Vijay Babu’s production venture Sufiyum Sujatayum will begin streaming on Amazon Prime Video from July 3.
Producer-actor Vijay Babu’s latest movie Sufiyum Sujatayum, starring Jayasurya, Aditi Rao Hydari and Dev Mohan, is set to premiere on Amazon Prime Video this Friday.
In this exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Vijay Babu talks about the growing popularity of OTT platforms, and the challenges he faced to finish Sufiyum Sujatayum.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Under the current circumstances, was it easy to go the digital way for Sufiyum Sujatayum?
For me, it was not an easy decision. But, we all know what circumstances we are in. We can’t ignore the reality. The reality is we have no clue when theaters are going to open. Even when theaters open with all the new rules, we don’t know whether people will visit them. And there are 52 movies which are ready for release right now. When will all these movies release? Will the hold-over pattern work? How many days will big movies run in theaters? What would the mid-size movies do? For example, Sufiyum Sujatayum is a slow romantic thriller. It will take time to build up to success. When word of mouth starts spreading, if the movie stays in theaters, it becomes a hit. After the theaters are opened with a lot of restrictions, only movies of superstars like Marakkar and Malik can bring people to theaters. Because those are the movies people would want to watch in theaters. I went through a lot of struggle to make Sufiyum Sujatayum. The project was completed three years back. It even survived the floods. And during the lockdown, we got this opportunity to show Sufiyum Sujatayum in over 200 countries. We can’t ignore OTT platforms.
So you went to Amazon Prime Video?
The digital rights of the movie were already sold to Amazon. And I was asked would I want my movie to be watched by a wider audience? For me, it was a dream come true, given the current situation. There was no point in objecting to it when you don’t know if your movie will run in theaters for 30 days when the lockdown is lifted. As a producer, I wanted two things. Firstly, I want the returns for my investment, so that I can produce more films. Secondly, I want my movie to be watched by a larger audience during a restricted time. No original content has been released in Malayalam (in the last few months). People are frustrated with other issues they are facing. So I can do something to help them take their mind off the pressure for some time.
Do you think this pandemic and growing popularity of OTT poses a real threat to the existence of the theater business?
The OTT platforms will never be a threat to theaters. But, we can’t ignore the power of OTT. The pandemic has helped the OTT platforms grow faster. OTT platforms have also changed the way the Malayali population look at entertainment. People living in small towns are now exposed to international content as there was no other local content available. For a creator like me, the next big challenge is to make a movie of international quality with a limited budget. We no longer can keep doing what we did earlier. We have to think out of the box and deliver innovative content.
How did you find Naranipuzha Shanavas?
I saw his movie Karie during a special screening, which I attended as a chief guest. I liked the way he had directed the film. At the end of the screening, Shanavas said he had a story, and he would like me to act in it. I was supposed to play Jayasurya’s role, and somebody else was supposed to play Aditi’s role. It was deemed as a very humble and raw movie. But, I later asked Shanavas to elevate the project a little. And every day this movie became bigger with Aditi and (composer) Jayachandran coming in. So I went back to my inhouse star Jayasurya.
Is Jayasurya the bad guy of Sufiyum Sujatayum?
The hero of the movie is the script. And in terms of screenplay, the film belongs to Sujata (Aditi Rao Hydari). Dev Mohan comes in one half and Jayasurya in the other half. Jayasurya took up this role because he loved the character. He accepted the role, despite his character’s limited screen time, because it was bankrolled by Friday Film House. He did this movie for me.
How did you zero down on Aditi Rao Hydari?
Finding the right actor to play Sujata was the toughest task. For about three years, I couldn’t find Sujata. We needed an actor who can play Sujata at 22 and Sujata at 32. Sujata is extremely beautiful, and she is a kathak dancer. She is also mute. We were so confused after going through so many options. Finally, during an award show, I saw Aditi’s kathak performance. And I realized that she could play the part. I met her backstage and gave a brief narration. She loved it. She called me soon after she landed in Mumbai and three days later I went to Mumbai to give her a full narration. She lived as Sujata for 40 days. She even trained in sign language for her role. I think her performance will be one of the highlights of the movie.
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