COLUMN: LOCATION DIARY
Director Sachy talks about his experiences in his debut hit film, 'Anarkali'
Photos: Director Sachy by Ratheesh Sundaram; the poster of 'Anarkali'
By Shevlin Sebastian
As director Sachy was about to embark, on a ship, in February, 2015, with the actors and crew of the film, 'Anarkali', for the Lakshadweep Islands, he got a shocking news. The permission to shoot scenes at the islands of Agati, Kavaratti, Bangaram, and Thinnakara had been withdrawn by the island's administrator Rajesh Prasad.
A group called the Sunni Students' Federation had submitted a petition to the Administrator, signed by the Imam of the local mosque, stating that cinema is unIslamic. “I was informed that if shooting commenced, there would be communal problems,” says Sachy.
The director kept calm. “If I told [the actors] Prithviraj, Biju Menon, Priyal Gor, and Miya George about this problem, they would immediately set out for their next films,” says Sachy. So he kept quiet and had a discussion with producer Rajeev Nair and production controller Roshan Chittoor.
The team was supposed to arrive at Kavaratti the next day. But Sachy needed more time to get the order reversed. So he persuaded the captain to change the direction of the ship's journey. The boat would now touch the islands of Bitra, Kiltan and other islands and would reach Kavaratti the day after.
Again, through an influential contact, Sachy was able to inform a senior official of the ministry of external affairs. The official immediately asked the administrator to come to Delhi. So, Rajesh flew by helicopter from Kavaratti to Kochi and then took a flight to Delhi.
While there, the official told Rajesh, “If Lakshadweep is a part of India, then the film shoot will have to take place there, at all costs.” Rajesh cited a possible law-and-order problem and said that he did not have the necessary forces to control the unrest. “We will send central forces,” the official said firmly. Rajesh nodded and flew back. As soon as he reached Kavaratti, Rajesh issued the permission certificate.
Meanwhile, Sachy felt a tension within him as the ship approached the embarkation jetty at Kavaratti. There were 2000 people present, but he was not sure whether they were friendly or antagonistic. “But when we stepped out, they gave us green coconuts to drink, to show their happiness at seeing us,” says Sachy. “I felt so relieved. It became clear that the the majority were in support of us. Later, whereever we had shooting stints, the locals would provide us with food. They were so kind and generous.”
However, when Sachy wanted to do a crowd scene, he faced opposition. The islanders are followers of Islam. “They said that women were not supposed to appear in front of the camera,” says Sachy. “My problem was that I could not show an audience that consisted of only men.”
So Sachy requested the local doctors and engineers to bring their families. That evening, an announcer went around the island in an autorickshaw and announced a performance by Jayaraj Warrier, who was playing Chettuva Shah Jahan, a Mappilapattu singer, in the film. Jayaraj would lip-sync a song called 'Aa Oruthi Avaloruthi', which was sung by Vineeth Sreenivasan and Manjari.
Sachy kept his fingers crossed. But, at the appointed time, a crowd of men, women and children appeared. They listened to the song avidly. “We shot the reactions and the clapping,” says the director, who used three cameras as well as a helicam. “After the song was over, we played it again. Again they clapped. When the third time it happened, people began to drift away. So, we begged a few of them to stay on. That was how we managed to shoot the song.”
Sachy smiles and says, “After all these difficulties, I was so relieved when the film became a bumper hit.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram)