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Ashokan from Alappuzha was engaged in painting a house as part of construction work, when he was announced winner of best costume design this year.

Ashokan sewing a piece of cloth with his machine, face bent down with a smile
Flix Interview Tuesday, October 27, 2020 - 21:31

On the October day that television reporters gathered outside his house in Paravoor, Alappuzha, Ashok Kumar said that he had to go to work. So they followed him, reporters, cameras and mic sets in cue, to a house one and a half kilometers away, where Ashokan – as he is known – had to do some painting as part of construction work. He couldn’t miss the day’s work or wages that had brought him an income the past six to seven months. That noon, news of his winning the Kerala State Award for Best Costume Designer, had just been announced. After 25 years in cinema, Ashokan won the award for his work in Kenjira, a film on tribal people in Kerala.

Read: ‘Kenjira’, a film of and by tribal people in Kerala

“Director (of Kenjira) Manoj Kana has been living among the tribal people of Wayanad for a while, so he knew exactly what was needed. It was not easy, getting costumes ready for the old times narrated in the film, for rituals and weddings, but with his support and knowledge, it was possible,” Ashokan says in an interview to TNM.

He has been doing many interviews in the last two weeks, ever since the awards were announced. There’s been a lot of functions to honour him too, organised by panchayats and others. So Ashokan has not gone for construction work since the day he won the award. “That’s not to say I will never do it. The lockdown to contain the coronavirus brought no work (in films) for months and I had to earn a living. The painting work brought 800 to 900 rupees a day. For 25 years before that, I have only worked in costume design for cinema. There must have been 200 odd films where I worked as an assistant, before turning independent with director Vinayan sir’s Yakshiyum Njanum,” Ashokan says.

In some of the films that he worked in, Ashokan also played small roles. He fondly remembers a part he did in one of the CBI movies that Mammootty has famously played detective Sethurama Iyer for. He also played a small role in Kenjira.

Ashokan did the costumes for all three of Manoj Kana’s films, a man in the habit of making award winning films. Chayilyam, his first on a woman forced to play ‘goddess’, won the state award for best story, and Amoeba, his second film on endosulfan victims, won another state award.

Ashokan need not be bogged down by the pandemic any longer. His next work, again for Manoj Kana, will begin next month.

He lives in Paravoor with his wife Usha, sons Aswin and Ananthakrishnan. Daughter Aswathy lives in her marital home. Ashokan is a grandfather to two of her kids.

Also read: ‘Many trained talented artistes are unrecognised’: Kani Kusruti interview

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