Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Mouttathu Gopalakrishnan Unnithan

(1941-07-03) 3 July 1941 (age 82)
Other namesAdoor
Alma materFilm and Television Institute of India[1]
  • Film director
  • screenwriter
  • film producer
Years active1965–present
(died 2015)

Adoor Gopalakrishnan (born 3 July 1941) is an Indian film director, script writer, and producer and is regarded as one of the most notable and renowned filmmakers in India. With the release of his first feature film Swayamvaram (1972), Gopalakrishnan pioneered the new wave in Malayalam cinema during the 1970s.[2] In a career spanning over five decades, Gopalakrishnan has made only 12 feature films to date. His films are made in the Malayalam language and often depict the society and culture of his native state Kerala. Nearly all of his films premiered at Venice, Cannes and Toronto International Film Festival. Along with Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, Gopalakrishnan is one of the most recognized Indian film directors in world cinema.[3][4]

For his films, Gopalakrishnan has won the National Film Award 16 times, next only to Ray and Sen. He also won the Kerala State Film Awards 17 times. He was awarded the State honours Padma Shri in 1984 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2006. He received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2004 for his valuable contributions to Indian cinema.[5] In 2016, he was awarded the J. C. Daniel Award, Kerala government's highest honour for contributions to Malayalam cinema. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have established an archive and research center, the Adoor Gopalakrishnan Film Archive and Research Center, at their Peck School of Arts where research students will have access to 35 mm prints of the eleven feature films and several documentaries made by Gopalakrishnan.[6]


Gopalakrishnan was born on 3 July 1941 in the village of Pallickal (Medayil Bungalow) near Adoor, present day Kerala.[citation needed]

After securing a degree in Economics, Political Science and Public Administration in 1961 from the Gandhigram Rural Institute,[7] he worked as a Government officer near Dindigul in Tamil Nadu. In 1962, he left his job to study screenwriting and direction from the Film and Television Institute of India Pune. He completed his course from there with a scholarship from the Government of India. With his classmates and friends, Gopalakrishnan established Chithralekha Film Society and Chalachithra Sahakarana Sangham; the organization was the first film society in Kerala and it aimed at production, distribution and exhibition of films in the co-operative sector.

Malayalam cinema director Adoor Gopalakrishnan while attending Sharjah Book Fair 2013 programme

Gopalakrishnan's debut film, the national award-winning Swayamvaram (1972) was a milestone in Malayalam film history. The film was exhibited widely in various international film festivals including those held in Moscow, Melbourne, London and Paris. The films that followed namely Kodiyettam, Elippathayam, Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Mathilukal, Vidheyan and Kathapurushan lived up to the reputation of his first film and were well received by critics at various film festivals and fetched him many awards. However, Mukhamukham was criticized in Kerala while Vidheyan was at the centre of a debate due to the differences in opinion between the writer of story of the film Sakhariya and Gopalakrishnan.

Gopalakrishnan's later films are Nizhalkuthu, narrating the experiences of an executioner who learns that one of his subjects was innocent, and Naalu Pennungal, a film adaptation of four short stories by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai.

All his films have won national and international awards (National award for best film twice, best director five times, and best script two times. His films have also won his actors and technicians several national awards). Gopalakrishnan's third feature, Elippathayam won him the coveted British Film Institute Award for 'the most original and imaginative film' of 1982. The International Film Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) has gone to him six times successively for Mukhamukham, Anantharam, Mathilukal, Vidheyan, Kathapurushan and Nizhalkkuthu. Winner of several international awards like the UNICEF film prize (Venice), OCIC film prize (Amiens), INTERFILM Prize (Mannheim) etc., his films have been shown in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, London, Rotterdam and every important festival around the world.

In consideration of his contribution to Indian cinema, the nation honoured him with the title of Padma Shri (India's fourth highest civilian award) in 1984 and Padma Vibhushan (India's second highest civilian award) in 2006.

Gopalakrishnan is settled in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in Kerala. His daughter Aswathi Dorje is an IPS officer (part of the Assam cadre, 2000 batch), currently acting as Deputy Commissioner of Police in Mumbai since June 2010.[8][9]

Documentaries and 'New Cinema' movement

Gopalakrishnan standing next to his portrait

Apart from nine feature films, he has over 30 short films and documentaries to his credit. The Helsinki Film Festival was the first film festival to have a retrospective of his films. He has headed the jury at the National Film Awards and many international film festivals.

Apart from his films, Gopalakrishnan's major contribution towards introducing a new cinema culture in Kerala was the constitution of the first Film Society in Kerala, "Chitralekha Film Society". He also took active part in the constitution of "Chitralekha", Kerala's first Film Co-operative Society for film production. These movements triggered a fresh wave of films, called "art films", by directors like G Aravindan, PA Becker, KG George, Pavithran, and Raveendran. At a time this movement was so strong that even popular cinema synthesised with art cinema to create a new genre of films. Bharat Gopi starred as hero 4 times in his ventures.

Style and trademarks

According to Gopalakrishnan "[i]n movies, the actor is not performing to the audience like the stage actor. Here they are acting for me. I am the audience and I will decide whether it is correct or not, enough or not."[10]


In 2014, Gopalakrishnan, then heading the advisory committee of The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), irked controversy for introducing measures such as delegate passes being given only to those who can speak English since foreign films come with English subtitles, these changes were criticized for promoting old-world elitism and restricting the festival's appeal.[11]

In 2023, he faced criticism for defending the K. R. Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts director, Shankar Mohan, accused of violating reservation norms and discriminating based on caste and class. Gopalakrishan's statements, dismissing allegations and emphasizing Shankar Mohan's credentials, have drawn ire.[12]

The students accused Gopalakrishnan, the chairman of the film institute, of shielding the institute director and not addressing their concerns.[13]

Awards and milestones

Some of the awards and appreciation Gopalakrishnan has won for his films include:

National Film Awards (Detailed):

Kerala State Film Awards (Detailed):

Best Film

Best Director

Best Story

Best Screen Play

Best Documentary Film

Best Short Film

Best Book on Cinema

Kerala Film Critics Association Awards (Detailed):[21]

A retrospective of his films was conducted in


Year Title Duration Category Awards
1965 A Great Day 20 mins Short fiction
1966 A Day at Kovalam 30 mins Documentary
1967 The Myth 50 Seconds Short fiction Merit Certificate, Expo 67, Montreal
1968 Danger at Your Door-step 20 mins Documentary
1968 And Man created 8 mins Documentary
1968 Manntharikal (Grains of Sand) 20 mins Documentary
1969 Towards National STD 20 mins Documentary
1969 A Mission of Love 30 mins Documentary
1966 Your Food 60 mins Documentary
1970 Pratisandhi (The Impasse) 55 mins Docu-drama
1971 Romance of Rubber 30 mins Documentary
1972 Swayamvaram (One's Own Choice) 125 mins Feature film National Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Cinematographer. Entered into the 8th Moscow International Film Festival.[26]
1973 Kilimanooril Oru Dasalakshadhipati (A Millionaire is Born) 20 mins Documentary
1974 Guru Chengannur 17 mins Documentary
1975 Past in Perspective 20 mins Documentary
1976 Idukki 60 mins Documentary
1977 Kodiyettam (Ascent) 128 mins Feature film National Awards for Best Feature Film in Malayalam and Best Actor
1978 Four Shorts on Family Planning 16 mins Documentary
1979 Yakshagana 20 mins Documentary
1980 Chola Heritage 20 mins Documentary
1981 Elippathayam (The Rat Trap) 121 mins Feature film Sutherland Trophy at 1982 London Film Festival
National Awards for Best Feature Film in Malayalam and Best Audiography
1982 Krishnanattam 20 mins Documentary
1984 Mukhamukham (Face to Face) 107 mins Feature film FIPRESCI Prize, New Delhi, National Awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Audiography
1985 Eau/Ganga (Ganges-Water) 140 mins Documentary Grand Prize, Cinema du reel, Paris
1987 Anantaram (Monologue) 125 mins Feature film FIPRESCI Prize, Karlovy Vary. National awards for best director, best screenplay, and best audiography
1990 Mathilukal (The Walls) 117 mins Feature film FIPRESCI prize, Venice, UNICEF Film Prize, Venice, OCIC Prize, Amiens. National Award for best director, best actor, best regional film and best audiography
1993 Vidheyan (The Servile) 112 mins Feature film Feature FIPRESCI and Special Jury Prize, Singapore. Interfilm Jury Prize, Mannheim. Netpac prize, Rotterdam. National Award for best actor and best regional film
1995 Kathapurushan (The Man of the Story) 107 mins Feature film FIPRESCI Prize, National award for the best film
1995 Kalamandalam Gopi 43 mins Documentary
2001 Koodiyattam 180 mins Documentary
2002 Nizhalkuthu (Shadow Kill) 90 mins Feature film FIPRESCI, Mumbai. National award for best regional film
2005 Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair 73 mins Documentary
2007 Dance of the Enchantress 72 mins Documentary
2007 Naalu Pennungal (Four Women) 105 mins Feature film National Award for best director
2008 Oru Pennum Randaanum (A Climate for Crime) 115 mins Feature film Kerala State award for best director 2009
2016 Pinneyum (Once Again) Feature film
2019 Sukhantyam (A Happy End) Short fiction


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  12. ^ Shaji, Sukanya (17 January 2023). "Dear Adoor, caste did not end because you discarded your surname at age 20". The News Minute. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  13. ^ "Film institute row: Jeo Baby withdraws 'Freedom Fight' from Kannur festival". OnManorama. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
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  26. ^ "8th Moscow International Film Festival (1973)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2013.

Further reading