Location Diaries: 'Jayam Ravi caught me and saved my life'
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week it is Tik Tik Tik
Nivetha Pethuraj, who is scared of heights, had to shoot for a scene falling off a hillock for the sci-fi film Tik Tik Tik. Choreographed by Miracle Michael master in the hilly areas of Munnar, Nivetha had to do a rappelling shot, with a rope tied around her waist. “It was at a height of a ten storey building. Below, was a dense jungle. I was really scared because of my natural fear of heights. In fact I even told my assistant to inform my family if anything untoward were to happen to me,” recalls Nivetha.
So then why did she agree to do it? “I felt that if my co-star Jayam Ravi could bravely do it, I too should give it a try.” So Nivetha and Ravi were slowly descending down the mountain, at an angle of 180 degrees, parallel to the ground. She had no previous experience nor training in what she was about to undertake. She was also wearing just regular footwear and not the mountain climibing shoes that are normally used. That’s when the unforeseen happened. “For rappelling, one hand handles the rope above you while with the other holds the rope below the hips to descend. I was doing this slowly, when suddenly my foot, clad in crocs, started slipping on the rocks since it didn’t have the necessary grip, and I started falling! Naturally, I panicked. Ravi was slightly below me and saw me slipping. He shouted ‘Don’t look down’ because he knew that would make me more afraid. But that’s exactly what I did and I freaked out!”
A drone camera was circling the duo, but the camera team was too far away to help. She had to somehow manage without falling off the mountain, all on her own, since Ravi was below her. “When I heard master’s voice from above, telling me to carry on calmly, I just lost my cool completely and started yelling at him. I told him to just shut up! It was out of sheer fear and frustration at my situation.” To add to her problems, the jerky and sudden descent, set her body at an angle and her elbow and knee hit the hard rocky mountainside. “I could hear a loud crack as bone made contact with rock. Luckily no bones were broken, but I was bleeding and bruised.”
At that moment, Nivetha knew that her fall into the jungle below was imminent. “I yelled loudly, ‘Ravi, I am going to fall, please catch me!’ and Ravi expertly caught me as I fell, just in the nick of time and saved my life. Otherwise who knows what would have happened that day. Ramesh Tilak and Arjunan were below and they started applauding. I was totally shaken up. I thanked Ravi and later apologised to Michael master.”
But that wasn't the end of it. The shot had to be done all over again since it hadn’t gone the way they expected. So did Nivetha let the body double take over the second time? “No. I decided to do the retake myself. My co-stars and team members had shown so much appreciation and confidence in me, that I was inspired look my fear in the face.”