Week, Feb 4th 1996, by Vinu Abraham
His creative works are marked by a searing intensity that
can be seen only in a Tarkovsky classic. Accolades for
his genius came from all quarters but the one which really
mattered. And hence, Shyamaprasad, production assistant
at Doordarshan Kendra, Thiruvananthapuram, maker of telefilms
and winner of government and private awards, resigned
his job recently and has set sail on his own.
The son of O Rajagopal, national vice-president of the
BJP, Shyamaprasad's qualifications as a TV producer need
no scrutiny. A graduate in theatre direction from Calicut
University's School of Drama, he had a six-month stint
at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII),
Pune. He joined DD as production assistant in Bombay and
later came back to his home state with a transfer to Thiruvananthapuram.
"The first three years at Thiruvananthapuram
DD was a period of fun and enthusiasm," says he.
"I knew that I had an atmosphere which was conducive
for making telefilms, the kind of work I liked."
His first telefilm Venalinte Ozhivu, based on a short
story by Kamala Das, heralded the arrival of a major talent
on the Indian small screen. Soon after, Shyamaprasad went
on a scholarship to the Hull University in teh UK to study
media and theatre production. Here he got the chance to
work for Yorkshire TV, Channel Four and some centres of
His return home marked the beginning of his woes with
the authorities. The two-and-a-half years spent abroad
were cut short from his service period. But he persevered
and went on to make telefilms such as Peruvazhiyile Kariyilakal,
Vivaahalochana, Viswavikhyatamaya Mookku, and his masterpiece
Uyirthezhunnelpu had been produced by DD in 1993 after
its script languished for six years following one rejection
after another. When it won the State awards, the Thiruvananthapuram
Kendra took the stand that as a central government institution;
DD could not accept any award instituted by a government.
Shyamaprasad defied the orders of the Kendra director
forbidding him to accept the award and promptly received
a disciplinary memo. Shortly afterwards, his telefilm
Nilavariyunnu swept the Onida Pinnacle awards, an acknowledgement
of his mastery of the medium at the national level. But
in his office he remained just a production assistant.
"Things had come to such a stage that there was no
meaning in continuing with the job," Shyamaprasad
says. "My official duty had been reduced to producing
the weekly curtain raiser and not even that in recent
times." It was not long before he resigned.
Despite the treatment meted out to him by it, Shyamaprasad
candidly admits that without DD he would not have been
able to produce his dreams in celluloid such as Uyirthezhunnelpu.
"I do not think any private financier would be willing
to undertake the production of a project like that which
has no guarantee at all of box office returns if made
as a film," he says. "DD has the power to be
a showcase of good art."
The vagaries of private producers is not new to Shyamaprasad.
His feature film project, Prajapathi, which was to have
featured superstar Mammooty had to be shelved at the last
minute because of distributors developing cold feet over
what they felt was too arty a project. "In future,
I have to smart enough to convince potential producers
and distributors regarding the commercial viability of
my cinema," he says.
That is not all that he has to remember as he gets ready
to switch over from television to the big screen. The
script writer and director in him could face fresh challenges.
Not that he worries over it. "One has to be well
versed in the grammar of both media before making the
transition from one to another," he says. "I
think I am confident enough to make such a transition,"
he says. Even as he gears up for plunging into the field
of feature films, he nurses a soft corner for his first
love, telefilms. "In the coming years, telefilms
will grow in importance especially for directors who find
it impossible to realize their dream feature film projects,
given the role money plays in them," he says. He
himself hopes to see none other than DD telecast the telefilms
which he might make in future.
Right now, Shyamaprasad is enjoying a serene lull from
work with his wife and children at his house in Thiruvananthapuram.
A lull which people who have known the exquisiteness of
his creations hope, is very brief.