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aka One’s own Choice aka Betrothal by Choice 1972 131’ b&w Malayalam d/co-sc/st Adoor Gopalakrishnan p Kulathoor Bhaskaran Nair pc Chitralekha Film Co-op co-sc K.P. Kumaran c Ravi Varma m M.B. Srinivasan lp Sharada, Madhu, Thikkurisi Sukumaran Nair, Adoor Bhawani, Lalitha, Gopi, P.K. Venukuttan Nair, Janardhan Nair, B.K. Nair, Vaikom Chandrasekharan Nair, G. Shankara Pillai

In Gopalakrishnan’s debut feature, Viswam (Madhu) and Seeta (Sharada) come to the city as eloped lovers, but although the social pressures to conform may be less stifling, the economic pressures make their survival increasingly precarious. They move from their expensive hotel to a cheaper one, and eventually to a slum, with a smuggler, a rice seller and a prostitute for neighbours. Viswam, who is also a writer, has his novel turned down, and then loses his job as a lecturer. Eventually he dies in poverty, leaving Seeta a destitute widow with a small baby. In the end, as she puts the child to sleep, she hears a knock at the door and looks up into camera. This shot is held for a while, raising the question of the viewers’ implication in the conditions portrayed in the film. A bitter drama redeemed by the passion the lovers bear for each other, represented by the child which deserves a better deal out of life than the parents received. The immiseration of the couple is not presented as a punishment for infringing some repressive moral code, which is a refreshing change in this type of melodrama in Kerala; instead, Gopalakrishnan raises the issue of collective responsibility in an impressively cinematic manner.