The quaint ways of the upper caste, male-dominated household
in the Kerala of yesteryears has held a fascination for
artists and writers. Prominent among them was the late
Lalithambika Antherjanam. We have with us a young man
who quit his job at Doordarshan (the state run television
channel) and decided to bring Lalithambika's 'Agnisakshi'
to celluloid. The film was enthusiastically received by
viewers in Kerala who recognized the coming of a fresh
talent. Meet Shyamaprasad, director of Agnisakshi.
On coming into films
I was just like any other kid in school; you know the
type that participates in youth festivals, competitions.
Didn't have any exceptional achievements back then .
. . but even way back then, I was more into the setting
up, the organizing than in the actual 'performing'.
When you know, most children just want to perform out
there, on stage. When in Xth standard, I wrote a play
and staged it - got a real kick out of doing it all,
you know the costumes, collecting music pieces . . .
I really agonized over these (tape recorders were pretty
rare those days). And that's what I really enjoy most
- setting up a performance, which is what I'm doing
In college I continued in the same vein. But more as
writer/director, than actor. After my Pre-degree, this
seemed to be a natural course to take . . . what with
the Film Institute, the NID*
all opening up as avenues. It was around then that Drama
School was started by the Calicut University (for the
first time in Kerala). I simply headed there.
It was at Drama School that the world of theatre opened
up to me - it was an in-depth study of the medium; its
history & techniques as they evolved over the years.
And when you're so much into something (it was an intense
3 year course) - in touch with so many artistes, like-minded
people; some of them the leading lights of their time,
such as G Sankara Pillai, S Ramanujan - they were our
teachers then; there was a galaxy of writers, directors,
designers, actors, at both national and international
level - it all really gave one a perspective, a profound
consciousness on theatre.
So that's how I came to be in such a medium. Looking
back I hadn't really set out on becoming an artiste;
I mean, I never had such a wish early on. On completing
the course, I wasn't too inclined to pursue theatre
as an 'occupation'. Then, it was rather difficult to
earn a living as a theatre person ... it still is.
Fortuitously, it was then that a medium like television
picked up. Trivandrum Doordarshan got started then.
And so again, it seemed the best thing to do next. I
could adapt the lessons I'd learnt in theatre to a medium
like the television. It was while in television that
the stint at Film & Television Institute happened.
And then on, to England where I did my Masters in Media
Production & Film making. Over time I developed
a finer taste for the medium of film-making . . . I'd
like to think that it was all a period of 'experimentation'.
And you know, when you see the results of your efforts
bear fruit - it gives you confidence, and the guts to
So, quite naturally, I came into films.
*National Film Institute, Ahmedabad INDIA