Shyamaprasad's first directorial venture, 'Agnisakshi'
has won the State Award for the Best Film of 1998. K.
Santosh talks to the Director.
The predominant color
of the room is red. The walls, the decorations and the
floor are all red. The color suits the occasion. There
is also a flush on the cheeks of the man sitting in
this tastefully furnished room.
He has good reason to be elated. His debut film has
won the State Award for the Best Film of 1998. He has
also been named the Best Director of the year.
It was decidedly a dream debut. At a time when making
an alternative film, that too one based on a serious
literary work, is almost unthinkable in Kerala, Shyamaprasad
was immensely lucky to find an independent producer,
V. V. Babu ("Thakara", "Venkalam",
"Chakoram", "Avarampoo"), committed
to making better cinema.
"My intention was not to make a mere period film,
with authentic costumes and sepia tinted images,"
Shyamaprasad says. "The period props have been
kept to the minimum."
"Agnisakshi", he continues, "is more
than a depiction of Namboodiri life. The focus has been
on human relationships, on the struggle between established
values and change, on the conflict between desire and
duty, and on the transformation of a society caught
between two worlds - one dead and another yet to be
born. It is the story of every man who searches for
meaning in relationships, remaining within the framework
that society dictates. In that sense, I don't think
that its period setting is a thematic limitation for
Lalithambika Antharjanam's novel. It is as relevant
today as it was yesterday."
Prasad pooh-poohs the criticism from some quarters that
the film toes the Hindutva line. "I am shocked
by CPI(M) ideologue P. Govinda Pillai's statement. Even
lighting up a traditional Nilavilakku or portrayal of
a "poonool" (sacred thread) is interpreted
as Hindutva these days. This signals a wrong trend.
Our culture has many sacred elements. The history of
art in India is incomplete without a reference to the
Bhakti cult. You may not like it. But it is reality."
As an artiste, he says, he is on a constant search for
answers. "The minute you cling to one single ideology,
you are intellectually, emotionally and philosophically
limited. Your vision narrows. It is a denial of the
very concept of change and the complexities of truth.
I have been influenced by many ideologies. And in any
case, I had never intended "Agnisakshi" to
be a politically correct film. What interests me is
not politics, but the mindscape of the characters."
Even while making a TV adaptation of Albert Camus' play
on existentialism and extreme left beliefs, his focus
was on the human aspect of the situation, on the struggle
between love and revolution, individual desire and revolutionary