Director: Adoor Gopalakrishnan; Writer: Adoor Gopalakrishnan; Producer: Kulathoor Bhaskaran Nair; Cinematographer: Ravi Varma; Editor: M.Mani; Cast: Gopi, Lalitha, Aziz, Thikkurisi Sukumaran Nair, Adoor Bhawani, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Vilasini, Susheela, Radhamani
Duration: 01:57:04; Aspect Ratio: 1.335:1; Hue: 60.000; Saturation: 0.015; Lightness: 0.193; Volume: 0.292; Cuts per Minute: 12.855; Words per Minute: 23.823
Summary: Gopalakrishnan’s 2nd and to many his best feature, made five years after Swayamvaram, tells of the growth to adulthood of a wide-eyed village simpleton, Sankarankutty (an admirable performance by Gopi). Affectionately treated as a fool, the man begins to come to terms with real human relationships through an encounter with a truck driver prone to most human weaknesses. Sankarankutty begins to accept that a wife (Lalitha), or indeed any woman, should not be regarded solely as a provider of food and comforts. The most tragic figure in the story is the lonely widow Kamalamma (Ponnamma) who mothers the central character but whose life is ruined by various exploitative relationships, and she ends up by committing suicide. The film has an innovative soundtrack, esp. with Kathakali drums, and unfolds at the slow, rhythmical pace of a village festival which provides the opening imagery of the tale. The main character’s maturation can be seen as a parallel to social and historical changes in Kerala: the erosion of a matriarchal system and the rise of a competitive world conventionally coded as masculine, the impact of technology and so on. Blending realism and lyricism, the film achieved both artistic and commercial success.
The temple festival sequence (over credits). The first of a series of festivals that intersperse the film. Sankarankutty Nair (Gopi) typically survives on the edge of the temple festival and the political party. Close-up of the bull, but on the sound track over the festival is the sound of people gambling
The roulette gambling sequence. Sankarankutty is the only man left, when the police raid comes, and get arrested. Being caught by the police is part of what the day often holds, and he is not especially perturbed by the fact that he has to spend a night at the police station
At the tea shop. The corner tea shop, liquor shop and eatery, itself a crucial location for gossip, meetings and hangouts. Sankarankutty spends a great deal of his time here
Gopi's bodily presence 1:
He arrives home, spreads a mat, goes to sleep on the floor
Call to the political rally, The promise of free alcohol is all he needs
Gopi's bodily presence 2:
Sankarankutty bathing. First scene of the sexual desire the widowed Kamalamma (Kaviyoor Ponnamma) has for him. The second of the four major female characters in the film.
The first political fight in the tea house. The men go to any rally that pays them and given them free alcohol
The first tryst with the temple priest who has a late night liaison with Kamalamma
Second encounter with the police. Caught by them for having participated in the rally, Sankarankutty is always the scapegoat
Gopi's bodily presence 3:
Cutting wood, drawing water from the well, eating
Second scene of Kamalamma's desire for Sankarankutty: she feeds him food
The children episode: Sankarankutty tried to free a kite that has got stuck in the trees. The children reappear through he film, and they also gave this curiously exploitative relationship with him
Gopi's bodily presence 4:
Descending from a tree, having tapped it for toddy. His sister Sarojini (Vilasini) has arrived from the city here she works as a domestic labourer. She sends him money for his survival, and has brought him a shirt. The third of the four important female characters. She sets up Sankarankutty's marriage.
The food motif
The arranging of Sankarankutty's marriage. The sister says she has fixed it all up. Sankarankutty burps in embarassment
Cleaning the house: Kamalamma and Sankarankutty, her widowed condition. Her desire for Sankarankutty reiterated
Kamalamma and Sankarankuty's sister: he refuses to go home, refuses to meet the matchmaker
The Kathakali rehearsal sequence and the panchvadyam sequence: the reiteration of the festival motif, Sankarankutty is driven off. He then peeps into a Kathakali performers' make-up room and watches the artists' being made up
Watching Kamalamma exit from the temple, second tryst with temple priest.
Sankarankutty is rudely pushed by the priest, and searches for Kamalamma in the temple, but he cannot find her
The sister's departure. She says she will now only return when Sankarankutty is married. This part of her role in his life is over
The marriage is arranged: the match-maker is fed. Sankarankutty's lineage and the status of his family is mentioned. Sankarankutty distractedly signals his assent to the marriage
After the marriage: Santhamma (KPAC Lalitha), the wife, waits for Sankarankutty, he is sleeping outside. She brings him some water, attempting to get his attention, He disappears, and goes to the tea shop: his usual haunt
The tea shop again: rife with local gossip. They discuss the financial dissolution of Sivan Pillai. Vasu has bought an elephant
Santhamma is home. Predatory men
The bathing of the elephant.The women await him in the house. Santhamma and Kamalamma: the man is away
Reference to the 'other place', i.e. the tea shop and alcohol place where the men have to go
The women in the house. All people in Kerala 'happy and contented', the 'festival of Oman' is here. Sankarankutty finally arrives home
'How much did you drink'? First confrontation between Sankarankutty and Santhamma
The couple on their ay to Santhamma's mother's house. The children waylay him. The couple are splashed by water when a truck goes by
The predator tries to take Sankarankutty back to the toddy shop. Second confrontation between Santhamma and Sankaranutty
The festival: the dance, the shops, the spectacle. Sankarankutty is entranced. He buys bangles for his wife. He then goes to sleep there
Sankarankutty bathes, returns home. Third confrontation with Santhamma, She announces that she is pregnant. The bangles he had bought for her are broken
He goes fishing with the little boys. He sees the priest again going towards Kamalamma's house. The boys catch some more fish
Santhamma waits at home. Kamalamma has sent her son to ask for Sankarankutty, he has been away for a couple of weeks from home
The gamblers under a tree. Sankarankutty's latest encounter with the police, and with his friends who fleece him of his money. He again volunteers his services, having no other work
A pregnant Santhamma has returned to her mother's home having left Sankarankutty
Sankarankutty tries to avoid the policeman walking through the field
No money from his sister, no letter either. The sister has moved on, and turned her back to her brother.
He first realizes that Santhamma has abandoned him, when Shankutala tells him. The buys tell him he has 'broken the rule'. He is now completely alone, i.e. has no women left who will support him
The tea shop. His former political contact has been thrown out of the Party, and has no source of money. he must find some new 'business'
Night at the tea shop. Others taunt him: he is unaware as to whether his wife has had her baby or not
Sankarankutty sleeping at the back of a bullock cart. Story of fate. He is now entirely bereft
Santhamma has given birth to her child. He goes to his mother-in-law's house, asks if he can have Santhamma back. The repeated sarcastic reference to Mr. 'Nair' having returned
Sankarankutty, rebuffed by his wife, now tries to get some focus to his life. The sequence that leads up to his being employed by a truck driver as his cleaner. He wants to become a 'mahout', gets drunk at a bar, finds himself at a brothel. Again the question of his family lineage comes up: he is from the Ayanithara family, and his mother is Janamma. He is thirty two, his sister Sarojini, twenty seven: the Mahout asks inquisitive questions about the sister: is she single? Can he 'get' her? Sankarankutty is outraged. The deal falls through.
The first epic truck ride: the film turns into a species of road movie from here. Sankarankutty is hitching a ride in a truck, and gets employed by the driver (Azeez) as his cleaner. He is still drunk from the earlier episode with the Mahout, vomits, is asked to clean up and also fill up water in the engine. His first lesson as a cleaner. Elaborate business of filling water, cleaning the truck, trying to open the engine.
Sankarankutty is hired, on two conditions, one that he should never drink, and second, that he should never poke his nose in the driver's business.
The series of truck rides play a major role in Sankarankutty's 'road-movie' introduction to a different Kerala.
Sankarankutty visits his sister Sarojini. Who is that 'man', he asks his sister. She evades the question, then tells him that that's the way it is, and to hell with society. He asks her if she is 'settled' in life. Good qestion, she says, from a man who has just been abandoned by his own wife and child.
Bathing at the temple, Sankarankutty is invited to 'celebrate' by the drunken Sivan Pillai. He turns the offer down. He overhears a conversation with Kamalamma and her priest-lover: the widow is pregnant. The man offers to do what he can, but evades the issue.
Night: Sankarankutty returns to Sarojini's (his sister's) house. Solitary contemplation in the night
Kamalamma's suicide. Sankarankutty's only display of emotion in the entire film.
The second epic truck ride: continuing th epic journey through the Kerala landscape. He has to make up his mind: if he wants the job of a cleaner, he is not free to move as he wishes.
First sequence of the truck driver's domesticity. Curious resemblance of the truck-driver's wife to Sankarankutty's own sister. A curiously violent and alienating space, of suspicion amid love: Sankarankutty's only glimpse into a modern conjugal relationship of another person.
Third truck ride. 'It takes courage to be a driver'. Sankarankutty sits at the driver's seat, imagines what that might be like. The driver buys a bottle of liquor to take home.
The driver invites Sankarankutty home. Second sequence of the truck-driver's domesticity. Driver accuses his wife of infidelity. He finds a space there: he is denied alcohol, but allowed to eat, and asked to sleep in the truck.
Third epic truck ride. Notions of speed, danger, some excitement. Echoes of Sankarankutty's playing with the children and getting splashed by a truck many years ago. The truck has a flat tyre. He goes past his familiar tea shop, then sees in the distance a woman and child, thinks, presumably of his wife with her own child.
First visit by Sankarankutty to his wife after the separaton. He takes a small gift for her and leaves. They don't say much. The driver honks impatiently, he has to go.
Domestic impulses: Sankarankutty picks a child he thinks will drown and returns it to its mother. She is not very grateful. He whistles to himself: some peace of mind at last.
Reconciliations with his wife: he returns, but refuses to stay for food.
Temple festival again: memories of happier times. Documentary footage of the festival intercut with shots of Santhamma and his child. he revisits his wife's home at night again. The mother-in-law is away at the festival: she cannot ever miss the Kathakali.
The final reconciliation, amid the fireworks that accompany the festival.