Wednesday, December 09, 2015

When An Elephant Came Charging

Director Salam Bapu talks about his experiences on the film, 'Red Wine'

Photos: Salam Bapu; (from left): Mohanlal, Asif Ali, Fahadh Fasil and Salam Bapu 

By Shevlin Sebastian

In October, 2012, director Salam Bapu was wandering around the forests near Kuruva Dweep in Wayanad. He was accompanied by location manager Salim Bava, 'Red Wine' scriptwriter Mammen K. Rajan, and other crew members. Salam was looking for a place where he could shoot some forest scenes, but was also keen that there should be some animals in it.

When Salam was walking, he saw an elephant coming from the opposite side. He immediately turned to Bava and asked whether it was okay. “He said it was fine,” says Salam. However, the elephant picked up pace. Nevertheless, they carried on walking forward, towards the animal, which was 200 metres away.

Suddenly, there was a shout: “Run away, the elephant is dangerous.”

When Salam turned he saw that Bava was far away. “In fact, he was the first to run,” says Salam, with a smile. “And he never alerted us.” The crew turned and began running very fast. In their fear, some of them fell down, got up, and ran again. In the end they all got away safely.

There was a particular reason why Salam wanted to shoot animals. In the film, Fahadh Faasil was playing Anoop C V, a part-time actor, who was fighting for the cause of the Adivasis. His close friend is Navas Parambam (Saiju Kurup), an advertising film-maker.

According to the script, a resort comes up in a particular area, and it is causing damage to the environment as well as the animals,” says Salam. “That was why I felt it was necessary to show some animals.”

A few days later, the actors as well as the crew were travelling to the Muthanga area. Suddenly, Salam saw a herd of 20 elephants near the road. The excited director stopped the car.

Then he asked Fahadh and Saiju to pose near the elephants. “We took the scenes from a distance,” says Salam. “The cameraman, Manoj Pillai, was quite scared, in case the elephants made a charge at us.”

However, the herd remained peaceful. They carried on eating grass and took water from a nearby pond. “In a group elephants are far more relaxed than when they are alone,” says Salam.

The end result were authentic scenes. Later, many people asked Salam whether he had used graphics. He had to emphasise that these were actual scenes. “I have to salute the courage of Fahadh and Saiju,” says Salam. “They had no qualms about going near the elephants.”

Later, when the film was released, viewers told Salam that he had made a 'continuity mistake'. When they shot the scene, near the elephants, Saiju had borrowed the Nikon camera from the stills photographer, Mahadevan Thampi. But in other scenes, Saiju was shown using a Canon camera. “But since the shooting took place on the spur of the moment, we had no time to look for another Canon,” says Salam. “That was how the error happened.”

Nevertheless, Salam was happy that he got the scenes he wanted. 

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

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