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Location Diaries: Dream come true- Cinema express

Location Diaries: Dream come true 

This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week it is Vaanam Kottatum

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Published: 27th January 2020

Shanthnu Bhagyaraj is delighted about acting in a Mani Ratnam production, Vaanam Kottatum. “It was a dream come true for me, because Mani sir has not only produced but also written the script.” His excitement was palpable when he reported for shoot at Triplicane on the first day. But things didn’t quite go as planned, as there were rains right from his first day. The congested, narrow lanes were now full of slush and stagnant water, making things hard for shoot.

That wasn’t the end of Shanthnu’s troubles. By the third day of shoot, he fell ill and was diagnosed with chicken pox. To recuperate, he was advised complete bed rest. “I was devastated. My dream was falling apart. For 32 years, I hadn’t contracted the disease and just when I got a Mani sir film, this happened!”

Initially, he was supposed to shoot for 17 days. But the treatment took 10 days, leaving him with seven days to film. But Shanthnu did not give up. “Director Dhana was understanding and used the dates I had left to tweak my role.” But it was not easy. He had to shoot some action shots with Vikram Prabhu. “I was extremely weak due to heavy antibiotics. For the first two days, I couldn’t even stand for long under the sun. I would get completely dehydrated. I had to rest after every hour, drink liquids and then gather energy to shoot again. I somehow managed, thanks to my director and co-stars.”

During a shot, he had to exit the frame riding a bike, on the highway, with Aishwarya Rajesh riding pillion. But the duo got caught up in the flow of traffic and couldn’t turn back on time. “We had to ride on for 3 km till we spotted a U-turn on the highway and came back.” 

Unfortunately, it had also started drizzling, leaving them drenched. “Despite it all, we both enjoyed riding a bike in the rains! Passersby who recognised us were totally surprised and we could hear their comments as they sped past.”

Due to his illness, he was absent from important sequences. But Shanthnu preferred to see the brighter side. “I ended up with an extended cameo. But my dream came true at least! I would have accepted even if Mani sir had called me for a guest appearance.”

But he received an unexpected reward soon. His mom, Poornima Bhagyaraj, ran into Suhasini one day, who disclosed that Mani Ratnam had watched the film and loved Shanthnu’s performance. “ My mom was so excited, she immediately called me up. Everyone knows that Mani sir is a man of few words. So this was high praise coming from him. My spirits lifted instantly.”

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