Location Diaries: Speaking non-stop
Scriptwriter Bipin Chandran talks about his experiences on the sets of Daddy Cool, Best Actor and 1983
When college friend Aashiq Abu asked Bipin Chandran to write a script, he wrote Daddy Cool (2009). In the early part of the film, there is a scene where a news anchor speaks at length, giving the hero Mammootty only the chance to say 'Yes' or 'Aaah'.
“It was a time when TV anchors were coming to prominence, and they would rarely allow their guests to speak,” says Bipin. Aashiq felt a mimicry artist would be able to do the job. But they just could not get the right person. During this time, Bipin would read out the dialogues for the cast and the crew. One day, Aashiq said, “Why don't you say the ‘anchor’ dialogues?” Bipin replied, “No way.” However, in the end, he agreed.
On the day of the shoot, at Kochi, Bipin's heart was racing fast. “I had to act opposite Mammootty,” says Bipin. “It was like coming in front of a lion. He was an icon who had won three National Awards. People on the set were also nervous.”
The shoot began. After taking a deep breath Bipin launched into the two-and-a-half page dialogue. “I let it flow and, to my surprise, it was okayed in one take,” says Bipin. “The entire crew clapped because I had done it so well.”
Mammootty said, “You do know how to act. Well done!”
But when Bipin was given another two pages of non-stop dialogue, Mammootty smiled and said, jokingly, “Your throat is going dry. Drink a glass of water before saying anything more.”
Bipin is a fluent speaker but he always had problems with Hindi right from his school days at Kanjirappally. “I used to memorise most of the answers,” he says. One such quote that he never forgot was the one given by Noble Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein on the 70th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi: "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a man as this one in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth."
In Best Actor, Mammootty plays a school teacher who pretends to be a criminal from Mumbai as he befriends some goondas at Fort Kochi. “During a fight, Mammootty takes out a toy gun, and in order to impress the criminals, he spouts the Einstein dialogue in Hindi,” says Bipin. At the time of the shoot, Bipin was teaching at a government school in a tribal area in Mundakayam. Suddenly he got a call. It was from Mammootty who said, “You wrote all these Hindi dialogues and now you are teaching in a school. Please come to the set.”
Mammootty needed somebody to prompt him. So, Bipin immediately took a taxi and came to the set at Kochi.
Based on instructions from director Martin Prakkat, cinematographer Ajayan Vincent had made a circular track. “Since Martin wanted to take it in one shot, I could not stand next to Mammootty,” says Bipin. “So I sat under the camera, on the trolley and prompted Mammootty and that was how the shot was done. Of course, Mammootty had already memorised the dialogues, so he was able to do it in one take.”
Later, at the premiere show, when Mammootty's dialogue came up on screen the audience burst into applause. “It went down very well,” says Bipin. “So, a language which I found very difficult to handle in school turned out to be very helpful two decades later.”
Bipin used another dialogue from his childhood. This was a question he would ask his teachers: “Where do crows go to die?” Nobody could give a proper answer. “When we were studying in Maharaja's College, there was a tree nearby which had hundreds of crows,” says Bipin. “I would always ask my friends the same question.”
Once, during the time he was writing the script for 1983, he was sitting with his friend Abrid Shine and a few friends at a lodge in Kochi when he recounted this story. Immediately, Abrid said, “You should put it in the film.” And so, there's a scene in the film, when Jacob Gregory, who plays a character called Sachin, looks at a crow which has been electrocuted and says, “Where do crows go to die?”
Ever since, there have been numerous memes and comments on Facebook and on Twitter. “Somehow, this question is something viewers have never forgotten,” says Bipin. “Interestingly, so far, I have not received a proper answer.”