Vanaprastham is the story of Kunhikuttan played by Mohanlal. He is a Kathakali dancer who is admired and respected for his performance but he belongs to a lower class. His upper caste father refuses to accept him and he struggles to come to terms with his poverty and discontent. He is caught in an arranged marriage where he finds no reprieve. It is only because of his daughter that he is bearing the burden of an unhappy relation.
While performing as Arjuna one day he comes across Subhadra (Suhasini), the daughter-in-law of the Travancore diwan. She is a well-educated lady and belongs to an upper caste family. They fall in love but Subhadra is rather in love with the mythological character Arjuna than Kunhikuttan. Although they break the established norms of the society and have a son, soon Subhadra gets over him and denies access to his own. As Kunhikuttan returns back to stage he is offered to play demonic characters instead of the heroes. While paying these dark characters similar darkness envelops him and he grows embittered and resentful. The film ends with a superb Kathakali performance by Kunhikuttan.
Mohanlal's performance in Vanaprastham is flawless. His portrayal of an alcoholic, unrecognized artist who feels happy only when he is going on stage to perform is perfect. His subtle playacting won him the National Award that year for Vanaprastham.
The Malayalam film was well appreciated at Cannes. Shaji Karun was awarded the 'Chevalier dans ordre des arts et letters' in France as well. The music for the film was composed by Zakir Hussain. The cinematography of Vanaprastham is credited to Renato Berta and Santosh Shivan. The film was produced by Mohanlal's Pranavam Arts.
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