ANANTARAM  (MONOLOGUE)
12 April

ANANTARAM (MONOLOGUE)

Festivals: Venice, Pesaro, Karlovy Vary, La Rochelle, Nantes, Amiens, Riga, Munich, Bribourge, Ljubljana, Helsinki, London, Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Hawaii and Alexandria among others.

Awards: International Film Critics Prize(FIPRESCI) for the Best film, Karlovy Vary Film Festival.
National Awards: for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Audiography.
Kerala State Award for Best Director.

Synopsis

ANANTARAM tells the story-or  rather stories—of  Ajayan (also known as Ajayakumar) a  gentle and sensitive young man. And each story, told in the first person narrative, brings forth new events and relationships into focus as it unfolds.
Ajayan’s own account of himself, we come to learn that he was born with a stigma. As an unwanted child, he was aban­doned by his mother in the labour room of a hospital.
From The doctor of the hospital takes the infant with him when he retires from service and brings him up like his own son, lavishing love and affection on him.
Even as a schoolboy, Ajayan finds himself a misfit among others—mainly because of his talents. His sharp wit and excep­tional brilliance prove to be his undoing. Society, he discovers, is essentially averse to the out-of- the-ordinary; it is more at home with the average. In a way, the very essentials of day-to-day existence depend much on conformity and compliance.  To Ajayan, whether in the class room, playground or the’ world outside, the message keeps coming back.

The indefinability of his relation­ship with others—whether in the family or the society he moves in— the absence of a feeling of belon­ging, and a gnawing sense of loss, drive Ajayan to despondency and a state of neurosis.

As the first story draws to a close, Ajayan is ridden with guilt and remorse about his forbidden feelings for his foster-brother’s young bride. He wants to run away from it all—but cannot.
Ajayan’s distraught mind wanders between the realms of memory and imagination. Events and impressions of the past are recon­structed in justification of an impossible relationship. The real grows into the fantastic and the dividing line evaporates into thin dir.

The Nalini of Ajayan’s second story (a look-alike of Suma, his brother’s attractive wife) could be seen as a figment of his imagi­nation but, then again, it needn’t. The indivisibility of the real and the imaginary slowly intensifies, push­ing Ajayan to the brink of crisis.

Director’s Statement

Anantaram, at one level is a film about story telling or rather about the very process of artistic creation.
Ajayan the protagonist is on the verge of a nervous break-down. Through the stories that he narrates, he is trying to reveal and justify how he reached this stage. No rational explanation can in fact give a complete and final answer. He is drawing up on the experiences from his life basically from two stand-points – that of an introvert and an extrovert, the two positions we all keep shifting from time to time. The first story is about Ajayan the extrovert. A mediocre world around him keeps stifling him as he is too brilliant for it to contain. He withdraws and gets pushed to seclusion and mental strain. The second story is about Ajayan the introvert. Having been relegated to neglect and loneliness, he grows up in the midst of three old servants who are alternatively caring and scaring the little boy. His sensitivity and imagination take him to a world of active fantasy and an inability to grasp reality. Lies become real and the real turns lies for him.

Each story picks and chooses from those experiences from his life that go to prove its theme. The stories do not contradict themselves, instead they complement each other. The stories jell together because there is a certain built-in ambivalence in his life. He is an abandoned child in a hospital who is adopted by the doctor as his own. There is an imagined father-son relationship but he can call him only uncle. The doctor’s own son who is hard-working and an achiever is not his brother but is brother-like. His young and beautiful wife is like his sister-in-law, but more like or is his former love, Nalini. The duality of perceptions leads to difficult predicaments.

Filmmakers and Critics Say

‘Malayalam cinema which is now seen to have been growing from strength to strength is an unmistakable affirmation of the truth that good cinema, despite umpteen hazards of divisive kind will never die. Adoor’s latest, ANANTARAM is an elegant case in point. Highly original in concept and treatment even by world standard, incredibly self-indulgent in its most positive and creative sense, this delicately built film operating at diverse levels of perceptions will offer different meanings to different people and so, happily, will generate controversy. And as Niels Bohr, that great physicist once said, “a truth attains a quality only when it becomes controversial”

(Mrinal Sen)

‘A recent viewing only confirmed my initial judgement of ANANTARAM as an intense and powerful film, shaped by an artist of extraordinary talent and vision’

(Richard Greenbaum in FILMS IN REVIEW)

‘Adoor Gopalakrishnan observes that Anantaram is ‘an attempt to tell a story about story-telling’. The Malayalam word ‘anantaram’ means ‘and then/’there after’ which is the fundamental principle of narration by which episodes are combined as a syntax. Inclusive of a title with an allusion to the art of narration, Anantaram has been imaginatively crafted as a postmodernist metaphor for the correspondence between narrative art and the truth of life. Ananatarm tells the story of Ajayan (a tale of psychosis that discovers the roots of schizophrenia in bizarre childhood experiences) in a narrative style with a self-reflexive resonance of a story teller’s contemplation of the philosophy and aesthetics of narration. Taking the form of Ajayan’s narration of two different scripts of his life of which the second script claims to be closer to the truth, Anantaram explores the possibilities and limits of narrative art as it responds to the challenge of the complex many sidedness of truth/ reality’.

(A.V.Ashok in his book, ‘Hours of Enchantment’)

 

Credits

  • Production Company: General Pictures
  • Country: India
  • Format: 35mm Color
  • Duration 125 Minutes
  • Year of Production 1987

 

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