Vijay Babu: A movie biz maverick
With Angamaly Diaries and Aadu-2, producer Vijay Babu seems to have mastered the art of making and marketing good films
Vijay Babu prefers to be called a project coordinator, than a producer. And that's because he isn't merely a financier, but one who meticulously plans every aspect of filmmaking, right from its one-line to the DVD. This tactic pays, considering how both his projects - Angamaly Diaries and Aadu-2 - swept the box office.
But for Vijay Babu, who makes films under the banner of Friday Film House, this was not unexpected. "I had a gut feeling both these films would do well. And, importantly, they qualified the basic criterion I attach to every project before taking them up," says Vijay Babu. He explains his checklist. "Content, of course, is the primary thing. If the screenplay and the technicians attached to the projects are good, then I focus on its USP and rest is all about marketing it well to the theatres. If it was the 86 new faces for Angamaly Diaries, Aadu -2 was about Shaji Pappan and his cult following," says Vijay Babu.
Sequel to a dud
As Aadu-2 continues its dream run in theatres, Vijay Babu says the idea for a sequel to Aadu Oru Bheekarajeevi Aanu popped up post Angamaly Diaries. "I usually plan projects in advance. When the idea for a sequel came up, we didn't even have a story. But, that didn't stop me from calling up director Midhun Manuel Thomas. He was quite depressed after his latest project Alamara failed. He wanted a break, but I coaxed him to start working." They then we met Jayasurya to lock his dates. "Jayan was enthusiastic though we didn't even have a story. Then on, we sat almost every day racking our brains. Several ideas were considered and dropped before we fixed this one," remembers Vijay Babu.
People might call making a sequel to a box office disaster like Aadu Oru Bheekarajeevi Aanu an act of bravado, but Vijay Babu knows better. He says there weren't many risks. "Aadu Oru Bheekarajeevi Aanu may have flopped. But, I kept monitoring the undercurrents, which proved the character Shaji Pappan has a cult following. Trolls and memes wouldn't leave him alone and the DVD sale reinstated that fact. Every other day, we would get orders for more DVDs," he says.
Vijay Babu began the year with the stupendous success of Angamaly Diaries. A raw thriller, Angamaly Diaries went on to become a pan-India success, with it winning accolades for its realistic content, great acting and technical brilliance. Vijay Babu is quick to credit the success to director Lijo Jose Pellissery and writer Chemban Vinod. "It's their skill that was on display. Both of them hailed from Angamaly belt and the story they narrated couldn't be anything but realistic," he says.
But, even he thinks it is the brilliant marketing that took the film beyond borders. "Angamaly Diaries was a project that didn't have a poster face. This weakness was its strength too. I knew Lijo would bring together 83 new faces and I decided this was going to be the USP. Angamaly Diaries was made on a low budget, and this helped because I could divert those funds to its marketing. Even if a film is good, it has to be marketed properly to achieve its potential," says Vijay Babu.
Figures don't matter
There might be quite a few producers with a great success graph, but Vijay Babu's track record is a rarity. He never did venture into high-budget films, but almost all his projects earned well. Vijay Babu doesn't believe in an excess budget. "I don't buy that concept. The budget is what a particular film requires. Now that both Angamaly Diaries and Aadu 2 have done well, people ask me whether I would make big-budget flicks, but no. Friday Film House will not change its policy," he adds.
He isn't one to boast about figures too. "I don't go around shouting figures because every film has a different pattern of earning. It is irrelevant," says Vijay Babu, who calls himself a cautious filmmaker. "I have to act wisely because I need to survive. Filmmaking for me is a full-time chore and I don't have other business to support me if I fall," he adds.