'Agnisakshi" directed by Shyamaprasad, will feature
in the Indian Panorama slot of the forthcoming Film Festival
of India, in Hyderabad. Gautaman Bhaskaran on the film
and its maker.
Period cinema has always had a sweet flavor, and Shyamaprasad's
"Agnisakshi" in Malayalam is no exception.
One of the 16 selected for the Indian Panorama at the
coming International Film Festival of India in Hyderabad.
"Agnisakshi" is set in the 1940s, the years
that saw the fire for freedom rage with unbelievable
But in the Namboodiri home that Shyamaprasad's camera
takes one into, thought and action are enslaved in age-old
tradition and practices, and for Devaki, who steps into
this formidable fortress as the young bride of Unni,
there seems to be no escape. As a husband, Unni does
not lack love or devotion, but his passion lies elsewhere.
He shuts himself, as his father and family would want
suffocating beliefs .
If Devaki had to take the undesirable and harsh route
out of this by renouncing her husband, her sister -in-law,
Thankam, a product of 'sambandam' between a Namboodiri
man and a Nair woman, is luckier. She forces her family
to agree to her education and ends many shades happier
than Devaki can hope to.
This, in fact, is the more positive and enlightening
side of 'Agnisakshi', which unfortunately fritters away
a good chance of being far more remarkable than what
it actually turns out to be. Based on a story by Lalithambika
Antharjanam, Shyamaprasad, despite a degree of sophistication
and craftsmanship, falls victim to populist pulls. "Agnisakshi"
could have been more visual than so vocal that it actually
is. The beauty of silence has been given the go by,
especially so by the background score that punctuates
just about every sentence spoken. The movie calls for
greater trimming as well.
If Rajit Kapur virtually gets into the role of a Namboodiri
as Unni, and gives a classic and convincing performance,
and Praveena as young Thankam holds out promise. Shobhana
as Devaki is disappointing. There is a great deal of
incompleteness in her characterization. Her transformation
from a shy, eager bride, to a political activist to
a sanyasin is more make-believe than cinema itself can