was born in Kerala, India
in 1941 into a family that patronized Kathakali and other
performing arts. He started acting on the amateur stage
at the early age of eight. Wrote and directed several
stage plays during his student days.
had his graduation from the Gandhigram Rural University in
1960 specializing in Economics, Political Science and Public
Administration. He left the governmental job of a statistical
investigator to study cinema at the Film Institute of India,
Pune in 1962. Graduating from the Film Institute of India
in1965 with specialization in Screenplay writing and Advanced
Film Direction, he pioneered the film society movement in
Kerala. The same year, he took the initiative to form India’s
first film co-operative for production, distribution and exhibition
of quality films.
has scripted and directed elevan feature films and about thirty
Shorts and documentaries. Notable amongst the non-feature
films are those on Kerala’s performing arts.
His debut feature, Swayamvaram went on to win the national
awards for best film, best director, best cameraman and best
All his films have won national and international awards (National
award for best film twice, best director four times, and best
script two times. His films have also won his actors and technicians
several national awards). Adoor’s third feature, Elippathayam
won him the coveted British Film Institute Award for 'the
most original and imaginative film' of 1982. The International
Film Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) has gone to him six times successively
for Mukhamukham, Anantaram, Mathilukal, Vidheyan, Kathapurushan
and Nizhalkkuthu. Winner of several international awards like
the UNICEF film prize (Venice), OCIC film prize (Amiens),
INTERFILM Prize (Mannheim) etc, his films have been shown
in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, London, Rotterdam and
every important festival around the world.
In consideration of his contribution to Indian cinema, the
nation honoured him with the title of Padmashri in 1984.
His collection of essays, Cinemayude Lokam (The World of Cinema)
was given the national award for the Best book on Cinema in
1984. Cinemaanubhavam (The Experience of Cinema), a collection
of articles dealing with the art and practice of cinema won
the Kerala State award (2004) for best book on Cinema.
His third book on cinema, Cinema, Saahityam, Jeevitham (Film,
literature and Life) was published in 2005.
In 2002, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington honoured
him by holding a complete retrospective of his work. Other
major retrospectives of his films include those at the Cinematheque
in Paris, La Rochelle, Pesaro, Lincoln Centre- New York, Fribourg,
Alexandria, Helsinki, Figuera de Foz, Brussels, Madrid, Lyons
etc. Tributes and homage at Cinematheque, Brooklyn Academy
of Music, Cleveland Cinematheque, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,
Denver Film Festival, Festival of Manosque etc.
has served on the juries of Venice, Singapore, Hawaii, Alexandria,
New Delhi, Sochi, Shanghai etc.
recognition of his contribution to international cinema, the
French Government has bestowed on him the title of ‘‘The
Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters’ a top French
honour for culture (2005).
In 2006 he received the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, India’s
highest national honour for Life- time achievement in cinema.
The same year Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala conferred
on him the honorary degree of D. Litt.
He has recently received India’s top civilian award,
Padma Vibhushan for his contribution to the Arts (Cinema).