“Be careful. Don’t go out,” his father’s words still ring in Siju Vijayan’s ears. It was 1997 and Siju had just joined Maharaja’s College for a B.Sc. degree in Botany.
Siju’s father had a reason for advising his son to be cautious. Siju has been suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that causes weakening of muscles, and could fall down anytime while walking. Still, Siju paid little heed to his father’s words. There was something special about “going to cinema” and he could hardly resist it. He went out for a movie the first day he joined the hostel, he says.
“The cinemas in the city were showing many hit films. All the students from the hostels went to movies in the evening. I was left with no other option but to stay at the hostel alone or to go with them,” Siju recalls.
He says the filmmaker in him was born during those days. “It would take around one hour for me to walk up to Sarita Theatre or Mymooon Cinema and that too with the help of others. My college friends were so supportive that I watched more than 200 films during my stay in the hostel. The experience changed me profoundly. I decided once and for all that I will become a filmmaker,” says Siju.
Siju wrote his first script when he was enrolled in a BHMS course at Vidhyadhiraja Homeo Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram.
“While studying at the medical college, I won the Kalaprathibha Award in the youth festival. I planned to make a short film titled “A Day in the Hostel”. Though I completed the script, the project didn’t take off,” he said.
It was during his stay in Thiruvananthapuram that Siju got an opportunity to watch world classics and works by contemporary masters. “Those were the days of social media platforms like Orkut. I got a few friends through Orkut who helped me in getting familiarized with world cinema,” he says.
In 2012, he returned to Arookkutty, his village in Alappuzha after completing his BHMS course and began private practice. “Our house was near the backwaters. While I was pursuing homeopathic studies, my father had constructed a new house closer to the main road so that I could set up a clinic,” he says.
By the time he reached home after his studies, Siju had become wheelchair-bound. Back home, along with his medical practice, Siju found time for painting and mobilized funds for buying a motorized wheelchair.
“A person like me who lacks the ability to move around freely can’t assist filmmakers and learn filmmaking. They won’t be able to guide me during their hectic schedules. So, I had to learn movie-making on my own,” he says.
In 2012, he made his first documentary “Anamika, the Prey?” which focused on atrocities against women. “One evening, my friend called up and informed me that a TV channel is conducting a short film competition. He said we have to submit the script by that night. We sent the script and it was shortlisted among 25 others. I co-directed the film with my friend Christy,” he says.
Siju’s next documentary “Headline” dwelled on the anxieties experienced by a bedridden patient upon hearing about the news about a dam breach. In 2015, he made “Novu”, another documentary that was selected for the competition category in the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK).
A documentary he made based on his own life, “Wheel to Reel-A Dream Journey”, was also selected for the competition category in IDSFFK in 2017.
Siju raised funds for making his first feature film by selling paintings, mostly murals. In the film, “Inshah”, the eponymous heroine is a paraplegic girl living in an island surrounded by backwaters. Though the sea is not so far away, she could never see it,” Siju gives a brief sketch of the storyline. The works on the film were completed by 2019-end and Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC) agreed to release it at its cinemas across Kerala on March 20, 2020.
“But, as the pandemic set in, cinemas in the state were closed down. The film was released at a KSFDC theatre in Thiruvananthapuram on March 19, this year. It will be also shown in the Malabar region in a couple of days,” Siju says.
Now, Siju Vijayan is looking forward to the day when he would be able to make an entertainer which would reach out to the masses.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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