Last Friday, a movie that won a National Award, hit the screens – just one screen in Kochi and hardly 15 theatres elsewhere. Despite a release without much fanfare, Kunju Daivam (The Little God), was received with positive reviews, but another hurdle appeared in the form of a movie ticket booking platform whose agents demanded money for ratings. Ask what happened, director Jeo Baby responds with a weak smile. "I don't blame anyone," he says.
Jeo is not new to stumbling blocks. His first film, Randu Penkuttikal that won many awards, was a commercial failure in spite of having a star cast – Amala Paul and Tovino Thomas. His second, Kunju Daivam, which saw little Adish Praveen bringing home the National Award for the Best Child Actor, on release saw many positive responses, much to his joy. But the happiness didn't last long.
Jeo recalls, "We were approached by people who claimed to be agents of bookmyshow who demanded a payment of Rs 12,500 for good votings and reviews for the movie on their website. We refused to pay them. Suddenly, our rating, which stood at 78 per cent dropped to 22 per cent."
The makers took to social media to reveal what happened and soon, it turned into a downrating campaign against the website.
"When things went out of control, they called us and informed that the rating drop was a technical glitch and they had corrected it," says Jeo, who doesn't want to take it up further.
"Mine is a small movie and getting at least 15 theatres was a struggle. The only show we got in Kochi was at 1.30 pm. Now, after a lot of positive reviews and responses, we are assured an evening show at a multiplex from Monday," he says gladly.
Adding to the joy is another news. The film has won the prestigious REMI Award 2018, which will be given at the upcoming 51st WorldFest Houston International Film Festival.
"We have just been intimated. We are yet to know the category in which we have won," Jeo says.
A movie about a little boy's innocent prayers and redemption through kindness, Kunju Daivam has also been selected to the competition section of 20th International Children's Film Festival of India and to the Busan Kids and Youth Film Festival in South Korea.
Both his movies having dealt with children and their conversations, it's evident that Jeo loves kids. "It's not that I deliberately planned to do movies about children; it just happened. I am very comfortable with working with children, because their skills and talents are fresh. With no references in cinema, kids behave and do not act," he opines.
Jeo's idea of a movie stands between commercial and parallel criteria. "My movies are not based on any success formulae to make it appealing to the mass audience. Even it if bombs in box office, I have no qualms. Because for me, if anyone remembers my movies, that itself is a victory," he says.
The film maker has his next planned – a road movie starring Tovino. He says, "This one was planned as my directorial debut. The shooting will begin in June or July." He doesn't care about the destination, what matters for Jeo is the journey....