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15. A Success Stright Away
     by K Santosh, The Hindu, Friday, 26th March 1999

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 ideals.


 
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