Location Diaries: Ghosts on the prowl
Director PS Sugeeth talks about his experiences working on the films Kinavalli, Madhura Naranga and the upcoming, Oru Cinema Kadha
For the film, Kinavalli (2018), the location was at a bungalow in a tea estate in Kumili. From the beginning, the crew found strange things happening.
“There was a corridor and whenever we placed the camera there, it would hang,” says the film's director PS Sugeeth. “Three monitors stopped working. We could not understand the reason why.”
Then late at night, there was a knock on the door. “Initially, we thought it may be some equipment which we had stored near the entrance which was hitting the door,” says Sugeeth. “However, we did get scared. So we all decided to sleep together in the living room. One day, we heard a loud bang on the door. I jumped up. And so did the scriptwriter, Syam Seethal.”
After a while, they heard another knock. “It felt as if somebody was shaking the door,” says Sugeeth. “Earlier, the knocks would come at midnight. Then it began at 3 am.”
To get to the bottom of the mystery, Syam went and stood behind a curtain near the door. “When the next knock came, he immediately opened the door, but there was nobody around,” says Sugeeth.
Then on another night, they heard water boiling. So they went out of the house, at 1 am to investigate. On the outside of a bathroom, there was a pipe. “The water seemed to be boiling and there was smoke coming out of the pipe,” says Sugeeth. “But when we touched the pipe, it was cold. We could not understand what was happening.”
For a particular scene, the film's heroine, Sowmya Menon had to come running up and touch a glass door. But when she did so, the skin of her palm split into two.
“We were taking her to the hospital when we heard a shout of pain,” says Sugeeth. “This turned out to be the crane operator who suffered the same injury because he, too, touched the door.”
Sugeeth felt that the time had come to cleanse the house of ghosts and other negative spirits. So he called a priest from a nearby church who came, said prayers and sprinkled holy water.
“It was only after this that the ghost stopped harassing the crew,” he says. “However, I still don't believe in ghosts despite all what we went through.”
Thankfully, during the shoot of Madhura Naranga (2015), there were no ghosts. Instead, Kunchacko Boban was playing the role of a taxi driver. The scene was being shot in a Dubai street, using a local taxi. The taxi was parked near the sidewalk. During a break in the shooting Kunchacko was leaning against the taxi and talking to somebody on the phone.
Suddenly, a young Arab woman came up, got into the back seat and told Kunchacko to take her somewhere. When Kunchacko did not get inside the car, the lady got very angry. He explained that the taxi was part of a film set. She did not believe it. “In the end, all of us had to go and explain to her that a shoot was taking place, and we pointed at the camera and the crew. It was only then that she believed what we said. Finally, she stepped out and left with a smile on her face.”
Meanwhile, the inspiration for his upcoming film, Oru Cinema Kadha goes back several years. After working for 11 years as an assistant to Kamal, Sugeeth decided to get into direction along with his friend, cinematographer Faisal. So they began mulling over several stories. Sugeeth’s father was the principal of a college in Namakkal in Tamil Nadu. He asked the duo to come to Namakkal where there was a guest house and they could stay for a few days. So Sugeeth, Faisal and scriptwriter Prashant Murali went there. While there, they would have their meals at the college canteen. In the midst of girls and boys, they noticed a teacher, who kept his collar up and wore bell-bottom pants.
“We immediately dubbed him 'Romeo',” says Sugeeth. They befriended him. One reason for his popularity among the girls was that he was the warden of their hostel. The trio, along with Romeo, went for an outing. They stopped at a scenic spot. While they were chatting, Romeo asked Sugeeth whether he had selected any story. Sugeeth replied in the negative. Then Romeo said, “I have a story.”
When Sugeeth asked what it was, he said, “It is my love story.” At that moment there was a sudden rainfall. This was rare in Namakkal, which is a very dry place. “I took the rain as a sign from God,” says Sugeeth. The group raised the back door of the Innova and sheltered under it, as Romeo recounted the story of his nine-year-old love for a girl.
Fascinated, they forced Romeo to take leave the next day and went to a village near Salem where the girl used to stay. Sugeeth stops his tale there. “To know more, you have to watch the film,” he says, with an impish smile.