Location Diaries: Hoodwinking the police
Director Tinu Pappachan on his experiences working on the films, Streetlights, Manglish and Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil
During the filming of Streetlights (2018) in Chennai, the shoot was taking place in a housing colony. The crew did not get the official permission. “Instead, the local manager told us to go ahead,” says Tinu Pappachen, who was an associate director for the film.
But somebody complained and the police arrived. “They said that without permission we could not shoot,” says Tinu. “They asked us to give a deposit of Rs 1 lakh.”
Production controller Dixon Poduthas got into the jeep and asked the two policemen to move a bit further away so that they could have a discussion on the matter.
“Even though the police asked us to remove the cameras, we began shooting surreptitiously,” says Tinu.
The film, directed by Shamdat Sainudeen, starred Mammootty, Soubin Shahir and Lijo Mol Jose. Shamdat needed a shot of Lijo waving from a verandah. That was achieved. Another shot of a moving bike was also taken.
“Suddenly the police suspected we were doing some shooting,” says Tinu. “So they reversed the jeep quickly.”
Immediately Tinu and his team moved to one side and began having a conversation. “The policemen and Dixon came near us, thinking this was where the shoot was taking place,” says Tinu. “In the meantime, the last shot was taken. All that was left were some interior scenes.”
The policemen stuck to their demand of Rs 1 lakh. “I told Dixon and the policemen that we could not afford to pay so much, so we would prefer to close shop. Then we pretended to pack up. Soon, the police left.”
Immediately, the crew found a house in the same colony where they could shoot the interior sequences. “So, in the end, we were able to hoodwink the police,” says a smiling Tinu.
But things were not that smooth on the sets of Manglish (2014). Mammootty was supposed to be searching for a mobile phone. So the plan was for him to enter a shop at Perumbavur, ask for the mobile and leave.
When the local people heard there was a shooting, they started gathering around. “So we placed ropes behind which they could stand,” says Tinu, who was again an associate director. “And we called the police.”
Tinu then went into Mammooty's caravan and told him about the plan. Mammootty said, “I don't think it will work out.”
Tinu replied, “I will make it happen.”
“Are you sure?” said Mammootty.
“Yes,” said Tinu.
Mammootty nodded. But the moment he stepped out the people went crazy.
“The whole place became so crowded that Mammooty sir could not even reach the location, let alone take a shot,” says Tinu. “We requested the people to move back but nothing happened.”
Then Mammooty told Tinu, “If you can still make the shoot happen, I will give you a gold ring.”
In the end, the shoot fell through, and Tinu said, “Sir, it cannot happen.”
Mammootty smiled and said, “This was exactly what I told you in the caravan.”
But for the shoot in the Munambam harbour at Kuzhuppilly, for the same film, Mammootty took control. He played a fisherman, so the harbour was an important location for the film. Mammootty wore a mundu and shirt, with a towel wrapped around his forehead.
He stepped out of his caravan, took a megaphone, and said, “Through your cooperation, we can do the shoot. I request you to stay away from the camera and come to the other side, from where you can watch the shoot.”
Thereafter, Mammootty took selfies with the fishermen and even asked the price of the local fish. “The people realised he is a cool person,” says Tinu. “We faced no problems on the set after that.”
But Tinu encountered a few problems in his directorial debut, Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil (2018). There was a shot at midnight when actor Antony Varghese, who plays the hero, had to swim on his own in a river in Thiruvananthapuram. Tinu was in the middle of the river, on a boat with the camera jib. Another boat had brought Antony to the middle.
Soon, Antony began swimming. He had a rope tied around his waist. “But when he was swimming the rope got entangled in the jib of the camera,” says Tinu. “The camera is very expensive. We did not know what to do. The fight master, Supreme Sundhar asked his assistant to cut the rope. It was done. The camera was now safe. By then, Antony had moved to one side.”
Because of the current, Tinu's boat and the one which had brought Antony to the middle of the river began to come together. But Antony was in the middle. There was a real risk of him getting hit by the clash of the two boats.
By this time, at 4 am, fishermen had set out for their morning catch. So they were creating strong waves with their boats. “We were really worried about what to do when suddenly cameraman Girish Gangadharan grabbed Antony and then with his foot he gave a mighty push to the other boat and created a gap and pulled up the actor. That was very quick thinking on Girish's part and we were able to avoid any injury to Antony.”