Sunday, May 26, 2024
Writers Cave


“Swayamvaram: One’s Own Choice” is a significant Malayalam art film directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan in 1972. The movie is part of the New Wave cinema movement in Malayalam cinema, and it introduced new techniques of film presentation while focusing on cinematic art over traditional storytelling. The film tells the story of a newlywed couple, Vishwam and Sita, who marry against their families’ wishes and attempt to build a life together. The title, “Swayamvaram,” refers to the ancient Indian practice where a girl chooses her husband from a list of suitors. The couple faces various challenges and hardships as they embark on their journey.

Vishwam, an educated but unemployed aspiring writer, and Sita, who is unable to find employment due to financial constraints, leave their hometown and initially stay in a decent hotel. However, their financial situation worsens, and they eventually move to a slum. They even have to sell Sita’s jewelry to make ends meet. Vishwam initially finds a job as a zoology teacher in a college but loses it later. He then takes a job as a clerk in a timber shop with a meager salary. Despite their financial struggles, they try to create a happy home with their newborn baby.

Tragedy strikes when Vishwam falls ill and ultimately passes away, leaving Sita alone with their infant child. Despite receiving advice to return to her parents, Sita chooses to remain independent and raise her child on her own. “Swayamvaram” is celebrated for its groundbreaking approach to filmmaking. It marked a departure from the conventional storytelling methods and embraced a more artistic and experimental style of cinema. This made it a pioneer in the New Wave cinema movement in Malayalam cinema. The film’s title for international release was often “One’s Own Choice,” and it was also showcased at the Moscow International Film Festival under the title “On Own Will.” Various translations of the Malayalam title have been used to make it accessible to a wider audience.

The film featured relatively unknown actors in the lead roles, with Sharada and Madhu portraying Sita and Vishwam, respectively. Sharada, initially hesitant about acting in an art film, agreed after hearing the story. Madhu, who was an old friend of the director, expressed his desire to act in the film. “Swayamvaram: One’s Own Choice” is a landmark Malayalam film that challenged traditional storytelling techniques and contributed significantly to the world of cinema, particularly in the Malayalam film industry. It remains a testament to the creative and artistic potential of cinema as an art form. The film concludes with Sita feeding her baby and gazing at a painting from the Indian Hindu epic Ramayana, depicting Sita’s swayamvaram, serving as a symbol of determination. – WILLIAMSJI MAVELI

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