July 05 2020
Make the film the way you have it in your head: Lijo Jose Pellissery
01 December 2018

Avant-garde film director Lijo Jose Pellissery obviously does not believe in preening about his successes. And that attitude holds good even after bagging the Silver Peacock for the best director at the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) for his critically-acclaimed Ee. Ma. Yau. “Nothing major. It is a nice feeling,” he says over phone from Goa. Ee. Ma. Yau. also won the Silver Peacock for the best actor for its lead actor Chemban Vinod.

An intense satire, written by well-known writer PF Mathews, it centres on the death of Vavachan Mesthiri, an elderly man, essayed by Kainakary Thangaraj, and his son’s desperate efforts to ensure that his father gets the grand burial that he had wished for. The film had also won the Kerala State award for the best director.

So, was the IFFI award expected? “I actually don’t plan any of these, I just make films I like. No plans for sending it to festivals at all! I am not even a person who regularly attends film festivals. I have attended only a few festivals and this is one of those. I am not a person who does a lot of homework or make it a point to watch all the critically-acclaimed films and so on,” he says, downplaying the hype and the excitement surrounding the awards.

Son of the late Jose Pellissery, a seasoned actor of theatre and cinema, Ljio made his directorial debut with the slickly made Indrajith-starrer Nayakan, an action thriller that, however, did not make a mark at the box-office. His next film, City of God, also failed to impress the cash registers. However, Lijo was third time lucky and he hit the big time with the surrealistic Amen, a Fahadh Faasil-starrer that became a cult classic.

Although his fourth, Double Barrel, a comic-inspired movie, did not make it big like Amen, Lijo became a director to watch for, especially amongst young cinephiles. And his fifth, Angamaly Diaries, written by Chemban Vinod, exceeded expectations of his fans, critics and hard-nosed film watchers. A hard-hitting gangsta film, soaked in humour, it starred 86 newcomers and revelled in the micro-culture of Angamaly.

So what inspires him to make a film? “It is something that gives you a spark. It could be be a line in a conversation, a trend, it could be something you read in a book, a scene in a film, something you read in the paper... it might be anything that triggers that moment, which you think that can be made into a film. It is around you; you just have to figure it out,” he explains.

Going on to talk about what triggered the spark in him to make Ea. Ma. Yau, he says: “The intensity in the film is definitely because of the writing quality the film has, which was done by PF Mathews. For me to make it, I definitely remembered my father’s death and what I passed through. Maybe all that added up to the intensity of the film.”

He adds: “When you think of a film, somebody should really get that visuals in the head and that Shyju [cinematographer Shyju Khalid] has done for this film. The beauty, the sound design and the writing was all in place. I just had to be there,” laughs Lijo. The shooting of the film was in the coastal village of Chellanam, near Kochi.

Dwelling on his kind of cinema and its making, Lijo elaborates: “Any art form, according to me, and cinema especially, is completely inside the head of a person. And you cannot be adamant that everyone should get it the way I have it in my head. So, make the film the way you have it in your head and leave it for the audience to like it or criticise it.”

Moving on to talk about Chemban’s feat in his film, Lijo says unreservedly that his act in Ee. Ma. Yau is his career-best performance. “I had told him that when he was acting in the film. I am really glad that he has won it. We were disappointed when there was no mention of the film or his act when the national film awards were announced, even after it won the Kerala State film awards. So it is all subjective. When you send a film for a film, we have to respect the jury’s decision.”

His next project is Jallikkattu, which is already on the floors, and it is about “man-animal connect”. The movie is apparently based on novelist S Hareesh’s story Maoist but Lijo is reluctant to reveal too many details about the film. “It is about how deep the connect is between man and animal.”

It has got nothing to do with the feisty harvest festival in Tamil Nadu, he clarifies. “This a generic story about the chemistry between man and animal. In this film, it is a pothu, a water buffalo, that appears on behalf of animals. It is a simple village story,” narrates Lijo. Chemban will be playing an important role in film.



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