Location Diaries: Khaki diaries
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week it is Walter
When Sibiraj signed up to play a cop in Walter, he was excited and justifiably so. After all, his father, veteran actor Sathyaraj had played the eponymous iconic cop in the superhit film, Walter Vetrivel. "It was the biggest grosser in 1993 and appa's role is remembered to this day. For any hero, playing a cop is special. So for me to play a police officer, that too in a film titled Walter, was a wonderful opportunity," says Sibi. "Though I played a cop in Naigal Jaagirathai, that film was more of a thriller with a dog at the centre. Besides, I hardly had any scenes in uniform. Walter being my first full-fledged cop film, I was thrilled when I started shooting wearing the uniform."
The actor first wore the uniform in Kumbakonam, where the unit was stationed for one part of the shoot. What he didn't bargain for, however, was the overbearing heat in Kumbakonam in June. Sibi soon got increasingly uncomfortable in his uniform. "For one, the material was thick and fitted to my structure, and so it trapped heat. Further, I'm not used to tucking in my shirt, even in films. So wearing a tucked-in shirt with a thick, heavy belt over it, all day was torturous. My movement felt restricted. Also, I never wear caps in real life, and so wearing the police cap for many scenes made me feel more sweaty. Donning the khaki was tougher than I had imagined!"
The heavy crowds at the bus stand they were shooting at, added to the heat. Shooting like this for 30 days proved to be quite challenging. The only respite came from a portable air cooler, which Sibi would run towards, to cool off during breaks.
While he hadn't expected all this discomfort, he had made provisions for doing stunt scenes wearing the uniform. "I knew the normal khaki material would be too thick and restrictive for stunt scenes, as I would be required to jump, run, and fight. So, before we began shooting itself, just after the photo shoot, I got a special, identical-looking uniform stitched. But this one was made out of a lighter, more stretchable material, to give me the flexibility of motion needed for stunts." But though the second uniform helped him do the stunts more easily, the special material was just as uncomfortable in the heat. "Also, it crinkled more, due to all that movement, so we couldn't use it for long."
By the end of the shoot, Sibi had only one thought. "Unlike me, who had to only don the restrictive uniform for a few months, all cops, especially traffic police, do their duty battling such discomfort even in the searing heat. I had a stretchable material uniform for my stunts but real-life cops don't have such options. My respect for the men in uniform has increased substantially after Walter."