Prize, Amiens. National Award for best director, best actor, best regional film and best audiography
1993Vidheyan (The Servile)112 minsFeature filmMammootty, Tanvi Azmi, M.R. Gopakumar, Sabitha AnandFeature FIPRESCI and Special Jury Prize, Singapore. Interfilm Jury Prize, Mannheim. Netpac prize, Rotterdam. National Award for best actor and best regional film
1995Kathapurushan (The Man of the Story)107 minsFeature filmViswanathan, Mini Nair, Narendra Prasad, Aranmula Ponnamma, Urmila UnniFIPRESCI Prize, National award for the best film
1995Kalamandalam Gopi43 minsDocumentary
2001Koodiyattam180 minsDocumentary
2002Nizhalkuthu (Shadow Kill)90 minsFeature filmOduvil Unnikrishnan, Sukumari, Murali, Nedumudi Venu, Jagathy Sreekumar, NarainFIPRESCI, Mumbai. National award for best regional film
2005Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair73 minsDocumentary
2007Dance of the Enchantress72 minsDocumentary
2007Naalu Pennungal (Four Women)105 minsFeature filmNandita Das, Kavya Madhavan, Geetu Mohandas, Padmapriya, Manju Pillai, Murali, Mukesh, Manoj K. JayanNational Award for best director
2008Oru Pennum Randaanum (A Climate for Crime)115 minsFeature filmNedumudi Venu, Manoj K. Jayan, Jagadish, Vijayaraghavan, Indrans, Ravi Vallathol, PraveenaKerala State award for best director 2009
2016PinneyumFeature filmDileep, Kavya Madhavan, Vijayaraghavan, Indrans, Ravi Vallathol, Srinda Ashab


  1. "Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) keen to go global, train foreign actors & technicians - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. "Golden rigmaroles: Adoor Gopalakrishnan on the Malayalam screen". 31 July 2016. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  5. "Adoor selected for Phalke award". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 6 September 2005. Archived from the original on 5 May 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2011.
  6. Attipetty, Peter (6 May 2013). "Milwaukee chose me: Adoor Gopalakrishnan". The American Bazaar. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  7. "Page on Adoor Gopalakrishnan at Kerala tourism". Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  8. A correspondent Date: 2010-06-02 Place: Mumbai (2 June 2010). "Husband-wife set to take charge as Mumbai's DCPs". Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  9. "Crimebusters". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. 23 January 2005.
  10. "'Naalu Pennungal' not complex like my other films: Adoor". Yahoo India Movies. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  11. "Adoor honoured with Padma award". 21 March 2006. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  12. "Mahatma Gandhi University". Government of Kerala. 5 October 2014. Archived from the original on 5 October 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  13. "'Naalu Pennungal' not complex like my other films: Adoor". Retrieved 3 July 2011.
  14. "Celebrating Cinema: 5 Reasons You Should Know About this Pioneer of New Wave – The Penguin Digest". Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  15. "Official Website of Adoor Gopalakrishnan". Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  16. "Dadasaheb Phalke awardee Adoor Gopalakrishnan completes 50 years in cinema". India Today. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  17. "Adoor receives French honour". The Times of India. 22 October 2003. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  18. "Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Retrospective in Kolkata". Sify. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  19. "Adoor retrospective at Slovenian festival". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 15 November 2008. Archived from the original on 1 July 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  20. "Adoor retrospective". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 5 September 2009. Archived from the original on 1 July 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  21. "Interview: Adoor". Cinema of Malayalam. Archived from the original on 19 August 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  22. "8th Moscow International Film Festival (1973)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-03.

Further reading

  • Gautaman Bhaskaran (2010). Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life in Cinema. New Delhi: Penguin Books India.
  • Lalit Mohan Joshi, C. S. Venkiteswaran (2006). A Door to Adoor. London: South Asian Cinema Foundation.
  • M. F. Thomas, ed. (1986). Adoorinte Lokam (in Malayalam). Calicut, India: Mulberry.
  • M. F. Thomas, ed. (2005). Adoorinte Chalachithrayathrakal (in Malayalam). Trivandrum, India: Sign Books.
  • Akbar Kakkattil (2006). Varoo, Adoorilekku Pokam (Interview with Adoor Gopalakrishnan) (in Malayalam). Kottayam, India: DC Books.
  • B. Sreeraj. Adoorinte Sarga Yathra (in Malayalam). India.
  • R. Pavithran. Kazhchayile Kana Thalangal (in Malayalam). India.
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