Ever felt tormented recalling some events from the ‘past’? Well, that’s what catalyses each one of us to form a ‘future script’ of our lives. What begins as a nervous-breakdown might soon morph into madness, if it remains uncontrollable! Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s ‘Anantaram’ (1987) deals with this subject thoroughly albeit from the perspective of our unreliable narrator, Ajayan. And watching the film for the second time had a quite different effect on me.
Being abandoned during his birth, Ajayan spends his early years getting nursed by the hospital staff. Later on, his life changes for good when he gets adopted by ‘Doctor Uncle’, as Ajayan addresses him. What follows further is a set of two stories, exactly opposite from one another, both told by the narrator. Thus, it is the style of Adoor’s storytelling that creates a lasting effect on the viewers, leaving them with a choice to segregate the truth and imagination of our protagonist, based on their ‘own experience’.
The first story begins with a smart, athletic, bookish Ajayan who stands out from the rest of the children of his age. Growing up as a confident and opinionated young man, Ajayan’s life turns topsy-turvy when he gets attracted to his foster brother Balu’s (Mammootty) wife Suma (Shobana). This leads to a series of conflicts, with Ajayan unable to move on with his so-called love or obsession.
Upon reaching the conclusion of his first narration, Ajayan has second-thoughts as he starts afresh. The second story lays a much more focus on his adolescence where our protagonist is highly influenced by the three servants of the house. And what’s Ajayan for them? A mere toy boy or just a play time. They unknowingly make Ajayan feel tormented at a very young age. To the contrary of the first story, Ajayan, here has a seemingly happy love life until reality strikes again!
At the end, it’s up to the viewers’ perception to figure out the thin line between truth and imagination in Ajayan’s life story.
Credits to Adoor Gopalakrishnan for another fine work of art, ‘Anantaram’ has topped my list of personal favourite films.
(Do Watch Anantaram, Available on YouTube)