Location Diaries: Downpour of challenges
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week, it is from Vasantha Mullai
While working on filmmaker Ramana Purushottam's Vasantha Mullai, actor Simha had to shoot mostly at night. For one particular action sequence, the unit travelled to Vagamon in Kerala, and shot for five challenging nights in a row in the wintry cold of December.
"We were a team of 150 on set. Though I initially thought we could brave the cold all night, I started feeling the strain by the second night of the shoot," says Simha. In addition to the freezing temperatures in the hilly area, the actor had to grapple with yet another challenge. "We had giant water sprinklers to create the rain effect, and through the five-day schedule, we shot for the fight sequence. Being drenched in water in bitter cold left us shivering after every shot!"
The cold conditions were not incorporated into the story, resulting in yet practical difficulty for the actors. "We were dressed in normal clothes, without any jackets or woolen-wear to give us the much-need warmth. Moreover, heroine Kashmira had to wear a sleeveless dress in the scene, making it more challenging for her." Unexpected showers were an added burden. "The heavy winds made matters worse, causing the umbrellas of the crew to blow away in the wind, often ruining the shot."
Before shooting an underwater scene, Simha and Kashmira had to undergo special training in underwater breath control under the guidance of Arvind, a scuba diving expert. But shooting the scenes in a specially created pool turned out to be a scary experience. "I hadn't told director Ramana that I didn't know swimming as I thought I could manage with the training. But nothing prepared me for the real experience. We not only had to control our breath, but also balance the pressure of water at 25 feet! The second we needed to breathe, we would give a hand signal and rise to the surface, to inhale air from oxygen cylinders. We had to be careful not to breathe the fresh air as we could inadvertently get water into our lungs in that struggle to breathe!"
There was also an issue with synchronisation between actors as well. While Simha managed to control his breath for over 2 minutes, Kashmira had to go up for air every 45 seconds. "So, shooting lengthy shots became impossible due to the breaks in between." The camera team lead by Gopi Amarnath was also underwater, armed with oxygen cylinders. "They had it worse. While we could come up several times, they were underwater for nearly 12 hours, setting the frame, and ensuring there were no sudden waves of water to disrupt the shots. Shooting underwater on chilly winter nights left us shivering as well. Those two days of filming were the most challenging of all. The next day I slept for 16 hours straight to get over the fatigue.”