Fifteen years ago, when it was not that easy for an ordinary viewer to get a delegate pass for the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), a young medical student attended the fest using a fake pass made by his friends at the Fine Arts College in Thiruvananthapuram. Sitting inside the theatres the whole day, he began to learn the soul-enriching language of world cinema, frame by frame. Ripples of desire to make good films were born in the mind of the young doctor. Dr.Biju’s dreams became a reality when he made Saira in 2005. The film represented the ‘God’s own country’ in the 2007 Cannes International Film Festival. His second film was Raman (2008). Now, with another thought-provoking film on the issue of terrorism, Veetilekkulla Vazhi (2010), the director has completed his trilogy on terror. Back from the Cairo International Film Festival after showing his film to an elite audience in Egypt, Dr.Biju shares his thoughts on films, IFFK and relationships which, according to him, suffer the most in a terror-hit world.
Why did you choose to do a trilogy on terrorism?
I have a feeling that this is a world of uncertainties. I was travelling to Egypt last week and suddenly a fear caught hold of me. What if I miss my passport? How can I be sure that I won’t be stamped as a terrorist? What if a blast occurs? These thoughts have always haunted me as a friend, a father, a husband and a filmmaker. That is why I decided to make films on the issue. These films convey three aspects of life in an anxiety-ridden world, the case of innocent victims, the terror of nations and the ever-changing dimensions of relationships.
You give prominence to relationships in your films. Is there any reason behind it?
I am a sensitive person. I deeply value personal relationships. Especially, when you are away from your dear ones, you tend to feel the emptiness of life. I won’t object even if you say that relationships haunt me all the time. Naturally, it reflects in my films also. In fact, relationships suffer most because of terrorism. A friend becomes your enemy tomorrow. Your beloved dies in a blast and you become a terror suspect. Terror by governments, extremists... all destroy relationships.
Your film Veetilekkulla Vazhi will be screened at the IFFK 2010 in Thiruvananthapuram, next week. What inspired the movie?
Recently there were reports of youth from Kerala being arrested for terrorism-related charges. It was really shocking. I wanted to enquire into the subject and did a thorough research. At this point, the thoughts of the film came into my mind. I found out that the extremists were exploiting the social situations which are increasingly become apolitical in the State. They were distributing money and banking on the fundamentalist behaviour and mutual suspicion among the communities.
Veterans like Adoor Gopalakrishnan and T.V.Chandran have set a path of serious cinema in Malayalam that has been honoured by movie-lovers around the world. Do you intend to follow their path?
Ideologically, I would like to stand with them. But, in terms of approach and presentation, I want to be different. New film makers around the world are also doing the same. Think about the films of South Korean director Kim Ki-duk or Indian direcor Anurag Kashyap. You can sense the emergence of a new type of film-making. We need to imbibe it - a new approach to the making and presentation of films. Unlike the past, themes should also be universal.
The number of delegates attending the IFFK is increasing year after year. Isn’t it a good trend?
You can’t judge it now. This excitement should reflect on the audience behaviour in the theatres that screen serious cinema. Now, distributors are not willing to promote serious cinema in the State. Theatres don’t buy them. If this trend continues, the IFFK will only be a seasonal celebration of good cinema. At least the government should come forward to resolve this issue.
Do you consider film making as part of activism?
For me, film making is a personal affair. I don’t even consider the viewer while making a film. They have every right to like or criticize it. But this is how I share my thoughts, feelings and reactions with the world.
Your next project?
The preliminary works are on for my new film. It’s about two persons who happened to live together but are entirely different in their views on life. But both learn from each other. I am yet to finalise the title.
Are you still practising?
Yes. I am a Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Homeopathy, Government of Kerala. In fact, it gives me total freedom when making movies. I don’t have to compromise for any profit-oriented motives.