The haunting tale of Aake
Director KM Chaitanya recounts their many chilling experiences during the shoot in London
Filmmakers rarely share haunting experiences they have had while shooting a movie. But KM Chaitanya, who helmed the horror thriller Aake, has no such reservations. During their shoot in London, he says the team experienced eerie blackouts, heard voices and even ‘lost’ an entire day’s work.
To start with, getting there was a problem, like the shadow of a curse was hanging over them. The director’s visa was rejected for the first time in his life and he had to reapply, to reach only five days before the shoot. "I had little time to cast people and finalise locations. I chose Horsley Towers, which I had heard was an old castle now converted into a sprawling resort, as the setting for the movie’s mental asylum," he says.
The team booked themselves into its rooms and, during the shoot, heard a lot of stories about the place. "The freakiest thing was when we realised that this Horsley Towers was previously a mental asylum. It was once badly maintained so they converted it into a resort, this is the story of my film," says the filmmaker.
The 450-years old Towers has been listed as one of the 10 most haunted places in Europe, and many people have reported ghost sightings here. "The daughter of an English poet committed suicide there and people say they have seen her spirit roaming about," says Chaitanya.
Only four films have been shot in Horsley Towers, and according to Chaitanya, all the four faced difficulties with equipment breaking down and had to leave the shoot incomplete. "We went through something similar too," he says. "We shot an entire tunnel sequence through the night, till sunrise, only to have it disappear from the hard disk. We had to reshoot the whole sequence again."
A couple of actors also claimed to have had ‘strange’ encounters during their stay. "Balaji Manohar and Amaan went to the chapel attached to the resort, and they are certain there was no one around, but they could hear voices; it terrified them and they ran out," says Chaitanya, adding, "They had been having similar experiences throughout their stay - disembodied voices and lights going on and off. Everybody knows that there are rarely any powercuts in UK, but when we were shooting lights would go off and the computer-operated generator would refuse to start up. All of it was weird."
Another location at which the team witnessed chilling occurences was the Epping Forest. "Here there is the Suicide Pool, which got its name because 200 people have come and killed themselves here. Then there is the Hangman’s Noose. Take the car on this path, put it on neutral and it starts climbing uphill! We managed to shoot there too." (As an aside, people have argued that the road actually dips, though an optical illusion makes it seems like it is a rise.)
Chaitanya wraps up his haunting tales with a playful dig at the movie’s executive producer Yogish Dwarakish. "Yogish didn’t come with the team to London because his visa was reject, but mostly because he is scared of ghosts and didn’t want to risk it," he says.
Aake, inspired by Maya written by Ashwin Saravanan, features Chiranjeevi Sarja and Sharmiela Mandre in the lead, with Achyuth Kumar and Prakash Belawadi playing important roles. The film, distributed by Eros International along with Mysore Talkies, has music by Gurukiran and camerawork by Ian Howes and Malharbatt Josh.