“I have no intention of making any compromises. I wish to continue exactly like I have been doing. My films are much appreciated by the niche crowd of movie buffs and directors of world cinema. It gets the desired result. So coating it with sugar and drama for extra reach out to masses is not my cup of tea. I wouldn’t want to do that.” Dr Bijukumar Damodaran.
The Singapore Malayalee Association members had a hearty chat with Dr Biju, the famed director, who was in town to attend the Singapore South Asian International Film Festival (Sg.SAIFF) where his latest movie Veyilmarangal (Trees under the Sun), was being screened.
To date he has directed 10 films, all centred on important socially relevant themes ranging from terrorism, environmental concerns, agonies of people of marginalised segments of society and gender inequality.
Five of his films won National awards: VeettilekkullaVazhi (The Way Home),(2010)for Best Malayalam Film; Perariyathavar, (Names Unknown) (2013) for Best Film on Environment Conservation; Valiya Chirakula Pakshikal, (Birds with Large Wings) (2015), Best Film on Environment Conservation; Perariyathavar, Best Actor to Suraj Venjaramoodu (2013) and to Best Sound Designer to Jayadevan Chakkadath in Kaadu Pookkunna Neram, (When the Woods Bloom) (2016).
Thirteen of his films have won Kerala state film awards. His films have been screened at almost all the reputed international festivals like Cannes, Montreal, Cairo, Iran, Shanghai, Eurasia,Telluride, Jeonju and Indian Panorama film festival among others. Almost all his films have bagged various awards and accolades, either for direction, acting, screenplay, cinematography or sound design at these festivals.
In the recently concluded Sg.SAIFF, Indrans (stage name of actor Surendran Kochuvelu) a popular Malayalam actor won the best actor award in the film Veyilmarangal.
Earlier at the 22ndShanghai Film Festival, Veyilmarangal was among the 14 films shortlisted out of 3964 entries submitted from 112 countries in the prestigious Golden Goblet Award competition category. It went on to win the Outstanding Artistic Achievement Award. It was the first Indian film in six years to compete in the Shanghai Film Festival and the first Indian film to win an award at this festival.
Dr Biju, a homeopathic doctor by profession got into film making after attending International film festivals in Kerala. His passion for film making was triggered after watching Korean, Turkish and Iranian films of internationally reputed directors. This made him realise that it is possible to make such movies, and movies are not to be made for entertainment alone. This set him off on in his journey of filmmaking on serious themes though earlier he was into writing and publishing stories.
When asked if he has been threatened at any time as some of his films are on terrorism he replied, “No, but after my movie Kaadu Pookkunna Neram that dealt with the Maoist movement in Kerala that had two Maoists being killed in an encounter, a similar incident of Maoist killing took place in Kerala. That created a sensation and my films that used to be screened regularly in some colleges were banned from screening for a while.”
Regarding how people received his films in Kerala he lamented, “Generally in Kerala when a movie wins an award it is immediately kept away from the general public. Theatre owners ask if the movie has a won an award, and if it has it is generally not screened. A vey apathetic attitude is seen.” Dr Biju also stated that it is different in the Tamil film industry, where award-winning films draw crowds and appreciation.
His movie Valiya Chirakula Pakshikal, which deals with the horrendous effect of pesticide endosulfan poisoning caused by aerial spraying by the Kerala Government on cashew plantations in the Kasargode district of Kerala, is now considered as documentary evidence on the issue. Furthermore, Dr Biju and other members of the crew have been extending support to SNEHAM charitable organisation started by local activists on the cause. This organisation has now built SNEHAVEEDU, a Day Care Centre for persons with disabilities at Amabalathara in Kasargode which the crew continue to support.
One of Dr Biju’s movies is tied to Singapore as well. The music for his film Painting Life, which is an English film shot at Sikkim, the India-China border, was scored by Mark Chan, a popular Singaporean music director who is known for his style of blending Eastern and Western sounds.
His son Master Govardhan, 15years, has acted in his films too. He even won the best actor award in the movie Peraiyathavar at the Fajr International Film Festival, Tehran, Iran.
The Interactive Session with the director was held by Singapore Malayalee Association at their premises on Saturday,7th September.