Friday, March 04, 2016

Of Dud Artillery Shells And Bomb Blasts


COLUMN: LOCATION DIARY

Major Ravi talks about his experiences in the films, 'Keerthi Chakra', 'Kurukshetra', and 'Mission 90 Days' 

Photos: Major Ravi; Mohanlal in 'Keerthi Chakra' 

By Shevlin Sebastian 

It was a cold morning in March, 2006. In the village of Magam, Major Ravi sipped a cup of tea, while an unit member of the film, 'Keerthi Chakra', brought him the day's English newspaper. Major Ravi was taken aback when, on the front page itself, he saw a news item: 'Major Ravi is back in Kashmir. But this time, he does not have a AK-47. Instead, he has a camera.' 

Major Ravi felt worried. “Usually, these newspapers are read by militants,” he says. “So, this meant that they knew we were there.”

But he decided to go ahead with the shoot. The 100 member crew had come all the way from Kerala. “I told crew members not to show the paper to Mohanlal,” he says.

At 9 a.m. Mohanlal arrived at the location. An over-excited Army person, who was helping in the logistics, immediately showed the newspaper to the superstar. When Lal met Major Ravi, he said, “I read the news item about you.”

Major Ravi was shocked and surprised. Then Lal said, “There is nothing to worry. If anybody bursts a bomb, let them do so, but we should go ahead with the shoot.”

An overwhelmed Major Ravi said, “That's Mohanlal for you. Gutsy and totally committed to his work.”

But that did not prevent Major Ravi from giving a scolding to the officer who gave the newspaper.

On another occasion, in June, 2008, Major Ravi was in Kargil for the shoot of the film, 'Kurukshetra'. He wanted to do a scene of a mortar firing by the Army during a practise session.

We put cameras at four points,” says Major Ravi. One camera was just ten metres away. Major Ravi stood next to the soldiers as they fired a round. The shell, instead of travelling a distance of one kilometre, fell two feet away from the camera.

But, luckily, Major Ravi noticed that the arrow-head remained parallel to the ground. As a result, the shell did not burst. So, he, as well as the soldiers, remained where they were. But all the crew members, including the cameramen, ran away. “I saw the camera rolling and went and switched it off,” says Major Ravi. “Later, the cameramen told me, 'Sir, you have the experience about all this. We were more interested in saving our lives.'”

Once again, lives were in danger during the shoot of 'Mission 90 Days' starring Mammooty. This took place at a house near Thakoodam Bridge, Kochi, in July, 2007. “We were told that the house would be torn down,” says Major Ravi. “So we got permission to show a bomb blast.”

So Major Ravi asked for a petrol bomb to be placed inside. “I told the Tamil workers to put six litres of petrol,” says Major Ravi. Two cameras were placed at strategic positions. However, when the bomb burst, there was a huge sheet of fire. Two crew members got injured, while a young actor called Shaan, who played a commando, has his entire hand burned. He was rushed to hospital.

Later, Major Ravi came to know that one Tamil worker, in order to increase the impact, decided to put 20, instead of six litres, without informing the Major. When the blast took place, he ran away. 

“One crew member told me that he saw the Tamilian running, at full-speed, by the side of the highway towards Vytilla,” says Major Ravi. “Three days later, he returned, grabbed my legs, and begged forgiveness. By then my anger had cooled down. Nevertheless, I warned him never to do such dangerous mistakes again.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode) 

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