Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Born Moutathu Gopalakrishnan Unnithan
(1941-07-03) 3 July 1941
Pallickal, Adoor, Travancore, British India
Other names Adoor
Alma mater Film and Television Institute of India
Occupation Film director, screenwriter, producer
Years active 1965 – present
Children Aswathi Dorje
Parent(s) Madhavan Unnithan, Gauri Kunjamma
Awards Padma Vibhushan (2006)
Padma Shri (1984)

Adoor Gopalakrishnan is a South Indian film director, script writer, and producer. Adoor Gopalakrishnan had a major role in revolutionizing Malayalam cinema during the 1970s and is regarded as one of the notable film makers of India. Adoor's first film Swayamvaram (1972, script by K.P Kumaran the director of one of the best Indian film " Athidhi ".) pioneered the new wave cinema movement in Kerala along with " Olavum Theeravum " (1970) and " Athidhi "(1974). Most of his films go to festivals around the world, and are released in Kerala. All the eleven films he directed, from Swayamvaram to Oru Pennum Randaanum (2008), were screened at several international film festivals and won him several national and international awards. He won National Film Awards 16 times, Kerala State Film Awards 17 times and also won several international film awards. He won the prestigious British Film Institute award for Elippathayam (1981). Adoor received the Padma Shri in 1984 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2006. The Nation honoured Adoor for his valuable contributions to Indian cinema by awarding him the highest cinema award of India, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2004.[1]


Gopalakrishnan was born on 3 July 1941 in the village of Pallickal ( 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,[2] 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.

Malayalm cinema director Adoor Ghopalakrishnan while attending Sharjah Book Fair 2013 programme

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.[3][4]

Documentaries and 'New Cinema' movement

Adoor standing next to his portrait

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." [5]

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.


Year Title Duration Category Cast Awards
1965 A Great Day 20 mins Short fiction
1966 A Day at Kovalam 30 mins Documentary
1967 The Myth 50 Seconds Short fiction Merit Certificate, Expo-67, Montreal
1968 Danger at Your Door-step 20 mins Documentary
1968 And Man created 8 mins Documentary
1968 Manntharikal (Grains of Sand) 20 mins Documentary
1969 Towards National STD 20 mins Documentary
1969 A Mission of Love 30 mins Documentary
1966 Your Food 60 mins Documentary
1970 Pratisandhi (The Impasse) 55 mins Docu-drama
1971 Romance of Rubber 30 mins Documentary
1972 Swayamvaram (One’s Own Choice) 125 mins Feature film Madhu, Sharada, Bharath Gopi, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, K. P. A. C. Lalitha National Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Cinematographer. Entered into the 8th Moscow International Film Festival.[14]
1973 Kilimanooril Oru Dasalakshadhipati (A Millionaire is Born) 20 mins Documentary
1974 Guru Chengannur 17 mins Documentary
1975 Past in Perspective 20 mins Documentary
1976 Idukki 60 mins Documentary
1977 Kodiyettam (Ascent) 128 mins Feature film Bharath Gopi, K. P. A. C. Lalitha, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, Adoor Bhavani, Aziz National Awards for Best Feature Film in Malayalam and Best Actor
1978 Four Shorts on Family Planning 16 mins Documentary
1979 Yakshagana 20 mins Documentary
1980 Chola Heritage 20 mins Documentary
1981 Elippathayam (Rat-Trap) 121 mins Feature film Karamana Janardanan Nair, Sharada, Jalaja, Rajam K. Nair, Soman Sutherland Trophy at 1982 London Film Festival
National Awards for Best Feature Film in Malayalam and Best Audiography
1982 Krishnanattam 20 mins Documentary
1984 Mukhamukham (Face to Face) 107 mins Feature film Ganga, Balan K. Nair, Karamana Janardanan Nair, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Ashokan, K. P. A. C. Lalitha FIPRESCI Prize, New Delhi, National Awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Audiography
1985 Eau/Ganga (Ganges-Water) 140 mins Documentary Grand Prize, Cinema du reel, Paris
1987 Anantaram (Monologue) 125 mins Feature film Mammootty, Ashokan, Shobana, Balan K. Nair, Bahadoor FIPRESCI Prize, Karlovy Vary. National awards for best director, best screenplay, and best audiography
1990 Mathilukal (The Walls) 117 mins Feature film Mammootty, Murali, Thilakan, K. P. A. C. Lalitha (Voice), Karamana Janardanan Nair FIPRESCI prize, Venice, UNICEF Film Prize, Venice, OCIC Prize, Amiens. National Award for best director, best actor, best regional film and best audiography
1993 Vidheyan (The Servile) 112 mins Feature film Mammootty, Tanvi Azmi, M.R. Gopakumar, Sabitha Anand Feature FIPRESCI and Special Jury Prize, Singapore. Interfilm Jury Prize, Mannheim. Netpac prize, Rotterdam. National Award for best actor and best regional film
1995 Kathapurushan (The Man of the Story) 107 mins Feature film Viswanathan, Mini Nair, Narendra Prasad, Aranmula Ponnamma, Urmila Unni FIPRESCI Prize, National award for the best film
1995 Kalamandalam Gopi 43 mins Documentary
2001 Koodiyattam 180 mins Documentary
2002 Nizhalkuthu (Shadow Kill) 90 mins Feature film Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Sukumari, Murali, Nedumudi Venu, Jagathy Sreekumar, Narain FIPRESCI, Mumbai. National award for best regional film
2005 Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair 73 mins Documentary
2007 Dance of the Enchantress 72 mins Documentary
2007 Naalu Pennungal (Four Women) 105 mins Feature film Nandita Das, Kavya Madhavan, Geetu Mohandas, Padmapriya, Manju Pillai, Murali, Mukesh, Manoj K. Jayan National Award for best director
2008 Oru Pennum Randaanum (A Climate for Crime) 115 mins Feature film Nedumudi Venu, Manoj K. Jayan, Jagadish, Vijayaraghavan, Indrans, Ravi Vallathol, Praveena Kerala State award for best director 2009
2016 Pinneyum Feature film Dileep, Kavya Madhavan, Vijayaraghavan, Indrans, Ravi Vallathol,Srinda Ashab


  1. 1 2 "Adoor selected for Phalke award". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 6 September 2005. Retrieved 3 July 2011.
  2. "Page on Adoor Gopalakrishnan at Kerala tourism". Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  3. A correspondent Date: 2010-06-02 Place: Mumbai (2 June 2010). "Husband-wife set to take charge as Mumbai's DCPs". Retrieved 2012-06-11.
  4. "Crimebusters". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. 23 January 2005.
  5. "'Naalu Pennungal' not complex like my other films: Adoor". Yahoo India Movies. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  6. "Adoor honoured with Padma award". 21 March 2006. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  7. "'Naalu Pennungal' not complex like my other films: Adoor". Retrieved 3 July 2011.
  8. "Official Website of Adoor Gopalakrishnan". Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  9. "Adoor receives French honour". The Times of India. 22 October 2003. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  10. "Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Retrospective in Kolkata". Sify. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  11. "Adoor retrospective at Slovenian festival". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 15 November 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  12. "Adoor retrospective". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 5 September 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  13. "Interview: Adoor". Cinema of Malayalam. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  14. "8th Moscow International Film Festival (1973)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-03.

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