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Sankaran Kutty is a useless bum. The only reason he is even a bit interesting is because he seems to be the lead of Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s second feature, Kodiyettam. He is in his thirties, timid, jobless, single, without even a doubt in his mind that he needs to be anything other than timid, jobless or single. He has a thing for the temple festivals, its elephants and maybe he has an interest in the widow who gives him odd jobs and lunch. He has a sister who sends him money working in the city as a maid and when she does come around to their house in the village, makes sure Sankaran gets the best of food. He also likes his drinks, but generally trouble is nowhere near him. Children tease him, elders ridicule him. He is like the cow you never see in here. It moos, he burps.ko1
There is also, always a festival in some temple nearby. When a new elephant is bought by one such temple, Sankaran takes the entire day to just watch it being pampered by the mahouts. He, by the way, has gotten married after he feels the widow is seeing a village strongman. Still, nothing changes and he hardly ever stays home. The festivals and other events that shouldn’t necessarily matter to him take precedence. His pace is slow, just as Adoor means it. Slowly, the three anchors that kept him under control give way. The wife, the sister and the widow, in different circumstances relinquish that control. All this is till about two-thirds of the film, where the protagonist is clearly gone down to the depths of hopelessness. And this being made during the 70s “art” revolution, a revolution with its self-conscious, pessimistic outlook to life and films, would you bet on Sankaran Kutty seeing some happiness at all? You should.

A word of praise for the actors, especially the lead actor, Gopi, who plays Sankaran Kutty. He won the National Award for Kodiyettam. I am sure he wouldn’t have won even a passing mention in today’s times for it is a role where he has to appear like a nobody. No shouting, no crying, no “acting”. And he does that beautifully. He isn’t a caricature of immaturity and it is a superb achievement to have got around that role.

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