Location Diaries: The Elephant Whisperers
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week, it is from Kathir
Actor Santhosh Prathap, part of a film titled Kathir, shot in the remote areas of Malli Amman Durgham, a hamlet atop a mountain, surrounded by dense forests in the Kadambur area of the Eastern Ghats. For the unit, it was like “stepping back in time”. The scenes shot there were set in the 60’s, he says. “In Kadambur, we had to wait for half a day for the locals from the hilltop village to meet us. They accompanied our crew in special vehicles, as we transported all the equipment uphill. At some places, we had to get down and walk as there were no roads. As we were traversing steep inclines and dangerous turns, the vehicle journey was no easy trip either,” says Santhosh.
The villagers were welcoming, according to Santhosh. "The crew members stayed amongst the locals in their homes, as did I. There was no mobile network or electricity there. We had to walk every morning to a thatched area outside our huts to shower. There was just one restroom in the municipal school hall, which the ladies in the unit used."
Breaktime was more enjoyable, he adds. "The locals helped us with the cooking. They would bring us fresh fruits from the forests, which tasted unlike anything we have tasted in the cities. We also tasted their local dishes made with ragi and other locally grown vegetables. Apparently, they eat hand-pounded rice only during festivals and special occasions," adds the Sarpatta Parambarai actor.
Santhosh exclaims surprise at how the villagers dealt with elephant encounters "They speak to the animal and request it to leave without harming anything. The elephants, I was told, actually pay heed and turn around. Despite their village being completely surrounded by the forest, no harm has ever befallen them. The animals and people show such mutual respect for one other."
The actor also spent a bit of time with the village's children. “The village has about 20 children, who would watch me work out every day and learn dancing as well. Some of them call me from time to time, when they get out to a place that has access to a mobile network," says Santhosh. "Shooting there was like stepping back in time. The place was pure and unpolluted and exuded a certain energy that drew me. The location made it so much easier for me to get into the shoes of my character. It's a place that I dream of revisiting."