'Veettilekkulla Vazhi is at par with world cinema'
Dr Biju is known for serious films like Saira and Raman. His latest film, Veettilekkulla Vazhi (The way home), has Prithviraj playing a doctor with a noble heart. A dying suicide bomber requests him to find her son and to hand the child over to his father, a dreaded terrorist. The film follows the journey of the doctor and the boy as they travel from a remote Kerala village to Jaisalmer, Pushkar and Ladakh.
Veettilekkulla Vazhi has been shown in several film festivals and has won quite a number of prestigious awards, including the National Award for the best feature film in Malayalam.
In an exclusive chat with Meghna George writer-director Dr Biju explains the appeal of the movie and why more such films are required.
What is the response to Veettilekkulla Vazhi ?
There is a positive response from an elite group of audience at the theatres. We find an audience among movie buffs who welcome film festivals and enjoy watching films at such events.
What is the response from the film industry?I don't know. No one has called me to talk about the film after watching it. But then, they hadn't called me even when the film got the National Award.
Image: A still from Veettilekkulla Vazhi. Inset: Dr Biju
'Prithviraj is a director-friendly actor'
The film has stars such as Prithviraj and Indrajith. Did they help promote the film?
They have been really supportive. Prithviraj has attended several discussions and interviews even though he is busy shooting for his new film. Indrajith has also been giving interviews to promote the film.
Is it the right time to launch serious films like Veettilekkulla Vazhi in Malayalam?
The atmosphere is right as there is a decent response at all the theatres where the film got released, mostly from the 'balcony' crowd who pay for the more expensive seats. The question is how long will this trend continue. I believe that if more films like this are made, mindsets will change and people will start going to the theatres.
There have been quite a few 'different' films in Malayalam this year like Traffic, Adaminte Makan Abu, Salt N' Pepper and Melvilasam. Do you think Veettilekkulla Vazhi belongs in that list?
Yes. I have felt that until recently commercial and art house films were moving on their own individual tracks. The films that you have mentioned like Traffic, Melvilasam and Salt N' Pepper moved away from the usual format. The art house films too had a separate track. Films like Veettilekkulla Vazhi break this barrier. The success of my film shows that there is acceptance for both the tracks.
Image: A still from Veettilekkulla Vazhi
Veettilekkulla Vazhi broke the arthouse track that exists here'
Do you think Malayalam cinema no longer needs a superstar to make a film a hit and what matters more is the script and presentation?
I think we will reach that point and it all depends on how filmmakers make use of the current situation. Many more films have to be made on these lines and then viewers will start accepting such films.
Why should one watch Veettilekkulla Vazhi?
We often complain that no attempts have been made to make films that can compete with movies of international standard. Veettilekkulla Vazhi has been shown in around fifteen international festivals and won awards at national and international levels. It is on par with movies made in any language in the world. It has broken the art house track that exists here. It is different from the concepts prevailing here and it is an opportunity for the viewer to know about it.
How was your experience directing Prithviraj?
He is a director friendly actor, who can be moulded by any creatively minded director. He is flexible and sensible as well. We had a great time shooting for the film. May be that is the reason he is part of my next film as well.
What is your next film about?
It is called Aakashathinte Niram and has Indrajith and Nedumudi Venu in the lead roles. Prithviraj is doing an important role in it. Amala Paul is the heroine and it will be shot in the Andamans. The film talks about the relationship between man and nature.
Image: A still from Veettilekkulla Vazhi