Within hours of its launch on May 27, Bev Q — Kerala Government’s official app for virtually booking queue tokens at liquor outlets — had over a lakh downloads, a result of weeks of bubbled up excitement since tipplers were forced into sobriety after lockdown started on March 25.
Biju Maani’s short film, Bev Q, is a light take on the commotion that ensued after the app’s launch in a typical Kerala village. With their masks on, in the green countryside of Veliayanad in Alappuzha, a disciplined line up of elderly men await their turn to have the Bev Q app installed on their mobile phones by a group of youth in their early 20s. The youngsters charge ₹50 as ‘installation fee’ and even sell smart phones to those who don’t have one.
Shot over three days, the film shows how villagers get accustomed to the ‘technology’ that lets them source liquor. A techie-turned-filmmaker, Biju says the film is his take on the larger issue of alcoholism, and adds he wanted to make people think after watching it. “It touches upon the condition of the protagonist’s family too,” he says.
Uploaded on YouTube, Bev Q has received a warm response since, as Biju says, “a lot of people could relate” to the scenario. The film was shot after the lockdown was lifted and by following the protocols laid down by Kerala Government. “We had signed on theatre actor Pramod Veliyanadu for the main role. All the other actors are villagers who agreed to act. They wore masks and maintained social distancing,” he says, adding, “Spot casting was fun. I wanted the film to look as natural as possible, so I didn’t direct them much.”
Biju’s debut short, Adyathe Maravi, based on forgetfulness, was screened at short film festivals including the Kolkata Micro Film Festival, and earned a couple of awards too. Shot with minimal resources and a five-member cast and crew, the 14-minute film is available to stream on Disney+ Hotstar. “OTT platforms are great for emerging directors like me. If the content is honest and has quality, the film would eventually find its audience,” says Biju, who left a tech job in Bengaluru to work in films.
He is working on a few other short films too. “With new media, there is space for low-budget films. As long as it says a story that is relevant to people, it will be accepted,” he adds.