The Rat Trap / Elippathayam

The Rat Trap / Elippathayam

Dir : Adoor Gopalakrishnan / India / 121 minutes / Malayalam / 1981


The head of a decaying joint family, Unni lives with his two younger sisters in his village ancestral home. Janamma, his asser­tive elder sister,is away,married and a mother of grown up children. She fights for her share of crops and property. Rajamma, the second sister, is docile and self-effacing and is vir­tually enslaved by her brother’s childlike de­pendence on her. In her late thirties, she remains unmarried, mute, a victim of her brother’s insensitiveness and outdated values. She toils and is expected to have no personal urges. But the youngest, Sridevi, is defiant and practical. Exposed to the world outside, she is neither relenting nor submissive.

Unni is, in fact, the last link in the line of a feudal joint family which has for long lived on the fruits of others’ labour. The languor and leisure thus afforded has rendered them lethargic and insensitive. The land-holdings are today divided and the deeply entrenched matrilineal joint family has crumbled. Yet some of the jaded values of the old order have survived. As an inheritor of this legacy, Unni is caught between the two — the decadent past and the inhospitable present. He cannot face any inconvenient situation — even when confronted with everyday problems, he evades them and withdraws like a rat into a dark hole.Haunted by a sense of guilt and isolation, he slowly slips into paranoia.

Primarily it is the story of Unni who repre­sents some of the worst traits of a parasitic privileged class. He is extremely egocentric and at the same time nurses a sense of guilt. As is often the case with such self-centred creatures who are weak willed,with genera­tions of ease and plenty behind them, Unni suffers from a schizophrenic nervousness and indecision. He is incapable of dealing with the demands of a Changing world.

Festivals/ Awards:

Festivals: Cannes, Paris, La Rochelle, Nantes, Pesaro, Munich, Ljubljana, London, Valladolid, Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, New York, Havana, Alexandria, Sao Paulo, Sydney and Melbourne among others.


  • British Film Institute Award for the ‘Most Original and Imaginative film’ of 1982.
  • National Awards for the Best Regional Film and Best Audiography.
  • Kerala State Awards for Best Film, Best Cinematography and Best Audiography.


Story, Script & Direction – Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Producer – Ravi
Executive Producer – T. C. Shankar
Cinematographer – Ravi Varma
Sound – Devadas
Music – M. B. Srinivasan
Editor – M. Mani


Karamana Janardanan Nair, Sarada, Jalaja, Rajam K. Nair, Prakash, Somasekharan Nair, John Samuel, B. K. Nair, Joycee, B. Nair