Location Diaries: Jungle Book
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week it is Kaadan
Rana Daggubati had to spend around 200 days in six different jungles shooting for Prabu Solomon's tri-lingual, titled Kaadan in Tamil. The shoot involved working alongside elephants, which required special preparations. "I spent a week training with elephants in Thailand, feeding them, and spending time getting familiar with them. But nothing prepared me for the actual shoot."
The shots usually required Rana to be accompanied by around 20 elephants. "Even though I am quite tall, I felt dwarfed next to them. Moreover, walking alongside 20 elephants, I could feel the earth shaking under their force. It was quite unnerving."
When they shot near Kerala's elephant corridor, the forest rangers warned them that after 6 pm wild elephants would be crossing, so shooting would have to be wrapped in advance every day. On the last day, however, the shoot got prolonged by half an hour. Suddenly they heard the forest rangers shouting that wild elephants were approaching. "We all ran helter-skelter and managed to get into the jeeps for a steep drive down the slope. What we didn't realise was how dark it had gotten. Even the jeep's headlights could not penetrate the pitch dark of the dense forest. What made it eerier was that all around us we could see eyes brightly staring at us. We didn't know whether they were insects, birds or animals, but they were everywhere. That day we sensed how the earth belongs not just to mankind but to animals as well, a feeling that's lost in concrete man-made jungles."
It wasn't just wild elephants that tested Rana. For one stunt, he had to run across the fallen trunk of a tree and cross a ravine, swinging across a branch. Though the safety harness was in place, it was a tricky shot. "Just when I reached the end and swung myself over, I noticed huge red jungle ants had started climbing onto my hand. They got into my clothes and began biting me. To make things worse, I couldn't run back to safety as I was harnessed. So I had to carefully walk backward with my body burning up with the ant bites."
"Due to stunts in the jungle terrain, my costumes would constantly get torn, and scratches from thorns and branches were the norm. For a large part of the shoot, I was shooting only with elephants, birds and Mother Nature for company, without other co-stars. It made Kaadan a tough but cherished once-in-a-lifetime experience for a nature lover like me," signs off Rana.