Master Carpenter, The: Indian Director Ajayan’s Feature Debut

Based on the legend of Perumthachan, hailed as Mayan, the incarnation of the architect of the gods, The Master Carpenter, Ajayan’s feature debut, reveals an incredibly talented filmmaker with remarkable narrative and technical skills. In its authenticity, sincerity, beauty and magic, pic recalls the best work of Satyajit Ray. Proper marketing and platforming of epic Indian film might increase prospects for limited theatrical release beyond the fest circuit into the art house audiences.

Ajayan tells the compelling story of Raman (Thilkan), the abandoned child of a Brahmin scholar and a low-caste mother. Inspite of his amazing ability to carve religious statues, build sublime temples, and interpret the holy scriptures, he is considered inferior by the Brahmin families who hire him. Raman envies his son Kannan (Prasanth), whose technical prowess and personal strength may surpass his own. Epic tale is centered around Kannan’s tragic romance with the daughter of a rich Brahmin whom he carves into a statue of the goddess.

Dealing with the important issues of caste and class, Master Carpenter highlights the price paid by individuals living in a rigid social system, in which romantic and sexual repression are used to maintain the status quo. Narrative successfully weaves an intricate story of class and generational conflicts, illuminating the detrimental effects of professional envy and fear on freedom and creativity.

Boasting the structure of a classic narrative, Master Carpenter, which recalls Satyajit (the Apu trilogy) Ray’s style, is a human document of timeless simplicity and stunning radiance. Like Ray, Ajayan strategy is based on a meticulous accumulation of details that reveal the inherent tension between the external and inner lives of diverse characters situated on opposite poles of the class spectrum.

Ajayan skillfully blends long takes and slow camera movement with reaction shots of the protagonists. The film captures vividly the pleasure derived from creative work by artists who are socially inferior but professionally superior. Subtly but forcefully, helmer shows the sexual passion and repressed emotions behind the upper class’s seemingly graceful and calm facade.

Ajayan’s origins in cinematography (he worked as cameraman and director on several documentaries) are most visible, though it’s hard to believe Master Carpenter is a first film. Production values of tasteful pic are first-rate, especially Sivan’s exquisite lensing and Johnson’s evocative music.

Perumthachan (India drama)


Produced by Bhavachitra.
Directed by Ajayan.
Screenplay, M.T. Vasudevan Nair.
Camera, Santosh Sivan;
editor, M.S. Money;
music, Johnson; art direction, P. Krisnamorthy.
Reviewed at Toronto Festival of Festivals, Sept. 12, 1992.

Running time: 130 min.



Also with: Nedumudivenu, Manoj, M.S. Tripunithura,
Babu Manboodri.