'Baakki Vannavar': True-blue independent
Actor-writer Salmanul, who stars in director Amal Prasi’s Baakki Vannavar, and filmmaker Rajeev Ravi
talk about collaborating to bring the IFFK-noticed feature to the big screen
One of the most well-received films from the last edition of IFFK is finally getting a big-screen release, albeit in a limited capacity. However, Amal Prasi’s Baakki Vannavar (The Leftovers) is not opting for the traditional distributing and release strategy, and it has to do with the involvement of ace filmmaker Rajeev Ravi, who is backing the film alongside his Collective Phase One team members.
“The idea is to rent a theatre screen for a day (Kochi’s Shenoys, August 8, 12 pm)where anyone can watch it, especially college students, for a lower price. (The ticket booking is possible only through the Instagram page of the film’s banner Blue Collar Cinemas.) If we see strong footfalls, we plan to add more shows in the coming days,” says Rajeev. “It’s a well-made film that chose to deviate from the path of the usual distribution system as that would come with many conditions. Moreover, one doesn’t feel like participating in the chaos of the current business trend involving other platforms, and I wished for these guys to stay away from all that and do it in the true independent style.”
Rajeev cites the example of the release of Bardroy Baretto’s low-budget Konkani film Nachom-ia Kumpasar. “It’s what I call the perfect independent film. You know what they did? They booked halls in Goa and got a lot of people to see it. It was a hit. And you know what the beauty of it is? They hadn’t even sent it to any festivals. All the screenings... they conducted themselves, and these are not small screenings, mind you; they took out big halls to do that. People came in buses from different corners, including villages.
The subject demanded that. It was the story of a Jazz musician who was popular there. You won’t find a single disc or print anywhere or on any OTT platform; it belongs only to Bardroy. It’s impressive how they recouped the entire budget considering the quality of their production value and everything. If anyone wants to see the film, it would be possible only if the makers consider organising a screening. No one in Kerala has heard about that film.” (Interestingly, Bardroy, an accomplished filmmaker and editor, is a friend and collaborator of Anurag Kashyap.)
Amal Prasi directed Baakki Vannavar from a script he co-wrote with lead actor Salmanul. Speaking to us, Salmanul recalls discussing the idea with Amal when both their careers came to a standstill due to a setback in their respective firms.
“We resigned, and since we were passionate about cinema, we and a group of friends from Maharaja’s College worked on a concept, shot the film in 2022 and submitted it to IFFK in the same year.”
“These are smart, remarkably talented people,” observes Rajeev, who shares with the team the Maharaja’s connection. “They pulled it off with their own team. I had nothing to do with its making. They had been trying to get me to see the film for a long time. When I saw it and got impressed, I just put them in touch with people I know for post-production support. The IFFK version was a crude form. The final mix wasn’t even complete. But now it has come out well.”
“After Rajeevettan came on board and Collective Phase One helped with the post-production, we managed to enhance the print’s quality,” adds Salmanul. The subject matter of Bakki Vannavar—unemployment, migration of youngsters to other states in search of jobs, their hurdles and setbacks—carries a strong resonance in light of the food delivery boys’ strikes last year in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. “Everything happened around the same time we submitted this film to IFFK.
There was an ongoing strike in Thiruvananthapuram before that; it was during the strike in Kochi that our film’s premiere happened, so it connected with a lot of people at that time, who got emotional after seeing the film. The response was overwhelmingly positive.” Aside from Rajeev, Baakki Vannavar also found appreciation from filmmakers such as Krishand (Aavasavyuham) and Sanal Kumar Sasidharan (Ozhivudivasathe Kali). The principal narrative revolves around the journey of a delivery boy and the various connected characters.
Salmanul describes the shooting process “minimal, with a crew comprising not more than five members. While shooting at a time, there won’t be more than five people in the crew. The only constants, every day, are the director Amal, cinematographer Rahim Ibn Rasheed, and me. As for the other actors, they varied every day. We shot it in different places. We shot the main portions in the Maharaja’s hostel. Everyone from the team is from Maharaja’s,” says Salmanul with a smile.