Location Diaries : Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol
Producer Sophia Paul talks about her experiences in the film Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol
For the pooja ceremony for Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol’ at Kozhikode, in June, 2016, director Jibu Jacob invited his Kottayam-based uncle Fr. Joffie Puthuva for the prayers. “I was very happy when Fr. Joffie came,” says the film’s producer Sophia Paul. “I had met him earlier at a function in Jibu’s home at Njarakal and we got along very well.”
However, a week later, the priest was travelling with a boy on a motorbike, in Thuruthy (Changanacherry). A sand-laden lorry overtook him, but it collided with a vehicle coming from the opposite direction. As a result, the sand fell on the road and Fr. Joffie lost control of his bike and hit his head against a post. He was taken to a hospital where he died, while the boy sustained only minor injuries.
“Jibu was very close to his uncle,” says Sophia. “So, when he received the news on the set, at Kozhikode, he became extremely upset. He started crying and could not work any more. It was a big shock for me, too.”
Then a few days later, an unit vehicle was going towards the shoot location at Kozhikode. “A couple were travelling on a scooter,” says Sophia. “Suddenly, another vehicle hit them from the back. The two-wheeler skidded and the woman fell in front of our vehicle. It was so sudden that the driver was unable to apply the brakes. The car ran over the lady, and she died instantly.”
The film’s shoot was done mostly in a housing colony at Bilathikulam. And soon, the crew came to know of a very old lady, who was a favourite among the residents. “And then, suddenly, she died,” says Sophia. “This was also a shock.” To show solidarity and respect, the shoot was cancelled for a day.
However, there were light moments, too. One day, Sophia had gone, with production controller Sreekumar, to monitor a mock panchayat being set up in the colony. The art director Ajayan assured Sophia that the set would be ready on time.
Suddenly, Ajayan’s assistant, Sukubas Kumaran said, “Madam, you don’t play Candy Crush any more?”
Sophia looked shocked. (Candy Crush is a game which you play on Facebook [FB] as well as mobile apps. To move to a different level, you can take the help of others, who will give you ‘lives’, when you exhaust your allotted five lives).
Sukubas said, “I am your FB friend and whenever you wanted ‘lives’, I would do so.”
Sophia had not known that Sukubas was her FB friend and had helped her in the game. “It was so hilarious,” she says, and laughs loudly at the Crowne Plaza, Kochi.
Meanwhile, Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol was released in January. Then, one day, Sophia got the surprising news that a nun, Sr. Lizzy Chakkalakal took the students of Class 8, 9 and 10 of the Our Lady’s School at Thoppumpady, Kochi, to see the film. (The story is about how Mohanlal, who plays a middle-class husband and father, in a stagnant marriage, falls in love with his wife again, and has a better relationship with his children).
It was after this that Sophia got the idea of getting the clergy interested in the film. So, a special screening was organised for Cardinal George Alencherry, several bishops, priests and nuns.
“Soon the priests began to talk about the film in their Sunday sermons,” says Sophia. “Suddenly, in the Christian belts of Kerala, there was a huge increase in the audience. This was one of the reasons why our film became a superhit.”