Location Diaries: Digging into the character
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week, it is from Maayon
When the filming of N Kishore's Maayon demanded that actor Sibiraj travel to Kumbakonam and Pudukkottai, he knew little about how strenuous the shoot would turn out to be. "I play an archaeologist in the film, and as per the requirements of the story, we obtained permission to shoot in various areas in Kumbakonam. A 100-feet-long idol of a reclining Krishna was being created by the art director as well. However, due to unexpected and heavy rainfall, the work got delayed. A subsequent portion of our shoot was planned in Pudukkottai, and we had to complete that shoot as the special permissions were time-bound. The delay left us in a fix," says Sibiraj.
The unit quickly came up with an idea to avert a crisis. "We decided to travel to Pudukkottai by car each day, shoot there, and immediately return to Kumbakonam to complete the day’s shoot while the idol was being created. It was the only way out. We followed this hectic plan for several days. Juggling between travelling and shooting without respite, left me sleep-deprived and fatigued; it felt like jet lag! Even our cinematographer Sivaramprasad sir was so tired that he could be find sleeping on the top of the crane between the shots," says Sibiraj.
The usage of smoke effect on the sets was another challenge Sibiraj had to deal with. "I’m allergic to smoke, and the paint used for the artwork and idol added to my woes. Long before Covid, I was wearing a mask between shots, to get through such portions!"
The character of an archaeologist required Sibiraj to alter his body language. "I had to look like well-versed in the subject and carry an air of intelligence, while also keeping my emotions in check." To familiarise himself with the character and atmosphere, Sibiraj would inspect the set properties that he would handle in the scene—like swords, compasses, and other props. "This way, it would feel familiar and look authentic when I spoke about them or held them in my hand."
He also had to get acquainted with archaeological jargon in Tamil. "I felt particularly anxious when I had to deliver a long dialogue with several archeological terms, and I rehearsed my lines in order to get them right. However, I was taken by surprise when we went to the shoot. The director had changed his mind at the last minute and the scene was tweaked. Instead of me, heroine Tanya got to say those lines. As I was anxious despite being fully prepared to deliver the long monologue, I felt a mix of disappointment and relief at that moment!"