The unrelenting storyteller

Unfazed by box office figures Jeo Baby has persisted with socially relevant themes

Published - October 30, 2017 01:03 pm IST

Kochi, Kerala, 24/10/17.Jeo, filmmaker during an interaction with The Hindu Metro Plus in Kochi.

Kochi, Kerala, 24/10/17.Jeo, filmmaker during an interaction with The Hindu Metro Plus in Kochi. Photo:H.Vibhu.

Last year Jeo Baby’s maiden film 2 Penkuttikal was released in theatres. “It didn’t do well. I think it played for hardly a week in the few that it was released in,” says Baby. Candid, he doesn’t whitewash facts; the fact, ironically, remains that the number of days a film spends in a theatre is not a statement on its merit. The film did extremely well in the festival circuit internationally, and Anna Fathima won the State award for the best child actor.

Next month his second film Kunju Deivam hits screens, this time the story pivots around a young boy and tells of his tryst with religion, worship and God. Children, again? “It wasn’t intentional, it just came to be like that. The protagonists are children, but these can be seen by grown-ups too.” The protagonists might be young and the ‘issues’ familiar but the way of looking at/showing/seeing is fresh. The film with modifications to make it viable for grown-ups, uploaded on Youtube, has been viewed more than a few lakh times.

Adish Praveen won the State Award for best child actor this year for Kunju Deivam , which will be screened at the 20th Children’s International Film Festival, Hyderabad. Baby hopes this film will be received better. Kunju Deivam is from the point of view of a young boy whose prayers revolve around, initially, getting an exam postponed and later helping a girl getting a kidney for a transplant. Along the way he learns, as we watch, how religion and society work.

Zeitgeist plays a role in the stories he pens, probably the influence of writing content for television shows such as Marimayam , Uppum Mulakum and M-80 Moosa . Marimayam , for instance, which draw heavily from contemporary happenings. “My aim was always cinema, and writing (for television) was an exercise.” He started writing for TV in 2010, it was another five till he made his first film.

In these times of ginormous budgets for films, finding a producer for 2 Penkuttikal was tough. He found them among friends Naseeb BR and Sanu S Nair who formed Ocean Pictures. “When they found out that we were having trouble Naseeb and Sanu chipped in. This time the budget is lavish compared to 2 Penkuttikal . The festival circuit ensured that we recovered the production cost of 2 Penkuttikal .”

“Cinema has been a passion for as long as I can remember!” This is something he shares with his friends, most of who are also his associates. “In order to cut costs, for my first film, the entire crew lived together in a house. Friends and technicians have chipped in by working gratis for the sheer love of cinema, artists like Joju George in Kunju Deivam , for instance.”

It was a love that started early, first from watching films on VCR then trying to figure out how they were made and finally exploring new things, all this by the time he was Class VIII, in Thalanadu near Pala. “My family especially my father, was, and continues, to be very supportive. Even when I was a kid, my father, a government servant, indulged my interests.”

Cutting of a part of the video tape of the film Thenmaavin Kombathu and sticking it to a portion from Kaadalan for ‘special effects’ or muting the audio and ‘dubbing’ an alternate story. “Stories have always been a part of my life, right from school, from cooking up stories during the lunch break every day. I was fortunate to have teachers who encouraged me!” By the time he was in college, he was making short films,

One short film in particular got him thrown out of his college.

He made ‘Secret Minds’ (2007) when he was pursuing a post graduate course in cinema and television. The film dealt with homosexuality, and since it had some nudity he and others involved were dismissed, “it did well at international film festivals.”

Life comes a full circle as Baby gears up to work on his first ‘conventional, commercial’ film with a big name among the younger crop of actors.

Of two girls

Some of the venues where 2 Penkuttikal was screened :

Busan International Kids and Youth Festival (South Korea)

BUFF International Film Festival (Sweden); the film was selected to be shown to school going teenagers in Sweden

Best Children’s Film at the International Open Film Festival (Bangladesh)

Women Critic Circle Award at Socially Relevant Film Festival (New York)

Best International Film at the LOVE International Film Festival (Los Angeles)

Lola Kenya International International Film Festival, (Kenya)

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