Thampu (1978)

Thampu (1978)

The Circus Tent – (Lit. Translation)

Released : 1/09/1978

Thampu (The Circus Tent) was G Aravindan‘s third feature film, Nedumudi Venu’s debut film, and Bharat Gopy’s second film as an actor, or one could say, his first role as a character that strides the entire length of the feature. Thampu (1978) was also the debut of MG Radhakrishnan as a Music Director in Malayalam. Thampu went on to win the National Film Award for Best Direction, National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Malayalam, the Kerala State Film Award for Best Direction and the Kerala State Film Award for Second Best Film.

Movie Poster

More about Thampu (1978)

Bharat Gopy
Nedumudi Venu
VK Sreeraman
Sridharan Chambadu
Murikkoli Krishnan
Shankara Pillai
Njeralethu Rama Poduval
Artistes of the Great Chitra Circus
Director G Aravindan
Producer Raveendranathan Nair
Banner General Pictures
Story G Aravindan
Screenplay G Aravindan
Dialogues G Aravindan
Lyrics Kavalam Narayana Panicker
Music MG Radhakrishnan
Singers MG Radhakrishnan, Kavalam Sreekumar, Usha Ravi
Cinematography Shaji N Karun
Editing Ramesh
Art Direction CP Padmakumar
G Aravindan on the sets of Thambu (1978)

Photo Credit & Rights / NL Balakrishnan/ Mathrubhumi

The film chronicles three days when a circus visits a small village in Kerala and creates ripples in the lives of the people. During this time, we learn the geography of the village – the banyan tree with leaves like transparent film, the shining water and the light in the sand at sunset. The film shows the lives of the villagers – school children running to the tent, the village women watching the acrobat perform, the soldier who befriends the circus strong man in a toddy bar, a pump attendant who sits on a rock each day watching a village girl bathe and dry her hair, the dwarf who brings back to the circus, a watermelon larger than his head. The bizarre characters from the circus merge with the local populace. The circus comes and leaves, and life goes on.

A Movie Clipping from Thampu (1978)


Singers : MG RadhakrishnanKavalam Sreekumar   |   Lyrics : Kavalam Narayana Panicker   |   Music : MG Radhakrishnan


Singer : Usha Ravi   |   Lyrics : Kavalam Narayana Panicker   |   Music : MG Radhakrishnan

Kaanakappennu - without BGM

Singer : Usha Ravi   |   Lyrics : Kavalam Narayana Panicker   |   Music : MG Radhakrishnan

Oru Yamunaanadi

Singer : Usha Ravi   |   Lyrics : Kavalam Narayana Panicker   |   Music : MG Radhakrishnan

An excerpt from Vidyarthy Chatterjee's tribute to Thampu (1978)

Thampu does not have a storyline as such; instead, it attracts the viewer with a succession of true-to-life images strung together by Aravindan’s unique poetics and his cinematographer Shaji Karun’s extraordinary visual flair. The film abounds in passages, long and short, that stick to the mind tenaciously.

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The Poetry of Faces - Thampu (1978)

An astonishing, near-silent sequence opens Govindan Aravindan’s Thampu (The Circus Tent) and serves as a good way to begin discussing some of the film’s formal strategies, structural characteristics and thematic preoccupations. The film begins with the camera following a truck travelling along a winding road, carrying a troupe of circus workers.

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The Seventh Art on Thampu (1978)

The prime structural and visual motif – a rarity considering how ‘spontaneous’ the film seems – of Thampu is that of the circle. The film opens startlingly with a three-minute, near-silent sequence – redolent of Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s equally experimental opening of Swayamvaram (1972) – that presents the circus crew entering the village in their truck and it closes with a similar sequence as they move out of the village, with no apparent impact on either the village or themselves.

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26th National Film Awards

Best Director

For creating a truly director’s film which effectively brings out the pathos and ennui in the life of village circus artists and their audience.

Best Cinematography in Black & White

For using the camera as a silent witness to the ironies of life. The reaction shots of circus audience taken unawares are in the best tradition of cinema-verite camera style.


Watch Thampu (1978) Online

Bharat Gopy as the Circus Manager : An Overview

Bharat Gopy in Thampu

The circus manager in Thampu (1978) has to be one of the rare “structured” characters in the narrative that G Aravindan builds exquisitely, layer upon layer, of sound, silence and sighs that also hold a semblance of order in the delightful sensory chaos that is the film.

Seemingly well-mannered, authoritative and pliable, there is a surprising moment of unascertained anger that sees him physically strike a harmless and senile circus performer to the ground, causing him to lie bleeding and ruing about his life lost.

One almost feels a sense of imbalance in the cheerful demeanor, or the carefully concealed reservoir of volatile emotions, at times slashing through the fissures of his mind’s terra firma.

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