Location Diaries: The horror of it all
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week, it is Grandma
Actor Sonia Aggarwal, who gets frightened at the very idea of horror cinema, should perhaps have known that shooting for one, titled Grandma, would be a tough experience. The actor traveled to Kerala for a 30-day shooting schedule of Grandma, which incidentally, marks her first horror film. "We shot at nights for 25 working days in a house near a jungle. The roads leading to the remote location were pitch dark and more deserted than usual due to Covid; even the roadside shops were shut. Those long drives to the location each evening and back to the hotel early in the morning was an eerie experience," says Sonia.
In between shots, her co-star Charmila would share several anecdotes of ghostly encounters which unnerved Sonia further. "I found it impossible to sleep in my room! Due to the Covid scare, my mother hadn't accompanied me either, and it was only when co-star Vimala Raman joined the shoot and stayed in a room close to mine, did I feel relieved."
Shooting for the horror film also meant that she had to emote with terror-stricken expressions for long stretches. “In a normal film, you react to a co-star or a camera. But for a horror film, you have to imagine a horrific image in your mind and express that fear. Using my imagination took a huge toll on me, both physically and mentally. During one such take, I started shivering with fear; my heartbeat began to race, and my face felt numb. I requested director Shijin Lal to pause shooting to let me recover."
Sonia also did her first stunt sequences for this film. Despite all the planning and rehearsal, there was a mishap while filming an action scene with a co-star. "I had to push the other actor away by thrusting my legs against a wall. We both fell down and suffered some minor injuries."
But another stunt proved riskier. She had to walk across a passage during a scene while a stuntman fired a gun at her. Tiny bombs were placed strategically along the wall and were to go off at designated timings in synchronisation with gunshots. "The scene took 30 minutes to pull off. The loudness of the bombs affected my hearing for a short while! Moreover, to my utter shock, fragments flew off them. I covered my face with my hands as I ran." And one fragment apparently struck her. "My face got singed at the point of impact. But I guess it could have been worse!"