KG George obituary: A luminary who altered language of Indian new-wave cinema
In the diverse tapestry of Indian cinema, some filmmakers stand as towering pillars, shaping cinematic art with their unique vision; KG George was one of them
In an irreparable loss to the Malayalam film industry, veteran filmmaker and National Award winner KG George has passed away at the age of 78. But who was this luminary known as KG George?
George was a maestro who, with his genius, not only altered the lexicon and syntax of Indian new-wave cinema but, more specifically, the very realm of the Malayali’s screen language. Without an iota of doubt, he stands as a legend, who breathed transformative artistry into the very fabric of the cinematic expression of a generation.
In the vast and diverse tapestry of Indian cinema, certain filmmakers stand as towering pillars, shaping the course of cinematic art with their unique vision and indelible contributions. KG George is undeniably one such luminary.
Nurtured with a profound passion for the arts during his upbringing in Thiruvalla, George exhibited an early leaning towards the realms of storytelling and cinema. After his diploma from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, he commenced his cinematic journey as an assistant director to renowned filmmaker Ramu Kariat. This initial exposure provided him with invaluable insights and an opportunity to hone his craft.
KG George’s trailblazing films
Each of his films emerged as trailblazers in their respective genres. Swapnadanam (Journey Through Dream) delved into the human psyche, while Mela (The Fest) grappled with the formation of societal norms, with a “person of short stature” in the lead. Yavanika (The Curtain) made its mark as one of the pioneering investigative thrillers with intellectual depth in Malayalam cinema. Irakal (Victims), while reflecting the patriarchal view of the upper-class Christian community, chronicled the lives of settler farmers in central Kerala.
In Adaminte Variyellu, (Adam’s Rib) he made an effort to engage with issues of class and feminism. The concluding sequence of the film, where a group of women from a rescue home rampage over the crew and director of the film, was a visually striking representation brilliantly executed. Panchavadippalam (The Panchavadi Bridge), which dealt with political corruption, continues to maintain its timeless status within the realm of social satire in Malayalam cinema.
George’s directorial debut, Swapnadanam (1976), marked the inception of a remarkable career that would redefine Malayalam cinema. The film, a psychological drama by genre, was a poignant exploration of how familial relationships and societal expectations play a significant role in the human psyche. The narrative, deeply rooted in the human psyche, showcased George’s adeptness at delving into the complexities of the human mind through the character Parameswaran, brilliantly played by Dr Mohandas. The story was penned by Prof. Eledath Mohamed aka Psycho Mohammed, a psychologist by vocation, while the screenplay was co-authored by Pamman, renowned for his soft adult fiction in Malayalam literature.
Keen eye for societal nuances
Following this impressive debut, George continued to enthrall audiences with a string of masterful films. Mela (1980) delved into the sociopolitical dynamics of a village, highlighting the struggles of marginalized communities with a person of short stature in the lead. The film, characterized by its socio-realistic portrayal, further solidified George’s position as a filmmaker with a keen eye for societal nuances.
In 1983, George’s Adaminte Variyellu was released, marking a pinnacle in his career. The film was a searing critique of the patriarchal structure of society, exploring the lives of three women trapped in a misogynistic world. With brilliant storytelling and exceptional performances, the film garnered widespread acclaim and several prestigious awards.
His subsequent film, Irakal, fearlessly explored the psychology of violence, placing the protagonist’s self-contained manifestation of sociopathic traits at the heart of the narrative. However, in the eyes of this journalist, the film portrayed the patriarchal values entrenched within an affluent Jacobite Christian family from the central Travancore region, where Christian morality was deeply ingrained as a fundamental principle. This particular film, while receiving critical acclaim, is profoundly problematic due to its inherent nuances in micro-politics, including its engagement with the act of rape and sexuality.
Portraying the mundane with an extraordinary touch
George’s filmmaking style was characterized by an emphasis on realistic portrayal and profound exploration of human emotions and societal structures. He had an extraordinary ability to bring out authentic performances from his actors, which added depth and realism to his narratives.
One of the distinct aspects of George’s films was his meticulous attention to detail, evident in every frame and dialogue. He believed in portraying the mundane with an extraordinary touch, finding beauty in the ordinary. This approach not only made his films visually stunning but also added a layer of authenticity that resonated with the audience.
Yavanika (1982) was a thriller that explored the lives of theater artists, unraveling their dreams and dilemmas. It could be easily termed as one of the first investigative films in Malayalam with an intellectual quotient. Lekhayude Maranam: Oru Flashback (1983) was a complex narrative set in the field of Malayalam cinema itself. In Panchavadi Palam (1984), KG George provided a satirical commentary on political corruption and societal decay. This departure into the realm of social satire stands as a delightful deviation, and the film retains its position as the pinnacle of its genre in the annals of Malayalam cinema.
These films showcased George’s versatility as a filmmaker and his ability to navigate various genres with finesse. In his illustrious career, KG George received numerous accolades and awards, including the Kerala State Film Award for Best Director. His films were not only celebrated in India but also garnered international recognition, establishing him as a global force in cinema.
KG George remains an indispensable figure in Indian cinema, particularly the Malayalam film industry. His legacy as a visionary director and a trailblazer in the Indian new-wave movement continues to inspire filmmakers and cinephiles alike. Through his films, he delved into the human psyche, societal structures, and the complexities of human relationships, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of Indian cinema.