London remembers Aravindan: Reliving some of his much-loved films

‘Mythical Poetry: The Cinema of Govindan Aravindan’ 

A quarter of a century since his sudden demise, London based Rattis Books and Close-up are presenting the first European retrospective of the great filmmaker from Kerala, G Aravindan. Their programme offers rare opportunity to discover six of his most important works, known for their “distinctive look, sparse naturalism, silences and long shots with darker shades of grey in b/w films”.

One of the pioneers of parallel cinema, Govindan Aravindan is considered one of the greatest filmmakers to emerge from India. A little known figure within, and outside India, compared to his peers like Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani, Aravindan was not just a filmmaker, but a cartoonist, satirist, painter, music composer and theatre director. As a result, his interests were not just restricted to cinema, but spread across various art forms, ranging from murals to dancing, among other things.

A winner of numerous National and Kerala State Film Awards, Aravindan worked as caricaturist for the Mathrubhoomi journal, and later produced a feature for the Kala Kaumudi journal, both based out of Kerala. A believer of the idea of a free cinema that is receptive to other forms of art, he was closely linked to influential literary figures of his time. Known for his unorthodox way of film-making, he experimented in storytelling by not resorting to the regular narrative styles, and changed his cinematic forms regularly, which brought vivid dimensionality to the films he made.

Established in 2005, Close up aims to make film culture and history accessible through its cinema, library and the online publication of Vertigo Magazine. Whereas, its partner in this initiative, Rattis Books is a new independent publisher for books based in London. The event titled ‘Mythical Poetry: The Cinema of Govindan Aravindan’ will be held from the 3rd of February, 2017 to the 24th.

Programmed by Arindam Sen, the films being featured in the retrospective have been restored, preserved and provided by the National Film Archive of India.  It opens with ‘A Dream Takes Wings: G. Aravindan’ by Shaji N.Karun, a 20-minute short which explores the multi-faceted personality of the filmmaker. This is followed by the screening of ‘Golden Seeta’, a film based on the Ramayana episode about Rama and his bride Seeta, represented only as aspects of nature. Over the next few days, films like ‘Esthappan’ (1979), ‘The Bogeyman’ (1979), ‘Twilight’ (1981), ‘Chidambaram’ (1985), and ‘Masquerade’ (1988), will be screened as part of the programme.

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A self-sketch of Aravindan  which the filmmaker drew for Uma da Cunha. It looks down at her from her Notice Board. There are many far-flung festivals that Uma attended with Aravindan and memories are rife of him hating the cold and delving into bylanes of Berlin looking for fish curry and rice.

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