At Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, in December, last year, the crew of 'Take Off' had placed black ISIS flags all over. This was to resemble a rebel-controlled area in Mosul, Iraq. The movie is about the ordeal of nurses in Iraq, in 2014, as ISIS battled to take over the country. In order to create a realistic atmosphere, slogans of the ISIS were painted on the walls.
Then, somebody posted an image of the location on Facebook. The next day the police arrived. After all, it can be a cause for alarm to see ISIS flags in Ras al-Khaimah. Once again, Mahesh had to explain that it was a film set and had the necessary permissions. “It took me a long time to convince them about it,” says Mahesh. “But in the end, the police left.”
Mahesh himself almost fell into trouble. Last June, he had gone to Dubai to check out possible areas for shooting. At the immigration, when the officers checked his handbag, they spotted a book, 'Pakistan: Before And After Osama' by former Pakistani journalist Imtiaz Gul. “I did not know that it was banned in the UAE,” says Mahesh. “They have a long list of banned books. However, they handed the book back to me, but made a red mark on my boarding pass.”
To recreate the city of Tikrit, the home town of the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a 30ft tall flex poster had been made of the leader. “We wanted to use this as a cue to indicate to the audience that Tikrit was a place that belonged to Saddam,” says Mahesh. Incidentally, the real-life nurses worked in the Tikrit Teaching hospital, which was a stone's throw away from the Presidential palace. But the shoot was being held at Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad.