Location Diaries: Not made up adventures
Make-up artist Pattanam Shah talks about his experiences working on the films, Albhutha Dweepu, Siamese Irattakal, Ayaal, and Kattuchembakam
At 4 am, make-up artist Pattanam Shah, along with costume designer SB Satheeshan headed towards a hill in Kava, Palakkad during the shoot of Vinayan's Albhutha Dweepu (a film about dwarfs released in 2005). “I knew it was going to be a difficult day,” says Shah. “I had to get the make-up of 300 small people done by 11 am.”
However, when he arrived at the shed where the make-up was supposed to be done, he realised he had a problem. “Suddenly, I wondered how we would do the make-up of small people while they sat in normal chairs,” says Shah. “We would have to bend a lot. And it would slow us down.”
Shah was wondering what to do. He wondered if it would it be possible to get high stools in that distant location. He spoke to associate art director Shiji who said, “There's nothing to worry. We will solve the problem.”
Suddenly about 15 high stools appeared from nowhere. The production team had anticipated this problem and got the stools in advance. Both Shah and Satheeshan felt so relieved. “We could do the make-up and the costumes quite fast and all the actors were ready on time,” says Shah. “This was a rare occasion when a production unit anticipated a problem and provided solutions.”
Shah also had an interesting experience on the sets of Siamese Irattakal (1997). Sainudeen and Maniyanpilla Raju played the role of Siamese twins in the film. “At that time, nobody knew much about prosthetic make-up,” says Shah. “We had to join two stomachs. And the actors had to face each other.”
Two technicians came from Chennai. They took the measurement of the stomachs of both actors. Then they made rubber moulds. It was placed around their stomachs like a belt. “Then I got both the moulds to be glued together,” says Shah. “So the actors were stuck. There was a shirtless scene. We painted the moulds in a body colour, so nobody could notice the difference.”
The shoot went off well. The director and the crew praised Shah. But when the late Rajan P Dev said, “That was a beautiful shot,” Shah got emotional. “For me, getting praise from such a senior and respected artist as Rajan Chettan was better than receiving a national award,” says Shah.
In Suresh Unnithan's Ayaal (2013), Shah went through a nerve-wracking experience. The shoot was on an island in the Kuttanad area in Alleppey district. There were about 100 people present. “For lunch, all had to travel on small boats to reach the eating location on another island nearby,” says Shah.
As he was awaiting his turn, Shah saw a fisherman on a small boat, with a motor at one end. “He said he would take me,” says Shah. “So I agreed. As soon as the motor started, and the boat moved forward, a gush of water shot up from a hole in the bottom.”
The man immediately stopped the motor. And he began to use his paddle. But the water was steadily filling up in the boat. “Since I did not know swimming, I was scared,” says Shah. “And the river was quite deep in that area. But the boatman was paddling very fast, and somehow, before the boat could capsize, we reached the other island. It was a close shave for me.”
Shah had earlier had another close shave on the sets of Kattuchembakam (2002), which starred Jayasurya and debutant Charmy Kaur. There was a shoot in the water, near the Athirampally Waterfalls, while the camera was placed on the bank.
Shah was assigned the task of holding on to Charmy's hand. “There was a good flow of water,” he says. “There was talk that the current might suddenly increase in speed.”
As they waited somebody shouted, “Be careful.” And indeed, the water started coming down in powerful waves. It hit Charmy and Shah with full force. Both lost their footing and went underwater. “I thought we would be washed away,” he says. As they began to panic, a quick-thinking crew member managed to hold Shah's hand, while Charmy grabbed Shah’s body. The crew member had to use all his strength to pull the duo to the bank. “Thanks to God, we survived,” says Shah.