Location Diaries: Anandhi for Raavana Kottam—An Unforgettable Shoot
Shooting for director Vikram Sukumaran's Raavana Kottam, turned out to be a most unforgettable experience for heroine Anandhi, for more reasons than one.
"Raavana Kottam is a 4-year journey which I can never forget. Throughout the period of the filming, I procured an MBA, got married, and had a baby! But the delays were unforeseen. Though we had begun filming before COVID, we had to stop due to the pandemic. Post Lockdown, shoot timing restrictions further delayed the project. But director Vikram's vision and passion for filmmaking kept us inspired all through the delays," says Anandhi.
Due to the time gaps, Anandhi encountered a different issue. "By the final schedule, most of the costumes didn't fit me anymore! It wasn't possible to find the same material and stitch new clothes! Hats off to the costume department for somehow doing their best to find solutions to match everything, avoiding continuity issues."
The film was shot majorly in Ramnad district, that too in May, during peak summertime. "Director Vikram wanted to capture the landscape when it was at its driest. Even a bit of rain would cause continuity problems due to changes in the vegetation. That's why we used to shoot in summer, and when the rains began, we would wrap up and return the next summer. His perseverance and focus on what he wants was amazing."
Shooting there had its own challenges. "We shot in dry areas in 45 degrees temperature. Trees were very few and so there was no shade for protection from the Sun. We were not allowed to go to the caravan during breaks, because that would make our skin even more sensitive to the heat when we returned to sets. So it was better to stay there and get used to the heat."
Anandi then goes on to recollect a particularly tough moment during the shoot when Shanthnu Bhagyaraj had to shoot a song in harsh weather conditions. "It was shot in the afternoon. He had to run on the hot tar road, that too without footwear! By the end of the day, he had blisters on his feet. I really admired his dedication."
Their tryst with the heat continued. Another time, Shanthnu and Anandhi had to shoot for a montage song inside a charcoal-making kiln. "The kiln has a unique shape, with just a small entrance. The camera was placed above us, through a hole in the roof. It was really hot inside and we were drenched in sweat within minutes. Neither of us could think of any romantic expressions! Our only thought was about waiting to go out of that kiln to escape the heat!"
The film required hundreds of crowd members daily, and most of them were locals. "The local populace was very supportive and came regularly for the shoot to act as junior artists but they also had their own tasks to do throughout the day. So, whenever they had some work to finish, they would leave for a while. Since this led to breaks in continuity, the crew had to go find them and wait till they returned." With hundreds of people on sets daily, Anandhi also got to closely observe the lifestyle of the populace, which was a new experience for her.
The film also captured a local festival, spread over three days, over a large area, with thousands of people attending. "The camera team captured everything as it happened with a helicam. One time, Shanthnu and I had to walk nearly a kilometre with the crowd till we reached a point where we had a shot sequence with co-stars Prabhu sir and Deepa mam. All this was captured in one long, single shot. The sheer dedication of director Vikram and the camera teams in co-ordinating a giant shoot like this was admirable."