Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Chilled to the Bone and Scared

COLUMN: Location Diary

Director Amal Neerad talks about his experiences in the film, 'Anwar'

Photos: Amal Neerad; A still from the film, 'Anwar', starring Prithviraj and Mamta Mohandas

By Shevlin Sebastian

At 9 p.m. on a day in August, 2010, director Amal Neerad was travelling, with stars Prithviraj and Mamta Mohandas, in an Innova from the Rohtang Pass towards the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh.

Amal wanted to shoot a song in a 'cold desert' at the town of Kaza, which is at a height of 11,000 feet. Behind their car were a few other Scorpios and Innovas carrying the rest of the 20-member crew.

It was cold. The temperature was 11 degrees Celsius. So they huddled in their pullovers and thick jackets. The cars were steadily going up a mountainside. However, a few minutes later, the convoy came to a shuddering halt.

It was an untarred road, consisting of sand, small rocky pebbles and stones. And a steady stream of water was flowing down the mountain, across the road and down the slope. “This flow is famous in the region,” says Amal. “It is called a 'paagal nala' and could become a raging torrent at any time. Many people had lost their lives because of this.”

What made matters worse was that the vehicles could not move. So they waited, not knowing what to do. “But the driver told us that the longer we waited, it would get worse,” says Amal. “So he advised us to walk.” And so the crew got down from their cars. It was dark all around, except for the headlights of the cars.

We could not take the road,” says Amal. “So we walked on the shoulder, which was covered with snow. On the other side, was a steep drop.”

These were tense moments. There were fears that a flood could start at any moment. So they had to walk quickly. “Despite all this, Prithviraj and Mamta took it in a graceful manner,” says Amal.

After 25 minutes, they reached a place where the road became clear. “We were chilled to the bone,” says Amal. They managed to get a car and reached the town of Chhatru. Unfortunately, it was a small place. There were no hotels. So they had to settle down in dormitories.

Next morning, Amal decided he would picturise the song in and around Chhatru, rather than go to Raza. “The locations were picturesque enough,” he says.

However, while shooting in the cold, Mamta felt weak. “But not once did she complain,” says Amal. “She was a true sport.” Offering companionship to her was choreographer Gayatri Raghuram and her assistant.

It took three days before the song, 'Kanninima Nille', with music by Gopi Sundar, was picturised.

When I look back, it was one of my most memorable experiences,” says Amal. And what might have warmed the director was that, after all the difficulties, the film did reasonably well at the box office. 

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

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