Welcome to Deep Focus.
There was a time when Malayalam cinema drew its strength
and content from the wealth of its Malayalam literature.
But then for a long time, it was as though Malayalam cinema
forgot literature. Later people like Bharatan and Padmarajan
brought this connection back between the two. Then again,
the divide persisted for a while. In the recent past,
director Shyamaprasad has been at the forefront in mining
this richness of Malayalam literature and bringing it
to celluloid. In his works we see a beautiful blend of
the written word and the visual medium. Today we have
with us in Deep Focus, director Shyamaprasad sharing his
creative perspective, personal viewpoints, and experiences.
We welcome him to this edition of Deep Focus.
Shyam, you are a product of Drama School. But
not many are aware of your work in theatre, or your
contribution to this medium. So could we begin with
a note on that?
(Laughs) Well that's probably because there hasn't
been much of a contribution! Anyway, after learning
direction from Drama School, I did a play named 'Laura'
for the Cult - a repertory theatre group of the Calicut
University, in '82. It was based on 'Glass Menagerie'
by Tennessee Williams. The play was shown widely in
Kerala. Later while based in Delhi, this was before
joining Doordarshan; I did a few more plays - Chekhov's
works, among others. There was a theatre group called
'Thiranottam' in Delhi staging Malayalam plays.
After joining DD, for the same Cult I did 'Moscow 1906'
based on The Just by Albert Camus - which was to later
become Uyirthezhunnelpu - it was the same cast, the
same theme, the same pattern. There was another production,
Midi Theatre in Ernakulam (later to become Living Theatre);
for them I did Woody Allen's 'The Death'. And that was
my last so-called theatre production.
But surprisingly, you have carried over the
same works into your television career too. Now obviously
there's a difference in the visual language used in
these two media - it appears you were the first to attempt
this crossover into a more technically advanced, electronic
medium. How did you manage to bring about such a change
- that too with the same cast, the same people involved?
When we choose a play to stage, we are touched by its
fundamental premise, its context, the characters, its
moments, the dialogues - these intrinsic merits are
what impress us the most and remain even after the production.
And when we move to another medium, we are inspired
to express these very impressions, these thoughts. And
so, it wasn't the structure of theatre, or its format
that I carried over from my Drama school upbringing
or my theatre productions. On looking back, what I really
transplanted from my theatre education was a reading
of prominent theatre works, an interest in the human
condition, in its myriad moments; how to make acting
appear more natural, engaging and suchlike.
So as I see it, there wasn't anything deliberate, anything
forced in the transition. From Camus' The Just, staged
as 'Moscow 1906' in 1995; to the television production
Uyirthezhunnelpu in 1996 the transformation was very
natural, quite effortless.
But for you, on crossing over to another medium,
the picture would be very clear in your mind wouldn't
it, 'cause these emotions, these thoughts are at the
back of your mind, - But for the actors Murali, Kukku
Parameswaran, Murugan - these are people who are trained
in theatre - did you have a difficulty in converting
them to a cinematic language?
Well no, if you look at it all as reality recorded
within the frame of a camera - which is the language
of cinema; it is intended that people behave naturally,
as they would normally do. But in this play, the premise
itself was a little stylized. And since the premise
was derived on ideological leanings; (it was a solid
premise), it has an innate stylization - which has perhaps
seeped into the telefilm. I haven't sidelined this aspect
entirely. In some instances, I do see flaws which are
probably due to the actors, actresses being from a theatre
background, my own education in theatre too - all this
has affected the film in some of its moments. I'm not
sure whether a complete transplantation has worked here.
But that is mainly because I wasn't bothered about a
transplantation. It was all an unconscious process of
translating the essential thought into a language of