Veyil Marangal (Trees Under the Sun), directed by Bijukumar Damodaran, won the award for ‘Outstanding Artistic Achievement’ at the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival, becoming the first Indian film to win a major award at the festival. The film was one among the 3,964 entries submitted from 112 countries in the prestigious Golden Goblet Award competition.
As the award was announced at a packed hall, Indrans, who plays the lead role in the film, stood up and hugged the director. For Indrans too, this came as a major achievement in one of his first appearances at an international film festival. Saritha Kukku and Master Govardhan are the other actors in the film. Speaking to The Hindu over phone from Shanghai, Mr. Bijukumar said he was glad that a jury headed by Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, known for his slow-burning classics, had chosen his film for one of the major awards.
“This is a big thing for us and for Malayalam cinema at a major international festival. Veyil Marangal focusses on a Dalit family from Kerala which loses everything in a major flood. They migrate to Himachal in search of livelihood at an apple orchard. The film was shot over a duration of one and a half years. It was shot across three different season in Himachal, where the location was mostly around Manali,” said Mr. Bijukumar.
A review in ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ from its Shanghai premiere says that “the film’s overall gentleness ultimately leads to a more realistic and optimistic conclusion that involves the dignity and perseverance of the downtrodden but unbeaten family.”
This is the second film from Bijukumar to be screened at the festival after Akashathinte Niram (Colour of Sky), which was selected here in 2012. It was also the last Indian film screened at the festival and competed in the same category, before which a film by Bengali filmmaker Gautam Ghose was screened here. Bijukumar, who had debuted with the State award-winning Saira in 2007, has over the years made 10 films, many of which have won accolades at film festivals within the country and outside.