Agraharathil Kazhuthai (Donkey in the Brahmin Village) (1978) - John Abraham

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Director: John Abraham

"Abraham, who is now labelled as an "avant-gardist", "anarchist", or "nomad of Indian cinema", was actually more directly engaged with people than any other Indian filmmaker of the period or since, having initiated the Odessa Collective, which managed to fund the production of the film through contributions during screenings of Chaplin's The Kid, and thereafter released non-commercially -- "for whomever so desires them". Donkey in an Elite Colony, with echoes of Vertov and Buñuel (and less significantly, Bresson), astonishes, considering the conditions in which it was made, put together, not for such substantial use of non-professional performers (unprecedented in Indian cinema?) nor for its rough manner of incorporating didacticism and poeticism, but for the delirious, short montage effects (in particular, the university graffiti sequence and later, a mountaintop killing) which articulate the visceral force with which Abraham is driving toward expressions of emotion and consciousness". (

"I have always felt to compare John Abraham with Bunuel. As Bunuel is unknown to the main stream movie goers, John is a totally ignored figure in Indian cinema. He had the strong command over his medium as Bunuel had. The themes of his movies can more or less be compared to that of Bunuel's. John was a social critic and his movies had a great lot of humor.
I remember seeing his film "Agraharathil Kazhuthai" in a special screening organized by a film club.
Many critics have argued that the Donkey symbolized the Pope and some said it portrayed the prime minister. I remember reading an interview with John in which he said that "movie is not a medium of symbolism. The donkey just portrayed a donkey. If you say it is pope, or it's the Prime minister or its John himself, I won't say anything. What I meant is a donkey only".
John had made only four films, and he met a very tragic death, while he was preparing his fifth. He was a full time wino and had lived a nomadic life. From the words of those who had lived and talked with John, I have felt that he possessed great altruistic love towards all. He would hug a prostitute in crowd and say, I am not doing this out of lust, but I love you. Every one else love you for the night…But I need you in this broad day light. Knowing Johns attitude towards women, I have felt that Agraharathil Kazhuthai is a strong film about the ill-treatment of women, particularly low class women in Indian society. John had perfect mastery over his medium. We can feel the adeptness, from the beautiful shot composition and masterful camera work that resembles even Bunuel or Hitchcock in that respect. John had said-"I am the Hitler of my cinema". Obviously only few filmmakers from India can say that".
Roby Kurian

My brief take: This film, like all Abraham's films, owes much more to Ghatak than to Ray - in its stark and cruel force, in its much subtler criticisms of Indian society, in its sincere and lucid hopelessness. It astonishes by the utter control of emotions and images; by the fact that, even though Abraham is an Indian Catholic, the plot is so deeply rooted in South Indian Hindu mythology; by its beautiful yet dispassionate footage; and by the steady unfolding of the plot. This copy's image is far from good (I suggest you increase the contrast to disguise it) but, alas, it's the only one available in the world, ripped from a VCD. Abraham's films, sadly, are yet to be released on DVD. Despite the image quality, I strongly recommend this one.

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Hardcoded English Subtitle


ras said...

wow... wr did u get this move.
thx 4 ur valuable post.

Arun P said...

Dead Link.... Please Reupload

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