Born on 11th August 1937 in Chennamkary, Kuttanadu,
John Abraham was a Malayali Indian Filmmaker, short story writer and a screenwriter although he was more acknowledged for his style of living and his way of thinking than for his films. At FTII under the guidance of
Ritwik Ghatak and of Mani Kaul John studied Filmmaking, whom he assisted on Uski Roti (1969). Later in 1970, John moved to Madras, where he filmed his first feature, Vidyarthikale Ithile Ithile, in 1971, in Malayalam.
He was known to be the greatest Indian film directors. His film Amma Ariyan, in 1986 was the first and only South Indian film in the history to be counted in ‘Top 10 Indian Films’ of all time by the British Film Institute. And according to the IBN Live’s 2013 poll, this film was listed among the 100 Greatest Indian Films of all time. John earned fame and made his mark in the industry with the Tamil film, Agraharathi Kazhuthai.
Although he is more recognized and is popular for his effort towards starting a people’s cinema movement, which is an outright form of Independent Filmmaking called Odessa Collective. He belongs to the Vazhakkat Branch, Chennamkary of the Pattamukkil family. He completed his intermediate studies from the C.M.S. College, in Kottayam, while staying with his grandfather. Major credit for nurturing John’s career and talent goes to his grandfather. He pursued history and politics from Marthoma College, Thiruvalla, and later after the course, he worked as a private teacher for a few years and later worked as an office assistant with Life Insurance Corporation of India in Udupi, Karnataka.
After getting done with the job, he joined FTII, Pune from where he graduated winning several gold medals in screenwriting and film direction. John has worked on several Hindi Projects that he filmed in Kerela, but none of them released. He was considered to be an evant- Garde film director and writer. Throughout his career of only 15 years, he wrote and directed four films, named Vidyarthikale Ithile Ithi , in 1972, Agraharathi Kazhuthai, in 1977, Cheria chante Krura krithyangal, in 1979, and Amma Ariyan, in 1986.
There many other scripts which he wrote but are left half finished. He has written and directed three documentaries, Koyna Nagar (In English, 1967), Priya (In Hindi,1969) and Hides and Strings(In English, 1969) throughout his career. The Odessa Collective movement was initiated by John in 1984 in Fort Kochi through a street drama named Nayakali. John’s attempt with Odessa , was to congregate the group of movie fanatics towards changing the history of film production and distribution by making it a collaborative effort with the public and being an empowering and liberating medium. Through this, John acquired an eminent status and lived the Nomadic kind of life.
For collecting capital for his first film that was to be produced by his idea of Odessa, John along with his friends travelled through several villages and raised money from the general public. He believed that cinema con is used as an impactful and effectual tool for social changes in the society. He tried to build a relationship with people, passing the tyranny of market forces His hard work, made him win two National awards for Best Feature Film, in 1977 and Special Jury Award, in 1987.
He has also won a special Jury Award, in 1979, by the Kerala State Film Award. John died after falling and collapsing from the rooftop in Calicut on 30st May 1987 after a get-together party as he was drunk being an alcoholic. The doctors failed to diagnose his internal bleeding, and due to the hospital’s negligence, John lost his life. Throughout his short 15year span of the career, he could only write and direct four films. Many of his scripts are left incomplete. There are two books written on his life journey, Nerchakkozhi, in 1986 and John Abraham Kathakal, in 1993.