Swayamvaram (1972)


Swayamvaram (1972)

On Own Will ” – Alt. Title (Translation)

Release Date : 24/11/1972

Arguably the first Malayalam film to use sync sound and stark aural ambiances, Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s debut feature which took 7 years to materialise (thanks to financial wrangling by the Film Finance Corporation), Swayamvaram was a watershed in Malayalam Cinema.

The movie marks the debut of Bharat Gopy and Karamana Janardhanan Nair in film, the director’s first feature and the Chitralekha Film Co-op’s foray into film production. Garnering worldwide recognition and critical acclaim on release, Swayamvaram (1972) could easily be called the pioneer in ushering in the New Wave Cinema movement in Malayalam Cinema.

Movie Poster

More about Swayamvaram (1972)


Bharat Gopy [ Debut ]
PC Soman
Karamana Janardhanan Nair [Debut]
Kallada Vasudevan
G Shankara Pillai, Vaikkom Chandrashekharan Nair, KPAC Lalitha, Adoor Bhavani, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair
Artist Vallyathan, Somashekharan Nair, PK Venukkuttan Nair, BK Nair
Director Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Banner Chithralekha Films
Story Adoor Gopalakrishnan, KP Kumaran
Screenplay Adoor Gopalakrishnan, KP Kumaran
Dialog Adoor Gopalakrishnan, KP Kumaran
Background Music MB Sreenivasan
Cinematography Mankada Ravi Varma
Editing A Ramesan
Art Direction Sivan, Devadathan
Madhu and Sharada in Swayamvaram(1972)

Viswam and Sita, the lovers, cut themselves off from their family moorings and elope to a new place to fend for themselves. The early days are blissful, but they soon run short of money. Viswam can’t publish his novel, the ornaments are sold, they change residence from a good hotel to an ordinary one, and then to a dilapidated house in a none-too-respectable locality. After a spell of teaching in a tutorial college, which turns out to be a losing concern, Viswam becomes a clerk in a timber mill, replacing a fired employee.

They try to set up a happy and humble abode. Around them are good neighbors and bad ones, helpers and exploiters. Soon dreams lose their lustre as they struggle on precariously. There are hardships aplenty, there are also the big compensations of love. Then death comes unobtrusively and takes away the bread-winner. Sita and her baby are left to face the myriad problems of life. How will they do it? The film answers no questions.

The Debut Screenplay

Screenplay excerpt of Bharat Gopy's debut - Swayamvaram-(1972)

Interview with Adoor as Swayamvaram (1972 ) turns 40

It is the 40th anniversary of auteur Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s first feature film Swayamvaram. The filmmaker talks about the film and its cast and the period in which it was made. Swayamvaram was Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s first feature film, made seven years after he passed out of the Film and Television Institute of India. It celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year and is being screened in Goa on November 24 as part of the event to honour Dada Saheb Phalke awardees.

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The Indian Press Reviews

“A Chekovian Film.” Life’s minor details are carefully studied, discretely and meaningfully portrayed. – The Hindustan Times, New Delhi.
In Swayamvaram, Adoor Gopalakrishnan manages that rare feat investing the visuals with such eloquence that language of the spoken word hardly remains a barrier. – Filmfare, Bombay.
This film is an honest atriculation of the social and economic reality of India, and drives home the grip of helplessness and dereliction that the environment suffocates the underprivileged with. – The Patriot, New Delhi.
The accent is solely on visuals. And these visuals are rarely interfered with, by verbosity.The extreme economy of words dramatises the picturisation of commonplace events – Link, New Delhi.
A candid classic.The film does not describe a story but a lifestyle, realism is its strong point, idealism its standpoint. – Democratic World, New Delhi.
Watching Swayamvaram it was not difficult to see that it’s the work of a brilliant mind. A disturbing and perhaps the most important film made in India since “Pather Panchali.”. – Youth Times, New Delhi.
Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s “Swayamvaram” is a brilliant study of a run-away couple’s trials and tribulations in making both ends meet. And quite naturally, one finds the stamp of the documentary in the film. The black and white photography is excellent, so is the music.” – The Indian Express, Bombay.
The Kerala that Adoor Gopalakrishnan (who has both written the story and directed the film) shows is quite ruthlessly shorn of all the picturesque cliches that one is accustomed to associate with it. Another quality of the film which in the Indian context is remarkable is the handling of humor. In “Swayamvaram”, the humor is entirely natural. – The Economic Times, Bombay.

The British Press Reviews

Gopalakrishnan has laid bare the realities of a village society, a reality which has hitherto lain buried under the tinsel of commercial cinema – The Guardian, London.
The theme is human and social. Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s “Swayamvaram” has a touching performance by an actress called Sharada as the radiant girl who elopes, only to see her fight against convention end in poverty and despair. One detects a kind of sober passion. – Dilys Powel in The Times, London.
“Swayamvaram” directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan is the story about a young couple who decide to live together and run into disaster.Beautifully photographed. – George Melly in The Observer, London.
The film concentrates on describing the life together of the man and the woman who are unmarried and without the usual supportive network of family relationships. The Director constantly works to extend the film’s area of concern outward to the situation they find themselves in, through their attempts to get work – she as a sales lady, he first as a teacher and then as a clerk in a saw mill. But he does this without any heavy handed over-emphasis. – Verina Glaessner in TimeOut, London.

The Soviet Press Reviews

The film Swayamvaram directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan shows in all its starkness, the plight of the educated unemployed in India. It dwells on the trials and tribulations of a young couple and their persistent efforts to find a place of their own in the society.The Hero is an idealist and an upright character.In the end, the hardships of life claim his life itself. This competition film that comes from India is a true reflection of the life of the common man in India – Soviet Culture, Moscow.
The film Swayamvaram made in Kerala by Adoor Gopalakrishnan deserves special attention for the reason that it is a film far removed from the conventional song and dance extravaganza of Bombay Studios.The film’s main concern is with the everyday life of the common man.The heart-beats of a complex and problem-ridden society are heard and felt in the tragic story of Sita and Viswam – Pravda, Moscow.

National Awards (1973)

National Film Award for Best Feature Film
National Film Award for Best Director: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
National Film Award for Best Actress: Sharada
National Film Award for Best Cinematography: Mankada Ravi Varma.

Kerala State Film Awards (1973)

Kerala State Film Award for Best Photography (Black and White): Mankada Ravi Varma
Kerala State Film Award for Best Art Direction: Devadathan

Moscow International Film Festival(1973)

Adoor Gopalakrishnan nominated for the Best Director.

Buy the Screenplay

Watch Swayamvaram (1972) Online

Bharat Gopy’s Debut Role : An Overview

Bharat Gopy in Swayamvaram (1972)

48 Seconds ! That’s all the screen time that a lean, wiry Bharat Gopy with a receding hairline has in his debut film, Swayamvaram (1972).

As the nameless “lean, wiry, middle-aged, balding man” [how Adoor Gopalakrishnan describes the nameless character in the screenplay], it didn’t even take less than a minute for the debutante to prove to the world about his innate, “seething” talent.

Shorn of pretense and melodrama, he was absolutely at ease as the ex-book keeping clerk of the wood mill, turning the economy of words in the screenplay to a wrenching testimony of emotions that stay with you even after you leave the cinema.

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