West indian literature

John Paul’s entry has made Malayalam cinema more literature-based – The New Indian Express

Express press service

John Paul gave Malayalam cinema a glorious era through screenplays renowned for their artistic merit. He entered an industry where action or soft-porn films, especially those made in Chennai studios, were the order of the day. He has carved out a remarkable new style for portraying down-to-earth stories. It simply amazed viewers with neighboring characters and native life.

Although his first film was Chamaram, he had previously teamed up with Njan Njan Mathram. Viewers could instantly identify with the college life visualized at Chamaram, featuring characters representing the upper and lower middle classes. The language used and the structuring of the dialogues were pleasant and different. Naturalness was a hallmark of the Bharathan-John Paul team’s productions. They announced a new start in the industry. John Paul continued to weave his magic into films by great directors.

Like Vida Parayum Munpe with Mohan, Avidathe Pole Ivideyum and ‘rorumariyathe with KS Sethumadhavan, Mizhineerpoovukal and Unnikale Oru Kadha Parayam with Kamal, Ina with IV Sasi, and many more. My uncle, when talking to him, used to say that good scripts alone wouldn’t make great movies. The profession of director makes great films from good scripts. A good story must become a good screenplay, and a talented director will turn it into a good film. It was his vision.

He was a person who constantly evolved and improvised, thanks to his association with great writers like MT Vasudevan Nair, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai and Kamala Suraiyya. John Paul’s entry made Malayalam cinema more literary-oriented. The precision of the vocabulary and the structuring of the dialogues made his scripts stand out. He was a towering presence for about four decades in Malayalam cinema.

Extensive reading and a huge circle of friends enriched his outlook on life. He had commendable knowledge of world cinema, writers and directors, and books from around the world. A vast experience, whether with people or literature, shaped the writer into Jean-Paul. It is quite naturally that his films stood out.

I had a close relationship with him. I used to have long talks with him and traveled with him several times. It was like a library that we would like to visit again. Even a brief conversation with him is enough to feel his knowledge and creativity. His talent for spotting stories was amazing. Even a small report would give it a spark. ‘Yathra’, an adaptation of the Japanese classic ‘The Yellow Handkerchief’, told us about police atrocities. We can draw parallels with real incidents even today. Naturalness was a highlight of his films. The characters spoke dialects that matched their lifestyle and environment, and that attracted people.

His uniqueness was perhaps his ability to frame characters that changed artists’ careers. He designed unusual roles for some actors. Take the case of Nedumudi Venu, who played the role of an old man in “Ambada Njane”. Characters taller than his age kept coming to Venu Chettan – from ‘Chamaram’ to ‘Vida Parayum Munpe’ or ‘Oru Minnaminunginte Nurunguvettam’.

(The author is a Malayalam
actor, director and screenwriter)

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