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|January 22, 2000||
'Jayaraj has done all of us proud'
D Jose in Trivandrum
Malayalam film director Jayaraj, who was awarded the Golden Peacock (best film) for Karunam at the International Film Festival of India which concluded in New Delhi on January 20, has been advised by colleagues in Kerala to stop making commercial films. While applauding him for bagging the coveted award, both film-makers and artistes said it was time for Jayaraj to end his romance with the mainstream commercial circuit and devote his exceptional talents to serious films.
"He should now stick to making films like Karunam, Kaliyattam and Desadanam, which catapulted him to the club of giants like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aravindan, Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani," said Shyama Prasad, a member of the jury which selected Karunam for IFFI's competition section. Shyama, who made waves in the national circuit last year, also felt Jayaraj should confine himself to serious films now that he has won international acclaim. "Karunam," he added, "is an outstanding film. It was shot in 166 mm, owing to paucity of funds. Yet, he has done full justice to the medium and the story. The director's commitment to the medium is discernible in each frame."
Shyama felt Jayaraj's victory was a shot in the arm for low budget films, as Karunam was made on a shoestring budget of Rs 1 million. The award, he hoped, would encourage film-makers in the country to exploit the potential for low-budget films.
Kerala Film Academy chairman and noted director Shaji N Karun said Jayaraj had been dabbling in both serious and commercial films but, now, he should recognise his path. "He may have his own reasons for sticking to the mainstream stream circuit. I feel he should select one path," said Shaji, who is yet to see Karunam.
Suresh Gopi, who won the national award for best actor last year for his role in Jayaraj's Kaliyattam, said the director should now aim at Cannes. "I will only be satisfied if he wins an award at Cannes. He has the talent to go that far."
Suresh said he had recognised Jayaraj's potential when he joined hands with him to make Paithrukam. "I felt he was special," said the star, who is now producing a film to be directed by Jayaraj.
Mohanlal said the award was a vindication for Jayaraj, and made up for his disappointment over the rejection of his film, Vanaprastham, for the competition section in IFFI. "Listening to news of Jayaraj's achievement, I have completely forgotten my frustration. He has done all of us proud by winning this coveted award," said Mohanlal.
Noted director Priyadarsan said it was Jayaraj's hard work and determination that brought him the laurels. "I feel he should stick to making these kind of films which explore the depths of the human mind," he added.
Karunam is a simple story that explores the loneliness of an old couple. After he won the award, Jayaraj dedicated his film to people like them. "This film is for the aged who face the agony of enduring loneliness."
Jayaraj, an electronics engineer by profession, started his film career as an assistant to Bharathan. His first independent film, Vidyarambham, was a clear indicator of his talent. However, it was Desadanam, his tenth film, that brought him international acclaim at the 1997 Karlovy Vary International festival.
But the Hindutva tone of the film invited accusations about his supposed association with the saffron brigade. He disproved his critics with Kaliyattam, which retold Shakespeare's Othello against the backdrop of Theyyam festivals of northern Kerala. It brought him the Kerala State Award for best director in 1997. The film won two more awards the next year. Both the films also made a mark in international film circles.
Jayaraj finds himself at ease with both commercial and serious films. Even while working on Karunam, he found time to make a commercial film like Millennium Stars, which is now running to full houses in Kerala.
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