COLUMN: LOCATION DIARY
Director/Cinematographer Sujith Vaassudev talks about his experiences in the films, 'City of God', 'Punyalan Agarbattis' and 'Anarkali'
Photos: Sujith Vaassudev; the poster of 'Anarkali'
By Shevlin Sebastian
Director Lijo Jose Pellissery and cinematographer Sujith Vaassudev were under pressure. During the shoot of ‘City of God’, at Kochi, in January, 2011, they needed to finish a three-day schedule on time so that Mollywood’s leading star Prithviraj could go off for his next assignment.
It was a fight sequence. Prithviraj was supposed to hold off a group of ruffians during a rainy night. “The first two shoots went off fine,” says Sujith. “We shot till 3 a.m.”
On the last night, things were proceeding well. “There were only about 15 shots remaining,” says Sujith. “We knew that if we worked non-stop, till 5.30 a.m., we would be able to complete it.”
However, during one sequence, Prithviraj pushed against the chest of one villain, and then lifted up his right leg, to kick another, when the rain stopped suddenly. His leg, frozen in mid-air, Prithviraj said, “What happened?”
The reason was not hard to find. The water in the tanker lorry had finished. “This happened at 3 a.m.,” says Sujith. “The managers of the shoot had goofed up. They felt that the water would last till the morning. Now we had a dilemma: where to get water at 3 a.m.? We realised there was nothing we could do. Because of that one mistake, the shooting had to be stopped. And we had to wait one month before we could get time again with Prithviraj. This showed the importance of proper planning.”
During the shoot of 'Punyalan Agarbattis', in mid-2013, art director Nathan Mannur did show some good planning, He was told to find an old police station, and he managed to locate one, next to a new police station, in Thrissur district. “There were some rusted cars in the courtyard,” says Sujith. “In one room, there were confiscated knives, cycle tubes, chains, tyres, as well as tables and chairs.”
It was decided to move this paraphernalia to another room, so that shooting can take place. While this was been done, there was a blast. “At that time, we were shooting at another location,” says Sujith.
Soon, the local television news channels, as well as the evening newspapers, mentioned that a shooting crew had burst a bomb. “We got scared,” says Sujith. “If we are accused of a bomb blast, that would be alarming. Three workers had got injured and had been rushed to hospital.”
Investigations finally revealed the answer. In the room, there was a Yamaha tractor engine, which had some petrol in it. “The moment it was lifted, there was a spark and it exploded,” says Sujith. “Thankfully, in due course, all the workers recovered completely.”
Eventually, the shooting took place at another location. Despite these troubles, ‘Punyalan Agarbattis’ did well at the box office.
Meanwhile, Sujith did not feel so well when he was told that the shooting for 'Anarkali' (2015) would take place at the Lakshadweep islands. That was because he did not know swimming at all. But help was at hand. The diving instructors, at the Sandy Beach resort, at Kavaratti, led by Aman, encouraged Sujith to try underwater scuba diving.
So, one day, Sujith wore the suit, flippers, oxygen tank and goggles. And although he initially panicked, when he went down, it ended up becoming one of the most wondrous experiences of his life. “The beauty of the ocean was breath-taking,” he says. “There were so many types of fishes, plants and shells. I never felt so peaceful in my life.”
Later, thanks to this confidence, Sujith was able to shoot the underwater sequences of Prithviraj with ease and comfort. “This is one of the perks of being in the industry,” says Sujith, whose debut film as director, 'James & Alice' has just been released. “You have so many unique experiences.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode)