Friday, March 11, 2016

A Jeep Accident That Almost Became A Tragedy


Prem Prakash talks about his experiences as a producer in the films, 'Koodevide', 'Akasha Dootu' and Peruvazhiyambalam'

Photos: Prem Prakash with his wife Daisy. Photo by Rajeev Prasad. Film psoter of 'Koodevide'  

By Shevlin Sebastian

At 7.30 p.m. on a day in August, 1983, the day's shooting for the film, 'Koodevide', concluded in the mountainside town of Doddabetta in Ooty.

A little while later, actors Mammooty and Maniyanpilla Raju were returning in a jeep. There were a few other crew members sitting at the back. They were being followed by another jeep which consisted of producer Prem Prakash, actor Suhasini, director P. Padmarajan and camera person Shaji N Karun.

Since Mammooty drives very fast, he went ahead quickly,” says Prem. “It was also a foggy night. But after a while, we saw a shocking sight. The jeep, which Mammooty had been driving, had overturned.”

Maniyanpilla Raju was lying on the ground. Apparently, a lorry was coming from the other side, and Mammooty braked suddenly, at high speed. As a result, Maniyanpilla Raju slipped and fell to the ground.

They rushed him to the Ooty General hospital. Water was splashed on his face, but he continue to remain still. “We felt that Maniyanpilla had died,” says Prem. “Because he remained without responding in any way.”

Meanwhile, Mammooty was walking up and down the corridor and said, “What do we do?” Says Prem: “I have never seen Mammooty so scared and worried.”

After a long time, Maniyanpilla Raju opened his eyes and said, “Where am I?” That was when the crew suspected that he had a brain injury. “However, in the end, it turned out okay,” says Prem. “But for some time we thought the worst had happened. And Mammooty was so worried that he would have been the cause of his death.”

There were no such tensions in the making of the film 'Akasha Dootu' (1993). However, when the melodrama, directed by Sibi Malayil, was released, Prem heard that that there was a lot of crying in the hall. It is the story of a widow, who is dying of leukamia, who gives away her four children for adoption.

So, as a producer, I decided that when a patron bought a ticket, he would also get a handkerchief,” says Prem.

Anyway, to watch the effect of the film, Sibi and Prem went to a theatre in Nooranad, in Alleppey district. They stood at the back of the balcony. In one of the seats sat Jacob Thomas, 34, his wife Maria, 27, and a six-year-old boy, Rony (names changed).

Very soon into the melodramatic film, Maria started crying. Jacob said, “Why are you embarrassing me by crying? This is only a film, not real life.” But Maria continued to weep when other sad scenes came up. And Jacob continued to scold her.

However, when the last scene came up, and the youngest boy, who is physically challenged, is finally adopted, Jacob burst out crying,” says Prem. “Now Maria said, 'What is happening? Why are you crying like this? And all along, you told me not to cry'.”

Prem and Sibi burst out laughing, at this point. “That was an experience I will never forget,” says Prem.

Another experience which Prem will not forget was at Balaramapuram, in Thiruvananthapuiram district where the shooting was going on for P. Padmarajan's debut film, 'Peruvazhiyambalam'. The year was 1979. At 2 a.m., Ashokan, who plays a fifteen-year-old by the name of Raman, kills the town's bully Prabhakaran Pillai (Azeez) because the latter raped Raman's sister. And then he runs away.

It is but natural in a film that the townspeople chase him,” says Prem. “But at 2 a.m., there were no people around. And so it happened that to form part of the crowd, for the first time in Mollywood, Padmrajan and myself, director and producer, ran to be part of the crowd. It gives you an indication of Padmarajan's commitment.” 

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

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