The Mollywood filmmaker talks about his upcoming anthology, which is set to release on Sony LIV on February 11
Director Jeo Baby has been bringing about a silent revolution through his movies. His previous venture The Great Indian Kitchen, which won international acclaim by rightly portraying the daily grind and frustrations of women caught up in the kitchens of Indian households, and his latest anthology Freedom Fight will be hoping to spur on further discussions.
The anthology, which also features segments of Kunjila Mascillamani, Akhil Anilkumar, Francies Louis and Jithin Isaac Thomas, is set to stream on Sony LIV on February 11. OTTplay caught up with Jeo to know about what led to the anthology, how OTTs are driving a change in cinema and more.
How did you land on this idea of doing an anthology with upcoming filmmakers?
After The Great Indian Kitchen, we had this opportunity of doing another film because the movie worked financially. We thought about this project in June 2021 and but because of the pandemic situation back then, it wasn’t favourable to do a full-length feature film that requires about 50 days of shoot. So, I told producer Jomon Jacob that we can plan five brilliant short films and I will do one segment.
The next challenge was finding four good directors for helming the other featurettes. I didn’t want friendship to be the criteria for that; we wanted good content. I asked for a month from the producer. We have a lot of friends in the industry but we didn’t tell any of them. I first told my editor Francies Louis; he had done a few short films that I have watched and enjoyed. He said he would get back with a thread and he did a week later.
Then I asked The Great Indian Kitchen’s cinematographer Salu K Thomas, if he knew of anyone who would be apt for this and he introduced me to Kunjila Mascillamani. She told me she had an idea for a 30-minute film and sent me its first draft. That was Asanghadithar, which is my favourite project in the anthology. After that Jithin Isaac Thomas got in touch through a mutual friend, who said that he had made a film titled Attention Please and asked if I could watch it. I did and I immediately called Jithin, asking if he had an idea for a short film.
We had told all filmmakers to make movies based on their favourite content. We didn’t put any restrictions in terms of genre or theme. By the time we had finalised four segments was when Akhil Anilkumar called me asking for a contact to Neestream. I asked him the reason and he said he had a short film with him and wanted to pitch it to them. I told him I can listen and that’s how we got him onboard. So, apart from Francis, I got acquainted with all the filmmakers because of their content; I didn’t know them before.
How was it coordinating the five films?
They came with the drafts and the shoot of all five films happened at various locations. The idea was to complete each segment in 5-6 days. Also, production wise, all of us didn’t have to work on every film, everyone had their own comfort zone. So, after we watched all the movies, it struck us that each film was about people’s freedom and that’s how we landed on the title Freedom Fight: Swanthanthrya Samaram.
How much did the success of The Great Indian Kitchen give you the freedom to do such content?
The biggest advantage due to the advent of OTTs in the past few years is that people now watch films based on the merit of the content. This has started reflecting in theatres too. Movies like Jan-E-Man, Bheemante Vazhi, Super Sharanya and Ajagajantharam – all of which are treading differently – have got great reception. So, it’s not just The Great Indian Kitchen that has given us encouragement. If you look at The Great Indian Kitchen, it was a movie that was taken up by women and became discussed. It was declined by major platforms, but was picked up by Neestream and then was bought by Prime Video. Obviously, its success amped up our confidence that if we have good content, we can always make those movies. I think OTTs have fuelled constructive discussions because of good movies such as Aarkkariyam.
However, I also think there are still factors that need correction. Even now, a lot of platforms still depend on stars. But there has been a massive resistance from Malayalam through our movies including Nayattu, which is more content oriented than star-driven. I think it’s the subjects that a lot of our recent films deal with, that has resulted in them being accepted and widely discussed. All of that is an inspiration.
Compared to The Great Indian Kitched, what can you tell us about your segment, Old Age Home that has Lali PM, Rohini and Joju George, in the anthology?
As a filmmaker, I always want to do different films. Our political views, somehow or the other, will be seen in any film we do. For this segment, I deliberately picked a family drama that wasn’t revolutionary in any way. It was a subject that I had in mind for long. The other stories in our anthology had hard-hitting content and that’s why I consciously picked a lighter subject.
What can we expect from you next?
Though this particular segment is a family drama, my politics comes through the characters essayed by Lali and Rohini chechi. I want each of my movies to be different. Next, I want to do a fun movie that can make people laugh. It might have all these aspects that are happening in the world around us and affect us.