John Abraham (director)

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John Abraham
Born (1937-08-11)11 August 1937
Chennamkary, Kuttanadu, Alleppey[1][2]
Died 31 May 1987(1987-05-31) (aged 49)
Calicut, Kerala, India
Occupation Film director, screenwriter
Spouse(s) unmarried
"A Wonder in World Cinema" – Adoor Bhasi

John Abraham (11 August 1937 – 31 May 1987) was a Malayali Indian filmmaker, short story writer and screenwriter. He was perhaps famous for his style of living and way of thinking than for his films. He attained a legendary status, living a nomadic kind of life. He rebelled against all the established ways of life as well as film making. John Abraham is recognised as a genius in Malayalam cinema. He made his mark with the Tamil film Agraharathil Kazhuthai, but is possibly remembered most for his efforts in starting a people's cinema movement, an absolute form of independent filmmaking called Odessa Collective.

John is ranked among the greatest Indian film directors. His film Amma Ariyan (1986) was the only south Indian feature film to make the list of "Top 10 Indian Films" of all time by British Film Institute.[3] Agraharathil Kazhuthai was listed among the "100 Greatest Indian Films" of all time by IBN Live's 2013 poll.[4]

Early life

John Abraham was born in [chennamkary, Kuttanad] in 1937.[1][2] He completed his intermediate studies in C.M.S,College,at Kottayam staying with his grandfather. It was his grandfather who nurtured Abraham's talent in early days. After completing his degree in [history and politics] from Marthoma College, Thiruvalla, he worked as a private college teacher and latter he joined as an office assistant with Life Insurance Corporation of India in Uduppi, Karnataka. After that he joined the FTII, Pune and there he met film-makers such as Ritwik Ghatak and Mani Kaul. Abraham graduated out of the FTII with gold medals in screenwriting and film direction. He entered the film industry working as an assistant director to Mani Kaul for the film Uski Roti (1969, Hindi). He has worked for some Hindi projects that was shot in Kerala, but none were released. Abraham's first attempt in direction came in 1967 named Vidyarthikale Ithile Ithile. It was the Tamil film Agraharathil Kazhuthai (1977) that elevated Abraham to fame.

Career in film direction

Considered an avant-garde film director and writer, he completed only four films, namely Vidyarthikale Ithile Ithile (1972), Agraharathil Kazhuthai (1977, Tamil), Cheriachante Krurakrithyangal (1979, Malayalam) and Amma Ariyan (1986, Malayalam), all four written and directed by him.

Odessa Collective

It was under the leadership of Abraham that Odessa Collective came into existence in 1984 with a street drama in Fort Kochi named Nayakali (The game of dogs). Odessa was an attempt by a group of movie enthusiasts to change the history of film production and distribution by making it a collaborative effort with the public and thus act as an empowering and liberating medium.[5] For the financing of the first film produced by Odessa, John and his friends travelled through villages and collected money from the general public.[6] Odessa also collected funds for the film by screening Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. The film, Amma Ariyan (Report to mother) (1986) was exhibited across the state of Kerala on a non-commercial basis,[7] an initiative kept alive, after John's death, by his colleague and co-founder of Odessa Collective, Odessa Sathyan.[8]

He started shooting a documentary based on the life of E.M.S. Namboodiripad, but never completed it.

The "John Legend"

The media called him Ottayan (The Lone Tusker). John Abraham attained mythical proportions even during his short life span, living a nomadic existence, who rebelled all the established ways. He was also an alcoholic, and died after falling from the rooftop in Calicut on 31 May 1987. John was a romantic artist, who believed that cinema could be used as an effective tool for social changes. He tried to by-pass the tyranny of market forces by establishing direct relationship with the people. No wonder that the man who made unparalleled films like Agraharathil Kazhuthai and Amma Ariyan was more acceptable among the illiterate villagers than the intelligentsia of Kerala. He has left behind a number of complete and incomplete scripts. A collection of his stories had been published under the title Nerchakkozhi. Another collection of his stories has been published posthumously under the title John Abrahaminte Kathakal by Pakshikkottam Books, Thiruvananthapuram in 1993.


On 30 May 1987 John was admitted to the Calicut Medical College hospital following his fall from a house top after a get together party. He was not identified by the hospital authorities, and allegedly not given due attention and medical care, which caused his condition to deteriorate, leading to his death on 31 May.[9] Following the allegations of medical negligence, a departmental inquiry was conducted into the incident. 26 years after John's death, social activist Dr. B. Ekbal who was a surgeon at the Calicut Medical College when John was admitted for treatment, revealed that the director could have been saved if his identity was known to the doctors at the time of admission. He said the doctors at the casualty didn't know John and mistook him for a film representative when he said that he was a filmmaker. In a Facebook post, Ekbal said the doctors failed to diagnose internal bleeding suffered by John and to check his blood pressure which could have prevented him from slipping into a shock through a timely surgery.[10]


  • 1967: Koyna Nagar – Director (in English) – Unreleased
  • 1969: Priya – Director (in Hindi) – (John's Diploma film at FTII, Pune)
  • 1969: Hides and Strings – Director (in English)
Feature films


  • Nerchakkozhi (1986)
  • John Abraham Kathakal (1993)


National Film Awards:

Kerala State Film Awards:

Awards in memory of John Abraham


  1. 1.0 1.1 K. N. Shaji, ed. (2011). John Abraham. Chintha Publishers.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Skaria Mathew (16–22 June 2013). Mathrubhumi Weekly: 22.CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Top 10 Indian Films". British Film Institute. 2002. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "'Mayabazar' is India's greatest film ever". IBNLive. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  5. Economic Times of India: John Abraham: New Indian Cinema's most creative representative
  8. "Mathrubhumi". Article and video. Mathrubhumi. 19 August 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Abhish K Bose (12 June 2013). Later, noted neuro-surgeon and a pro C.P.M party leader Dr.B.Iqbal lamented and apologized John Abraham's pathetic death. While John was fighting for his life at the casualty room in Calicut Medical College, Dr.Iqbal was working there. "John Abraham was unknown to medical staff". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  10. "26 years after John Abraham’s death, an autopsy on Facebook". The Hindu. 13 June 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013.

External links

Further reading

  • Kandukuri Ramesh Babu. A Tribute to John Abraham, an Avant-Garde Film Director.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>