COLUMN: LOCATION DIARY
Manoj K Jayan recalls his experiences in the films, ‘Kaazhcha’ and ‘Mallu Singh’
Photos: Manoj K Jayan. Poster of 'Mallu Singh'
By Shevlin Sebastian
Superstar Mammooty was not sure. In early 2004, when debutant director, Blessy, told him that there would be a shoot for the film, ‘Kaazhcha’, on the steps of the St. George church at Edathua, which led to the Pampa river, he said that it would be risky since there was not adequate security and huge crowds would be watching the shoot.
Nevertheless, Blessy decided to go ahead. The next morning, Manoj K Jayan, who plays a character called Joy, stepped into the chest-deep water, wearing only a white mundu. “In the shot, I am supposed to come up from below the water’s surface and say that the water is so bad,” says Manoj. “Then another character says, ‘It has come to a stage where we are unable to have a bath in the river’. Then I get back on the steps and wipe myself with a towel.”
At 9 a.m., as Mammooty had predicted, a large crowd had formed. The superstar himself was waiting in a house on the opposite side, since his shoot was to take place later.
Next to the church, there was a wall. People sat on it. “I could see from the water that it was shaky,” says Manoj.
Meanwhile, noted Tamil cameraman Azhagappan and Blessey remained on the steps, near the camera. There were three huge lights that were also placed nearby.
While the take was taking place, the wall collapsed. About 40 people went tumbling down the steps. They hit Blessey and Azhagappan. Both fell into the water.
“The camera also fell into the water, right in front of me, and sank to the bottom,” says Manoj. “The camera is the most precious equipment while making a movie. During a shoot, if somebody wants to spray the actor with perfume, first they will cover the lens, before it is done.”
Azhagappan made it back to the shore. “There were shouts and screams,” says Manoj. “Blessey was going up and down, swallowing water. He did not know swimming. So, I held him up.”
Blessey was distraught and began crying. “My life is finished,” he said.
“The liability will be on me. There will be talk in the industry that I am an unlucky director. The film is doomed. It cannot do well now.”
Suddenly, a boat arrived. Blessey and Manoj climbed on to it. “We decided to go and meet Mammooty,” says Manoj. When Blessey told Mammooty the news, the latter said, in a soft voice, “I told you not to do the shooting here. I did feel it was unsafe.”
Anyway, the producers, Xavy Mano Mathew and Noushad, reacted with speed. A camera was brought from Kochi in the evening and shooting commenced once again. The original camera, priced at Rs 1 crore, was recovered, and sent to Germany for repairs. Thankfully, there was an insurance coverage.
“Today I can say, with certainty, that all these superstitions do not matter at all,” says Manoj. “If the film is well-made and has a good story, it will do well. Blessey was so sincere while making the film. So, it was no surprise that ‘Kaazhcha’ was a critical as well as a commercial success.”
‘Mallu Singh’ was another film that did well at the box office. In December, 2011, Manoj was in Patiala, along with Kunchacko Boban, Biju Menon and Sooraj Venjaramoodu for its shoot.
“It was while there I understood that Punjabis have a good sense of humour,” says Manoj. “Once, during an off-day, Kunchacko and I went roaming around Patiala in a car. At one point, we stopped at a traffic signal. Right in front of us was a Sardarji on a Bullet motorcycle. On the back, it was written, ‘Left Hand Drive’.”
Manoj also realised the vastness of India, when, in rural Punjab, he met a couple of farmers who asked him where he is from. “I said, ‘Kerala’,” says Manoj. “Then they asked earnestly, ‘Is it in India?’”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvasnanthapuram and Kozhikode)