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Location Diaries: Haunting hours- Cinema express

Location Diaries: Haunting hours

This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week, Surbhi talks about his experience shooting for DD Returns

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Published: 24th July 2023

While shooting for Santhanam's upcoming horror comedy, DD Returns, actor Surbhi, who plays a French girl from Pondicherry, had several first-time experiences that were challenging.

Shooting for her first horror film, in a giant haunted house set, gave her an eerie feeling. "The set was so well constructed, it gave off a scary vibe. With dimly lit corridors, giant spider webs, antique props and softly flying curtains, I felt I was inside the Temple Run game," says Surbhi.

On her first day there, she got a big scare, when she had to do a scene with child actor Manasvi. " She's is a very cute kid in reality. But in that ghost costume, prosthetics and horror make-up, I didn't recognise her at all. So for my shot, when she suddenly came flying at me on a rope, I was in complete shock as I was terrified. We had to do a few retakes for me to get the shot right."

Even watching other actors like Pradeep Rawat as a ghost took some getting used to. "Initially seeing his towering personality spouting chilling dialogues, wearing scary eye lenses and make-up, all in the dim lighting, used to scare me a bit. But slowly I got used to it."

She also visited Colombo for the first time, for a song shoot. " We shot on a ship for a song. The weather was hot in the day while it rained in the evening. Since Santhanam's shot with some dancers was delayed, I had to wait till they finished. The mix of heat and humidity on the deck ruined my makeup. I couldn't even do touch-ups. We somehow completed my bit with just a few shots."

Filming stunt scenes were challenging and even led to an injury. On her first day of the shoot, Surbhi had to do a late-night chase scene in the haunted house set. "Santhanam and I had to run towards a door in a room. In the darkness, the moving camera placed on a Jimmy jib suddenly lunged towards me and hit my forehead as it swung upwards. I screamed in pain and fell to the ground." 

Shooting was stopped and an ice pack was placed on the rapidly swelling wound. "Santhanam was very concerned. He instantly called his doctor and helped me get first aid sooner." Luckily for the actor, there was no major cause for worry. However, Surbhi couldn't shoot for the next three days. "I still felt shaken, nauseous and weak due to the trauma. Everyone was relieved I had a narrow escape from any worse injuries."

Another challenging shoot was a 4-day action sequence in an old library in Chennai. The crew had to carry equipment up metal stairs, to set it up among bookshelves. "It was very hot with no fans inside. The ghost had to appear suddenly from behind bookshelves and Santhanam and I had to take a U-turn and run. It was extremely challenging to run in the dim, eerie lighting, that too on a flooring made of wire mesh. We both had to be very cautious we didn't trip or bump into bookshelves, even while emoting and facing the camera all at the same time. It was all quite tricky and physically exhausting. But at the end of it all, I also got to do some extra comedy scenes. So, shooting for my first horror comedy was quite a satisfying challenge."

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