Location Diaries: Close calls in the jungle and a punch on the nose
Actor Indrajith Sukumaran talks about his experiences on the sets of Naku Penta Naku Taka, Ezhamathe Varavu, Calcutta News and Padayani
Indrajith Sukumaran drove the six-seater vehicle carefully to the shooting spot inside the Nairobi National Park at Kenya. Sitting beside him was actor Bhama. At the back was Vayalar Madhavan Kutty, the director of Naku Penta Naku Taka (2014), and cameraman Krish Kymal. As Indrajith stopped at a clearing, he saw a baboon sitting some distance away, by the side of the road.
In order to get a closer look, he drove up to the grey-and-black baboon. “I was curious about it,” says Indrajith. “The baboon, unlike other monkeys, likes to eat meat. It kills deer. It has long incisors and can be dangerous.”
As the car went past slowly, the baboon just stared at them. Then its eyes rested on several red, green and yellow flowers which were placed at the back.
Soon, Indrajith returned to the original spot. Then another car came up. This consisted of people of the art department. The back door was lifted up. And one of the members took out some flowers and moved some distance away.
In the rear-view mirror, Indrajith could see Madhavan and Krish. A few seconds later, he saw a shadow. The baboon had raced up and jumped into the back.
“We all started screaming out of complete fear,” says Indrajith. “The baboon felt unnerved. It ran out but with some flowers. Maybe it thought they were fruits or vegetables.”
The next thing they saw was the baboon running away, but it was dropping flowers all along the way. Soon, it vanished.
After heaving a sigh of relief, the group got out of the car. Preparations began for the shoot to start. But soon, there was an unexpected development. In the distance, the crew saw a group of ten baboons. “Just like human beings, the one who ran away had called his gang,” says Indrajth, with a smile. “As they were approaching, the guards said that it was no longer safe. So we immediately left in search of another location.”
For Hariharan’s film, Ezhamathe Varavu (2013) Indrajith faced danger of a different sort. The shoot was inside a forest called Kannavankadu near Thalassery. Indrajith, who was playing a hunter, had to shoot a sequence where he had to walk into a river, go some distance, turn around and walk back. As he stood in the water, with a gun in his hand, and a backpack, suddenly he heard a shout, “Chetta, watch out, there is a snake.”
When Indrajith looked back, he saw an eight feet long thick black snake fall into the water with a splash barely five feet away. “I was frozen with fear,” he says. “Most probably, it was a viper.” Thankfully, the snake which had lost its balance and fell from a branch of an overhanging tree felt even more flustered. Using great strength, it fought the current and managed to reach the bank and slithered away. “That was a very close shave,” says Indrajith.
But Indrajith ran out of luck during the shoot of Calcutta News inside a tram depot at Kolkata. It was the last day of the 75-day shoot. At night around 60 people were supposed to leave for Kerala by train and plane. A fight sequence was being shot at noon. The plan was that Indrajith would swing his fist towards a junior Bengali artiste. The latter would move to the right, snapping his head. However, when the shoot began, the artist moved to the left and by accident, his arm hit Indrajith smack in the middle of the nose. “It was like a pipe was opened, the blood just shot out,” he says. “Soon, my shirt was drenched. I felt groggy.”
The whole unit was shocked. Indrajith was quickly taken to a nearby hospital. However, after inspection, the doctor said there was no major damage. The blood had shot out because of the impact. Nevertheless, the shooting was cancelled along with all the rail and air tickets. “The shooting was kept on hold because whenever I got up and walked fast, I would start bleeding again,” says Indrajith. “Anyway, it was eventually done on the fourth day. Many crew members had to stay on for a few more days, as they could not get tickets immediately.”
As Indrajith talks in his 15th-floor apartment in Kochi, all of a sudden, his mind goes way back into the past. The shoot of the film Padayani (1986) was taking place outside their house in Ashok Nagar at Chennai. Mohanlal was the film's lead actor, and Indrajith, in his first-ever role, played the younger version of Mohanlal's character.
“One day, my father (Sukumaran) told us that Mohanlal wanted to meet us,” says Indrajith. “I must have been six while Prithvi (actor Prithviraj) was only three. We were super-excited because we were fans.”
They ran down the stairs. Mohanlal was sitting outside on a chair. “He was very warm and friendly and had a smile on his face,” says Indrajith. “When Mohanlal is with children he behaves like a child. He made us feel very comfortable and hugged us. Then a photo was taken. It is there in my mother’s album.”