Poster in Malayalam
|Directed by||John Abraham|
|Written by||Venkat Swaminathan|
M. B. Sreenivasan|
|Music by||M. B. Sreenivasan|
Agraharathil Kazhutai (lit. Donkey in the Brahmin ghetto) is a 1977 Tamil language satirical film. Directed by avant-garde film-maker John Abraham, the film had its screenplay by film critic Venkat Swaminathan. This was John's second film (his first in Tamil). Made as satire on the Brahminical bigotry and superstition, a donkey becomes the central character in the film. At the 25th National Film Awards, the film won the Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil. In 2013, IBN Live included the film in its list of 100 greatest Indian films of all time. It was inspired by Robert Bresson's French film Au Hasard Balthazar.
Narayanaswami, a professor and resident of a Brahmin village, adopts a new-born donkey after an enraged crowd kills its mother. The donkey becomes the sole companion to a deaf-mute maid who works in Narayanaswami's house. There is chaos among the villagers upon the arrival of the donkey and children start playing pranks on the donkey. Thinking that having a donkey in the village will ruin them, the villagers attack and kill the donkey. Soon after its death, miracles start happening in the village. Slowly people believe all that is because of the donkey and start worshipping its dead body. They arrange for a ritual funeral for the donkey before burning it. The fire spreads around the village and kills many people; Narayanaswami and Uma are the only survivors.
A graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India, John Abraham assisted Mani Kaul in Uski Roti (1969) before getting a break as an independent director in the 1971 Malayalam film Vidyarthikale Ithile Ithile. Agraharathil Kazhutai was his second feature film and first one in Tamil. He cited Robert Bresson's French film Au Hasard Balthazar as an inspiration for Agraharathil Kazhutai. Shooting locations included Loyola College and Kundrathur near Chengalpattu. The film took five years to complete.
Agraharathil Kazhutai received international acclaim. In 1978, Agraharathil Kazhutai won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil at the 25th National Film Awards. The jury noted John's usage of the verses of Tamil poet Subramania Bharati "for creating a parable set against the orthodoxies and superstitions of a Brahmin village community". It was screened under the Indian panorama of the International Film Festival of India in 1978. Along with a few other films, it pioneered the "new wave" movement in South Indian cinema. The film was banned in Tamil Nadu as it was seen as Brahmanical bigotry which might hurt the sentiments of Brahmins. Doordarshan was forced to cancel a scheduled telecast of the film. The film was seen as an 'under-appreciated' work but is regarded as a classic now. The film gave a much needed breakthrough for John Abraham. In 2013, IBN Live included it among the 100 greatest films of all-time in Indian cinema.
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