Director Jayaraj remembers his guru and master filmmaker Bharathan on the latter’s 14th death anniversary.
Each and every film that he made had an artistic grandeur to it. Each of the 40 films he made in his short life, are like poems etched on celluloid that have stood the test of time. Be it his strong and individualistic characters, the artistic picturisation or the soulful music, Bharathettan was and will be forever remembered as a passionate director who lived and breathed movies.
I will always be indebted to Bharathettan. Whatever I am now and what I know about films is because of the knowledge he imparted to me. I would say he was a ‘Gurukul’ by himself, a creative genius. It was for the 1986 film ‘Chilambu’, that I first worked with him as an assistant. Working under Bharathettan turned out to be the right decision in my life. My sister lived next to Bharathettan in Madras and through her I got to meet him. He asked me to wait for one year and during the discussions for ‘Chilambu’, he got me involved. The discussion were the best time we had. At his home in Wadakanchery, all of us along with Nedumudi Venu, Ravindran maash, KPAC Lalitha and many artists used to gather and discuss films. The sessions were so insightful that it could be kept in a library. Those gatherings were celebrations. There was so much music and humour that coloured these conversations. He knew how to live life.
Bharathettan, the creator of exceptional classics like ‘Thakara’, ‘Kathodu Kathoram’, ‘Vaishali’, ‘Amaram’, ‘Chamayam’, and ‘Padheyam’, was an unique personality who always gave you the scope to improvise. Unlike other directors, he gave maximum space for the actors to perform. Even if the shots were pre-decided, improvisations were always welcome.
Bharathettan was a complete package. Along with being a director, he was a lyricist, music director, sculptor, poster designer, editor and art director. He knew what he wanted in each shot. Whatever subject he attempted, he packed it so beautifully and made it so visually arresting that the impact haunted you forever. I still remember the location search for ‘Vaishali’. We were walking through Kulamavu forest in Idukki. In between, we came across a huge tree, which on the first glance itself Bharathettan fixed for the aashram location of Mahirshi Vibhandakan. But the funny thing is that the rest of us had not even noticed the tree before Bharathettan spotted it.
Another irrefutable thing about Bharathettan’s films were the strong individualistic women characters. His female characterisation was always bold yet graceful. He carved out the real feminine beauty in a women. Be it Vaishali’s character or Maya of Churam, you see them as graceful and sensuous. The daughter of Mathu Moopan in ‘Thakara’, though dusky skinned, was presented as a stunningly sensuous beauty. There are layers of meanings and emotions for a single character in Bharathettan’s films and that is his magic.
His biggest dream was to make a movie on Kunjan Nambiar. Another one was to make a movie like ‘Prayanam’, which he considered as one of his best works.
The amusing thing that I will never forget is the night before he died. I was in Guruvayoor . On that night I saw a dream where I am at Bharathettan’s house in Chennai. There is some celebrations going on. While climbing the stairs of the house Bharathettan calls me. I go upstairs and there he is standing near the window. He gives me a red check shirt and walks away. I believe it was his unfulfilled dreams and commitments on films that he handed over to me.