Dr. Bijukumar's award-winning ‘Veettilekkula Vazhi,' which focusses on relationships, releases on Friday.

Finally, more than a year after the film ‘Veettilekkula Vazhi' was completed (in July 2010), the much-awarded, critically acclaimed movie reaches theatres today. The Malayalam film directed by D. Bijukumar, a self-taught filmmaker, won rave reviews and travelled to many prestigious international film festivals. However, the only screening in Kerala was during the International Film Festival of Kerala (2010), when it was shown in the Malayalam Cinema Now section.

Battle of persuasion

Over the last 12 months, the movie, a Prithviraj-Indrajith-starrer, has garnered a clutch of awards. Yet, the filmmakers found it difficult to find theatres to screen the movie. And therein hangs a tale that is common to many of our award-winning films made in Malayalam. Most of these films regularly get selected to various international film festivals and win accolades, but they seldom make it to the theatres for a commercial release.

Dr. Biju admits it was a battle to persuade theatre owners to screen his film. However, taking into consideration that many award-winning films, even those made by leading filmmakers such as Shyamaprasad (‘Elektra') and Lenin Rajendran (‘Makara Manju'), are yet to reach theatres, Dr. Biju and the flick's producer, B.C. Joshi, should count themselves lucky to have managed to get their movie released at all.

He believes most theatre owners are wary of what is termed as ‘art films.' “The national and state film awards did bolster the morale of distributors. But even then they fear that such films would turn out to be commercial disasters that crash at the box office. Even a hit like ‘Salt and Pepper' was released only in 26 centres. It cannot be called an art movie by any stretch of the imagination. True, it has a theme that does not fit into the framework of a formula commercial film. As a result, there was some reluctance initially in accepting the movie for a commercial release,” says Dr. Biju.

He explains that the age of filmmaking that believed in testing or teasing a viewer's patience and intelligence has vanished. Today, a majority of award-winning movies adhere to high standards of technical excellence and narrate riveting stories.

‘Veettilekkula Vazhi,' for instance, has been filmed by ace cinematographer M.J. Radhakrishnan. It has sync sound and background music has been scored by Pandit Ramesh Narayan.

Jury favourite

And what is that makes ‘Veettilekkula Vazhi' a favourite of the jury?

“It is a film that celebrates humanity and emotions that make us reach out to others in need. ‘Veettilekkula Vazhi' is about a doctor who goes on a quest to reunite a child with his father, to honour a promise he had made to the child's dying mother. It is a journey in the literal and physical sense; a journey that sees him travel from Delhi to Kerala, and then to Rajasthan and Kashmir, and an inner journey that makes him go beyond narrow, personal sentiments,” says Dr. Biju. Prithviraj plays the doctor who goes on a trip that takes him from the plains to coastal Kerala and from there to the deserts and the Himalayas.

This movie completes the trilogy of movies that Dr. Biju has made on the subject of terrorism and its human costs. The two previous films were ‘Saira' and ‘Raman.' After exploring the ties of human bondage, Dr. Biju moves on to discover the bonds between man and nature in his next work, ‘Akashathinte Niram.' Indrajith will play the protagonist of the film that is about a group of people living on an island. The shoot will begin on the Andaman Islands in October.

Awards galore

The film has been selected to 16 international film festivals so far. It has been screened in Germany, Spain, Egypt, United Kingdom, Tanzania, and the United States.

Netpac award in the 15th International Film Festival of Kerala, 2010.

58th National Film Award for the best Malayalam film.

Awards for the best film, director, and music director at the 10th Imagine India International Film Festival Madrid, 2011.

The Kerala State Film Awards for best cinematography and processing.

Special jury award for director and award for best cinematography at Zanzibar International Film Festival Tanzania 2011.

Timeout London magazine selected it as the most favourite film at the London Indian Film Festival 2011.