Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Almost Getting Burnt


Veteran still photographer Paul Bathery talks about his experiences in the films, 'Vesham', 'Bhramaram', 'Kaazcha' and 'Calcutta News'

Photos: Mohanlal with Paul Bathery

By Shevlin Sebastian

The funeral pyre was placed at the top of a hill in Pokkunnu, near Kozhikode. The shoot was for the film, 'Vesham' (2004). Mammooty, as the hero, was supposed to light it. A group of people surrounded the pyre. Veteran still photographer Paul Bathery was at one side.
Soon, petrol was poured into the middle of the wooden pyre. Thereafter, it was lit up.

Nobody had realised that, because of the slope, some of the petrol had flowed downwards,” says Paul. “Soon, the fire came rushing at us, at great speed.” Paul jumped away at the last moment, but in the process suffered bruises and one of his camera lenses got damaged. In the end, it cost him Rs 15,000 to replace it.

Like in 'Vesham', there was a close shave in Blessey's 'Bhramaram' (2009). The shoot was in the high ranges, beyond Munnar. Paul was in a jeep that was just behind Mohanlal, who played the hero. “I noticed that the jeep in front was going downwards at a very high speed, even though it was a steep slope,” says Paul.

After a while, the jeep came to a stop. “It was then that we came to know from the driver that there was a brake-fail,” says Paul. “Somehow, he managed to bring the jeep to a safe stop. We were very lucky that a major accident, involving a superstar, did not take place.”

But an accident did take place during the shoot of 'Kaazcha' (2009) at Kuttanad. At 11 p.m., pack-up time was announced. “Most of the crew thought they would have their dinner in the privacy of their rooms,” says Paul. “So they all rushed to the boat, with their food containers.”

When Paul saw the presence of so many people, he decided to go later. Meanwhile, the boatman set out, but, within seconds, the boat capsized, and everybody fell into the water. “Thankfully, it was not very far from the shore, so it was not very deep,” says Paul. “However, I could see many food containers floating on the water.”

In the Hindi film, 'Pa Pal Dil Ke Ssaat' (2009), which starred former cricketer Ajay Jadeja, Paul could no longer escape being in an accident himself. At the Kumarakom shoot, Paul got onto a skiff, to get a better shot. “But as I concentrated on taking a good shot of Ajay, I slipped and fell into the water,” he says. “A 50mm lens got wet. Again, I had to spend Rs 15,000 for a new one.”

Meanwhile, Ajay had taken a shot of Paul in the water. “Later, Ajay showed it to me, and we had a good laugh over it,” he says.

Paul had a completely different experience on the sets of 'Calcutta News' (2008). The shoot was in Sonagachi, the red-light district of Kolkata. When the crew first arrived, the girls looked at them with wariness. “But when they realised that we were shooting a film, they became very friendly,” says Paul.

And they told their stories. One beautiful girl, who worked as a junior artiste in the film, said that her father, who had been in the Army, died when she was young. She has no idea where her mother was. Seeing no option, she entered the flesh trade. “She asked us crew members whether we could take her to Kerala,” says Paul. “She was willing to work as a maid, so that she could get away. But we felt bad that we could not help her.” 

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

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