• Golden Globe Awards

Trees Under The Sun (India)-Interview with Dr. Bijukumar Damodaran

Three-time National Award winner, Dr. Bijukumar Damodaran’s film, Trees Under the Sun is a saga of a deprived and underprivileged family belonging to the Dalit (untouchable) community of India. The film portrays the survival of the family as they bravely fight the destructive elements of nature and the harsh reality of their place in society. We  to Dr. Damodaran about the filmAs a filmmaker I always ask myself ‘for what purpose you are doing a film? For making money or for entertaining the viewers or for the fame and glamour of the profession?’ My answer is none of these. I think I make film for addressing some social issues and represent the plight of under privileged people in India. The injustice they are facing. Life and stories of those people which are usually not portrait any commercial films. Moreover, I myself come from a socially and economically underprivileged, backward community. I am a representative of the  Dalit community. I know the issues and social stigma faced by the Dalit community in India.  Recently these issues are increasing in our country. As a member from the underprivileged community it is my duty to portrait the issues of a large community into the film for the discussion otherwise, they are least represented in Indian Cinema.  So, I choose stories from my experiences and from my surroundings.Talk about your method of casting because all your actors seem so natural.Names Unknown. He was only known for doing slapstick comedy. Nobody believed that he could do a major character role. But the actor surprised the entire film industry by bagging India’s national film award for best actor. The entire film industry wondered. After that the career of that actor changed from slapstick comedian to an important actor in the Malayalam industry. So, I think it is always good to cast artists in a raw form either professional or nonprofessional. I always look for the character not the artists.This film required diverse locations, from Kerala that is in the south of India to the Himalayas. Could you talk about some of the challenges you faced on your limited budget.The diverse location and diverse climate were the most challenging part of this film. We took one and a half year to complete the film since we need to shoot all the four climate seasons like winter, Summer, Spring and Rain. So, we waited for each season to arrive, so it took more than a year to complete the shoot. The locations in Kerala and Himalaya are in very rural area. We needed to carry all equipment a long way to the locations. The Kerala crew were not familiarized with the winter climate in Himachal. So, the most difficult time for shoot was winter season. Also, the rainy season was difficult to shoot since we shot in an island. The crew is very minimum, but all the crew members helped each other to carry all the equipment a long way to the locations. You are a doctor and a filmmaker, which of the two are you passionate about?I am still working with the Kerala state government as a District Medical Officer of Homoeopathy Medical system. As an officer in charge of an entire district I have lot of administrative duties. Especially during this COVID-19 pandemic time as a district officer I engaged in coordinating many medical camps, participating regularly with the health strategy of district etc. Both the professions – Medical and film – are important and need full concentration and dedication. For me Doctor is my profession and Film making is my passion. I never got any training in cinema. I never studied in any film schools. I never assisted any film director. I made films without any professional background. Moreover, I come from a most under privileged socially and economically backward Dalit community. So, I didn’t have any connection with anyone in the Film Industry. Now I completed 11 films within 15 years. Still I think I stand outside the film Industry. I am continuing as a medical doctor in administrative section in government of Kerala. When I decide to make a film, I take a few months leave from my Medical profession and shoot the film. During the making of film I am fully immersed in my passion. After completing a film, I return to my profession. So, this is a continuous travel from Profession to Passion.