Cinematters’ note: This Guest post is by P.S.Remesh Chandran, Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Remesh Chandran blogs at SAHYADRI BOOKS and you can mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the middle ages, an experienced and specialized worker could work and make his living only if he joined the respective Guild. Painting, drawing, sculpting, moulding, gold-working, all were controlled by the respective guilds. The guild master or the foreman of that particular guild would be the omnipotent in that particular field of human activity. Plumbers, painters, artists, brick-builders, kiln-workers, goat-herders all had their own guilds. The powers of these guilds were such that they controlled the respective industry, enterprise or establishment as the case may be. The guild master and foreman could do with or do without any worker. People and their families lost their lives or living, according to the whims and fancies of these guild masters.
In the Sixteenth century, power of the guild was such unquestionable and unbreakable that even Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci could not attempt a painting or undertake a sculpture without their consent. Sixteenth century was an age of reawakening of thought and knowledge when art and literature flourished, knowledge became fashionable and science began to stir- all termed under the common title of Renaissance. The Industrial Revolution followed soon, and its aftermaths, the Political Revolutions that shook the world. When these mammoth tides receded, there were no traces of these notorious guilds remaining on the shores of history. The shores were washed up and kept clean and industries along with their domains employed other tools and activities to engage social activities. New forms of artistic expressions sought shape and included the coming of the Great Cinemas.
It was during this great age of the movie experience that the artists began to be endowed with great freedom.It was full and its momentum such forceful that even after a hundred years it still reigns. A great many of the classic English, French and Italian cinemas expostulated the sublime beauty and ultimate freedom of man, the feelings of freedom emanating from which culminated in grand political actions in the European arena and elsewhere. In France, Jean Paul Sartre opened up new vistas of this freedom. His conception of man’s freedom was such limitless that while walking through the Paris streets he began to think : ” Why can’t I walk as I like, as if there is no traffic on the roads? Let the cabs stop and remain there till I cross! He never obeyed traffic rules, to the embarrassment of the French Police, the Surete. But the French President, Gen. Charles De Gaulle ordered never to touch Sartre, even if he disobeyed traffic rules, to satisfy international anxiety and out of respect for this man !
At around these times of reawakening and exploring new realms of self-expression, in another corner of the world, called Kerala, Malayalam movies began to be produced. The indigenous community, who were great admirers of, and guided by those lofty ideals which auto-shaped world cinema embraced the new art form and the ideas that spawned and were discussed onscreen ( albeit wrapped up in mostly melodramatic tripe but valuable, nevertheless).
Hardly a few decades in the making, surprisingly, Malayalam cinema took a turn to the bad, as regard to artist-technician-director-producer inter- relations. For the first time, through various heinous and hideous methods, it appears as though the ‘old world’ discarded guild system has returned to, through, Malayalam cinema.
Talented artists, technicians, producers and directors began to be banned from work, ousted from associations and hunted for their dire opinions. The only thing they did not attempt to do was a Skimmetty Ride such as we see in the novels of Thomas Hardy. Once it was real pleasure to see Mammootty, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Thilakan, Sreenivasan, Nedumudi Venu and Jagathy Sreekumar all in one film but now that time is past, for the time being. Renaissance teaches us that petty and puny guilds cannot hinder the free expression of ideas, art and talent in a free and modern nation. Man’s ultimate freedom for expression of ideas and talents, and his right to earn a living through them is paramount. It is the guilds which would be swept away to smithereens in the coming tides.
From a time when characters came first in Malayalam Cinema.