Toronto, London, Warsaw, Nantes, Goa, Dubai, Rotterdam, Gotteborg, Manosque, Miami, Barcelona, Seattle, Deauville, , Brussels, Jerusalem, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Hamburg, Vienna, IFFK (Trivandrum), Chennai, Bangaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Abu Dhabi, New York, Washington, Ljubljana(Slovenia), Madrid etc.
Awards: National Award for Best Director
The film is composed of four stories about four women each of whom belongs to a different strata of society.
The first, The Prostitute, is about a young prostitute who gives up her profession to start a new life with a kind and caring worker who has the low menial job of carrying loads on his head. In her fierce determination to eke out a decent living, she takes on a job herself that demands hard physical labour. The couple see themselves as husband and wife and nurse dreams of building up a future together free from the hazards of living on the streets. However, they find themselves helpless before the law of the land to prove that they are husband and wife.
The Second Story, The Virgin is centred round a farm worker woman who, at an early age is forced to take up on her self the responsibility of running the house as her father is bed-ridden. In time, the fact that she was getting past the age of marriage became a constant worry for the parents as they could not find a suitable match for her. Then a friendly neighbour brings a proposal which appears to be suitable. The wedding is conducted with the usual fanfare and she is taken to the bridegroom’s house. There the man behaves strangely as he keeps evading any conversation or physical contact with her. After a couple of days, the man makes the customary visit to the in-laws and leaves her behind. As days pass stories spread that she has been abandoned by him because of her infidelity. The scandals grow and a worried father picks up a quarrel with the neighbour who had brought the proposal. The girl who had been silent all the while intervenes and announces that there was no relationship between her and the man.
The third story, The Housewife, is about a childless housewife. Having come to terms with the situation, she lives a fairly contented life with her husband who works in town. As the husband leaves home for his work-place early in the morning and returns late in the night, she is alone most of the time. One morning, she is visited by a senior classmate of hers on one of his infrequent visits to his mother living in the neighbourhood. They reminiscence over past days. The worldly-wise man finds in her an innocent woman who is distraught over her childlessness. He thinks she is vulnerable .
The last one, The Spinster, is about an upper middleclass girl who is obliged to bear the brunt of all the moral norms of her society. Her widowed mother runs the house with four children to look after – a boy and three girls. A marriage proposal for her which is almost finalized fizzles out when the groom suddenly prefers her younger sister. The mother agrees to it as it is seen as a good alliance for the family. Years pass on and no proposal works out for the daughter. Even her elder brother, having waited long, decides to get married. In due course, a suitable match is also found for the youngest sister. Then her mother passes away, forcing the daughter to move in with her younger married sister. Even this does not work as her sister cannot put up with another woman she sees as her rival in the house. That takes her back home. She is alone, refusing to live with either her brother or the youngest sister. She has now resolved to face the world by herself.
Doordarshan, India’s national television net work approached me some time back, to make a programme based on the works of the famed Kerala author Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai. This prolific writer who is a favourite author of mine has written more than forty novels and as many as four hundred short stories. It took a while for me to read up all his writings together. The exercise was both frustrating and exciting alternately. In the past –spanning my childhood and youth – I had relished each of them at leisure. Now, some of my favourite stories of yester years suddenly looked pale and wanting while a few others I had read and forgotten about emerged with remarkable vitality and relevance. The reason was simple, this time I was looking for seed material to make a film. These varying responses were in no way a reflection on the author’s genius but it was simply due to the shift in my angle of vision.
Interestingly, the works I short-listed for filming – nine in all – were short stories.
The selection of short stories was significant as it would in due course allow me the freedom to introduce characters, situations and infuse sub-texts and layers into the narrative. It was not per chance that the four stories finally chosen were on women. In the matrilineal society of Kerala, women enjoyed the pride of place in the family as well as the society. In some ways they were independent but in other ways convention- bound.
The film deals with the romantic episode of a street woman in a small town, examines the plight of a newly married farm- worker girl, a childless house-wife and a spinster belonging to the middle class. These four stories, independent yet together present a cross section of the social life lived in the erstwhile Travancore State (the southern part of present- day Kerala) a little before and after the independence of the country.
Filmmakers and Critics Say
‘As deeply rooted as they are in the soil and soul of his native Kerala, Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s films speak universal truths. None does this more than Four Women. The film distills to a rare purity four tales of village women in south India. Their titles are elemental:”The Prostitute, The Virgin, ‘The Housewife and ‘The Spinster”. In each, woman submits to a role society decides for her. Each role offers a paradox of freedom and bondage in nearly equal measure’. – Cameron Bailey, Toronto Film Festival
‘Even if they are set 60 years ago and half a world away, the stories in this film still echo with truths about women’s lives today. Short and to the point, Four Women is a mirror which should make us all uncomfortable with its reflection.’
– By Sarah Manvel, Cinemattraction
Cast & Characters
(in the order of importance)
- Padmapriya (as Kunju Pennu the prostitute)
- Sona Nair (as Thresya her senior)
- Sreejith (as Pappukutty her lover)
- Manoj K.Jayan (as her old customer)
- M.K.Gopalakrishnan (as Policeman)
- Raju(as Policeman)
- Sreekumar (as Magistrate)
- Aliyar (as bench-clerk)
- Geetu Mohandas (The girl)
- M.R.Gopakumar (The sickly father)
- Rosilin (Mother)
- Nandulal (The Bridegroom)
- Ampootty (The neighbour)
- Manju Pillai (The housewife)
- Mukesh (The visitor)
- Murali (The husband
4. The Spinster
- Nandita Das (The spinster)
- Kavya Madhavan (Younger sister)
- Lalita (The mother)
- Ashokan (Elder brother)
- Ramya Nambisan (The youngest sister)
- Ravi Vallathol (Younger sister’s husband)
- Language : Malayalam
- Duration: 105 Minutes
- Gauge 35 MM
- Aspect ratio 1: 1.85
- Year of Production: 2007 (August)
- Production Company:Adoor Gopalakrishnan Productions
- Co-produced by:Benzy Martin
- Distribution (India)Emil & Eric Digital Films Pvt.Ltd.
- Produced with the support Doordarshan India
- Based on Stories byThakazhi Sivasankara Pillai
- Script, Dialogue and Direction:Adoor Gopalakrishnan
- Cinematography:M.J. Radhakrishnan
- Sound Recording:N. Harikumar
- Music:Isaac Thomas
- Costumes:Satheesh SB
- Make-up:P. N. Mani
- Liaison Dr. P. Venugopalan
- Still Photography:Chandran
- Production Controller:Kettidathil Vijayan
- Production CoordinationSreekumar
- Outdoor Unit:Chitranjali Studio
- Camera UnitPrasad Productions
- Laboratory:Prasad Color Lab
- Chief Assistant:Meera Sahib