Adoor Gopalakrishnan – A cinema director with a vision

Through his work, Adoor Gopalakrishnan began a revolution in Malayalam film industry. All his works were marked for their creativity, originality and relevance to the society. This approach was against the trend of making popular cinema at that point in time. To his credit, he has directed about 11 feature films and 30 short stories and documentaries.


Adoor Gopalakrishnan is a renowned film director, script writer, and producer. He was born as Mouttathu Gopalakrishnan Unnithan in the year 1941. As an ace film director, he revolutionized the Malayalam film industry with his fresh and innovative ideas. Because of this attribute, he is regarded as one of the best film makers of India. All the ten films directed by him were screened in national as well as international film festivals. On many of those occasions, he was able to impress the national and international audiences with his creative ideas that probed the contemporary societal issues. Hence, he was able to bag international awards a number of times. Another contribution by him to the literary world of the state is the establishment of Chithralekha, the first Film Society of Kerala.

Early Life

He was born on July 3, 1941 as the son of Madhavan Unnithan and Mouttathu Gauri Kunjamma in a small village called Pallickal near Adoor in the present day Kerala. When he was 8 years old, he took his baby steps in the cultural arena by acting in amateur plays. Later in his life, he got interested in writing screenplays and direction. As a result, he became a full-time scriptwriter and director. In between, in 1962, he completed his bachelor's degree from Gandhigram Rural Institute. For a while, he worked as a government officer at a place near Dindigal, Tamil Nadu. However, in 1962, he left the lucrative job as a government service officer to study script writing and direction at the Pune Film Institute. He completed his course in script writing and direction with distinction. For doing this course, he got the Government of India scholarship. Later he constituted the Chithralekha Film Society and Chalachithra Sahakarana Sangham in the state with the help of his friends and classmates. The Chalachithra Sahakarana Sangham was the first film society in the state that looked after the whole process of film making in the cooperative sector.

His Works in Film Category

To his credit, he has directed about 11 films and about 30 short films and documentaries. All his works proved their mettle and easily transcended the barriers of time to remain relevant even today. His notable contribution in the non-film field is his work on the Kerala's performing arts. He began his journey in the field of film direction with his debut venture Swayamvaram in 1972. This film was a milestone in the Malayalam film industry, as all other literary films released in that period had regular ingredients of a popular cinema like attention-grabbing stories and rhyming song-dance sequences. The plot of the movie was not initially welcomed by the public in the state. Nevertheless, the film was an instant hit in the international film festivals for its freshness, uniqueness and creativity. Incidentally, it was adjudged as the best film of that year. Slowly people of the state began to appreciate the plot of the film.

After the success of his initial film, he became confident enough to direct other films. The other films directed by him are Kodiyettam, Elippathayam, Mukhamukham, Vidheyan, Mathilukal, Anantharam, and Kathapurushan. These films also lived up to the standards of the initial film directed by him for their creativeness, out-of-the-box ideas and relevance to the society. Hence, these films were also received well by the critics at the international film festivals. Adoor's later films are Nizhalkuthu and Naalu Pennungal. The former film portrays the mental state of an executioner when he comes to know that one of his subjects was actually innocent. On the other hand, the latter film was the film adaptation of 4 short stories by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, a reputed literary figure in Malayalam literature.

All of his films have won national as well as international awards. Adoor Gopalakrishnan got coveted British Film Institute award for his work on the film Elippathayam. This film had original, imaginative and contemplative script. In fact, he got awards for best direction five times and two awards for script writing. Two of his films received national awards. While working with him, the actors and technicians have also received national and international awards. In consideration of his contribution to the Indian Cinema, the Government of India honored him with the title of Padma Shri in the year 1984 and Padma Vibushan in the year 2006. Following his footsteps, the other ace directors like G. Aravindan, Raveendran, K.G. George, Pavithran, and P.A. Becker started making a new class of films called Art films in Malayalam film industry.

His Works in non-Film category

He is also credited with the direction of over 30 short films and documentaries. His fame as a director spread so much that the organizers of Helsinki Film Festival were forced to have a retrospective section in the event to portray his work. Looking at his works, the organizers of the film festivals across the globe have decided to make him the head of the jury that reviews the quality of films shown in the events.


Adoor Gopalakrishnan is a reputed film director, storyteller, and producer in Malayalam film industry. To his credit, he has directed about 11 feature films, and 30 short films and documentaries. All these works were marked for their originality, relevance and creativity. Due to these attributes, all of his films were regularly screened at national and international film festivals. At these festivals, his works were well appreciated by the critics, and hence they bagged awards. Later in his life, he began to head the jury panel that took decision on the quality of movies screened in film festivals. Following his footsteps, other reputed directors started to make art films in the industry.

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