Friday, June 11, 2010

NIRMALYAM - Nostalgia

Recently Kaani Film Society, Chankaramkulam, Kerala had brought out KAANI NERAM, their Special Annual Issue 2010, a part of which was devoted for the film NIRMALYAM (1973). Kaani Film Society had been doing excellent work in introducing good cinema to the rural film audiences in Malabar, through festival screenings, seminars and publications.

I had also written an article going back 37 years in time, recollecting the shooting days,which was published in the book.

I am giving below the article:


I was taken aback when I was asked by M.T. to be the cinematographer of the film Nirmalyam, M.T's maiden directorial venture. The screen play was based on his short story “Pallivalum Kaal Chilambum”. At that time MT was a well known figure in the Malayalam film Industry and I was just an up coming cinematographer. He could have obtained the services of any one of the top cameramen of that day for his film. But he didn't opt for it. MT himself told me later that he did not want any top people in his film as sometimes the credit for the success of film may get attributed to them. Also he wanted the film to be done in his own way, whether correct or not without any kind of interference. At the same time he was open to creative suggestions for the betterment of the film.

With M.T.

I had first met M.T. while a student at the Poona Film Institute in 1970, and he had come there as visiting Professor to take Screenplay classes. After that meeting I had met him once or twice at Madras and I have done only three films before I was contacted to do Nirmalyam. My senior friend at the Institute M. Azad was the associate Director and my batch mate again from the Institute Ravi Menon was doing a prominent role and P.J Antony with whom I have done Ragging ( he had written the script and also acted in it) was doing the lead role. So I was quite comfortable in doing the film with people previously known to me. Being the youngest member in the unit, M.T. used to address me as “Thampy” meaning younger brother in Tamil. He always treated me as his younger brother and continues till now.

The shooting location was a small village near Edappal called Mukkola (Mukuthala) and there were no lodges to accommodate all the unit members. Actor Sukumaran's uncle Edappal Kuttan made arrangements in his relative's houses for Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sumithra etc to stay. There was a rice mill in Edappal where a building with two rooms and a hall was available. We were able to get that building for ourselves. MT took one room, P.J, Antony the other and the Hall was for the rest of us. Ravi Menon, Azad and myself slept there on grass mats spread on the floor. Sukumaran was acting in his debut film and though his house was in Edappal, he also joined us to become more familiar with film making methods.

Near the temple, myself with Camera assistant Venkitaraj on the right

In those days we did not have generators for power supply, so we had to depend on KSEB for our needs. For that we have to apply for Temporary 3 phase connections with separate meters in all locations where power is needed. Fortunately we needed power in two locations only, the Temple and velichappad's house which happened to be near the temple. So we managed with one connection for both the locations. But the power situation was worse in Malabar area and the voltage was very less at night time around 120 – 150 volts. So most of our night shooting was done after 9 PM only when people switch off the lights and go to sleep. Then the power consumption load goes down and the voltage rises to a usable level of around 200 volts. So our night shoots extended till early in the morning! For daytime shooting we used reflectors which we got fabricated at Calicut, since we did not have the luxury of having a full out-door unit from Madras for use.

Shooting at the Bharathapuzha, myself on camera, M.T.(with dark glasses) and Devadas (Sound Engineer) sitting on the sands

There was full co-operation from the villagers and they always were there to help us with properties for the scenes and also acting in minor and crowd scenes. In fact they got so attached to the unit, many children were in tears when it was time for us to depart after the shooting was over. Except for the Sreekovil portion all other scenes were completed in one schedule. We had erected a set in Calicut where the Sreekovil with the idol where close up shots were taken. It was because in the temple which was used for our shooting there were no regular Poojas taking place and more over it was such a cramped place and customs prevent you from entering it too for placing lights etc. For other outdoor locations, we used the steps on the riverside at Thirumittakode temple for the parting song and a cave nearby for the rain sequence which was done with the help of fire engines.

The post production work was done at Madras and again a house was rented and people slept on the floor on grass mats. Food was mostly cooked there and we had a nice time of staying together like a family. Never again I have worked for such a film from beginning to end in such a manner. That was a very memorable experience in my film career as such!

1 comment:

  1. Hello

    Nice to see your blog. The sand in pic is a rare view. Now, you can see trees if you visit Barathapuzha again. I'm from Thirumittakode and now in Oman. Heard a lot about Nirmallyam from my seniors.

    Thank you