From Unto the Dusk to Finding the Spotlight

A struggling filmmaker stands by his convictions and finds acknowledgement

Published: 29th June 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th June 2015 10:42 PM   |  A+A-

Take a plunge only after testing the troubled waters — an advice that newbies tend to listen to assuming that the early SWOT analysis at times would prove good for the future. Sajin Baabu, an independent filmmaker, however, rewrote the codes for his debut full-length art-house movie, Unto the Dusk and turned unforeseen adversities to accolades. While having a chat with us on the foyer of the Kairali-Nila-Sree theatre complex in Thiruvananthapuram, as the movie was running inside the Nila screen for the 19th consecutive day, his face emotes the satisfaction he gets from taking the film to connoisseurs on the home ground, after fighting a tough battle.

The film was revolutionary in that it made a bold introduction of necrophilia (attraction towards corpses), in a path less trodden in the Malayalam film industry until then. The plot revolves around the spiritual pursuit of a former seminary student and his conflicting thoughts about the distinctions between sin and worldly pleasures. Rejection was the initial response Sajin faced after his film found no place in the Kerala State Film awards’ selection for 2013 which were awarded last year, and which soon stirred up a hornet’s nest with a string of dramatic incidents.

FROM UNTO THE.jpgWith the support of a Right to Information (RTI) query, he persistently fought to prove that the awards’ jury had not even seen every movie that was in contention for the awards. Soon after, it resulted in those holding major key portfolios in the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy stepping down. In 2015, the Kerala State Film Development Corporation breathed a fresh lease of life into art-house movies, allotting a daily screening slot for them in cine halls under its purview, beginning with Unto the Dusk and Cr.No. 89, a film by Director Sudevan on June 5.

With little knowledge on how to take his work to international levels, he first sent a copy to Cannes. “I got an email with a note of appreciation from the deputy general delegate of Cannes, who watched the movie. It also had suggestions to improve, after which I re-edited my film, chopping off a 10-minute sequence. That response upped my confidence level and I decided to send it to contest at film festivals in India,” says Sajin.

Unto the Dusk got tickets to major prominent International Film Festivals conducted in India, at several places including Mumbai (Mumbai Film Festival, MAMI), Bangalore (Bangalore International Film Festival, BIFF), Kerala (International Film Festival of Kerala), Chennai (Chennai International Film Festival, CIFF) in 2014 and at Nashik (Nashik International Film Festival, NIFF) in 2015. At IFFK, the movie was shown under the International Competition section and went on to win the Rajatha Chakoram audience prize selection. Shown in the Indian Competition section at MIFF and BIFF, the latter presented the Chitra Bharathi Award for best Indian film to Unto the Dusk.

The most painful experience topping all the hardships, was the rejection his film had to endure, which he explains with a tinge of disappointment. Unto the Dusk was among the four films selected for marketing in the national and international levels in IFFK 2014. “I was shocked when I heard that pirated copies of my movie’s DVD were being circulated across 10 centres in the country and shown in public screenings. I came to know about this from a display put up at the Chalachitra Academy office. The DVD copies were taken without my consent,” says Sajin.

Before the attention Unto the Dusk brought, the 29-year-old director was a familiar face in the docu/short-film sector for nearly a decade. For his first feature, he wrote the script together with his friend Jose John. He also made a courageous move by roping in new faces for all his characters and shot them in as many as 125 locales he had travelled to, capturing fulsome greenery in the woods. Sajin, who draws inspiration from filmmakers Andrei Tarkovsky, Terrence Malick and Carlos Reichenbach, says rather than making a lot of movies, he wishes to follow the masters’ way and create a signature cinematic idiom of his own.

Take a plunge only after testing the troubled waters — an advice that newbies tend to listen to assuming that the early SWOT analysis at times would prove good for the future. Sajin Baabu, an independent filmmaker, however, rewrote the codes for his debut full-length art-house movie, Unto the Dusk and turned unforeseen adversities to accolades. While having a chat with us on the foyer of the Kairali-Nila-Sree theatre complex in Thiruvananthapuram, as the movie was running inside the Nila screen for the 19th consecutive day, his face emotes the satisfaction he gets from taking the film to connoisseurs on the home ground, after fighting a tough battle.

The film was revolutionary in that it made a bold introduction of necrophilia (attraction towards corpses), in a path less trodden in the Malayalam film industry until then. The plot revolves around the spiritual pursuit of a former seminary student and his conflicting thoughts about the distinctions between sin and worldly pleasures. Rejection was the initial response Sajin faced after his film found no place in the Kerala State Film awards’ selection for 2013 which were awarded last year, and which soon stirred up a hornet’s nest with a string of dramatic incidents.

With the support of a Right to Information (RTI) query, he persistently fought to prove that the awards’ jury had not even seen every movie that was in contention for the awards. Soon after, it resulted in those holding major key portfolios in the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy stepping down. In 2015, the Kerala State Film Development Corporation breathed a fresh lease of life into art-house movies, allotting a daily screening slot for them in cine halls under its purview, beginning with Unto the Dusk and Cr.No. 89, a film by Director Sudevan on June 5.

With little knowledge on how to take his work to international levels, he first sent a copy to Cannes. “I got an email with a note of appreciation from the deputy general delegate of Cannes, who watched the movie. It also had suggestions to improve, after which I re-edited my film, chopping off a 10-minute sequence. That response upped my confidence level and I decided to send it to contest at film festivals in India,” says Sajin.

Unto the Dusk got tickets to major prominent International Film Festivals conducted in India, at several places including Mumbai (Mumbai Film Festival, MAMI), Bangalore (Bangalore International Film Festival, BIFF), Kerala (International Film Festival of Kerala), Chennai (Chennai International Film Festival, CIFF) in 2014 and at Nashik (Nashik International Film Festival, NIFF) in 2015. At IFFK, the movie was shown under the International Competition section and went on to win the Rajatha Chakoram audience prize selection. Shown in the Indian Competition section at MIFF and BIFF, the latter presented the Chitra Bharathi Award for best Indian film to Unto the Dusk.

The most painful experience topping all the hardships, was the rejection his film had to endure, which he explains with a tinge of disappointment. Unto the Dusk was among the four films selected for marketing in the national and international levels in IFFK 2014. “I was shocked when I heard that pirated copies of my movie’s DVD were being circulated across 10 centres in the country and shown in public screenings. I came to know about this from a display put up at the Chalachitra Academy office. The DVD copies were taken without my consent,” says Sajin.

Before the attention Unto the Dusk brought, the 29-year-old director was a familiar face in the docu/short-film sector for nearly a decade. For his first feature, he wrote the script together with his friend Jose John. He also made a courageous move by roping in new faces for all his characters and shot them in as many as 125 locales he had travelled to, capturing fulsome greenery in the woods. Sajin, who draws inspiration from filmmakers Andrei Tarkovsky, Terrence Malick and Carlos Reichenbach, says rather than making a lot of movies, he wishes to follow the masters’ way and create a signature cinematic idiom of his own.

— meera.manu@newindianexpress.com

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