Tuesday, September 17, 2013

SWAPNADANAM - A Journey in Dream with K.G.George

K.G. George was my Batch mate from the Film Institute of India, Poona. In fact we first met each other at Madras where we both wrote our entrance exam conducted at the Punjab Association Adarsh Vidyalaya , Peter's Road on 12-5-1968. There were three papers General Knowledge, English Composition and Science of 2 hours duration each. During the interval I found this young man very knowledgeable about world cinema and when I talked with him, I found that he had earlier attended the Film Appreciation Course at Poona. It was George's first visit to Madras and after the exams,  I told him which bus to take from Safire theatre stop to reach the Central Station.

Our friendship continued and when  I started my first feature film VIDYARTHIKALE ITHILE ITHILE under the Direction of John Abraham, he used to be with our unit and later on joined with Director Ramu Kariat. When the opportunity came for him to direct an independent feature film, P.A.Latheef who was the Production Manager took an office at Thayar Sahib street behind the Wellingdon Theatre, Mount Road.  Editor Ravi, John, Latheef, George, myself and others used gather there for script discussion. Though the original script was written by Pamman based on a story by Psycho Muhammad, George rewrote it several times. As part of research, we visited Kilpauk Mental Hospital and spoke to some of the Doctors regarding the special kind of mental condition called "FUGUE" . The script work took a long time and different versions were written by George until he was fully satisfied with the result.

Our team consisting of Producer Mohammed Bappu, George, Editor Ravi, Latheef and myself  went to Kollam to meet NANA Film magazine's Proprietor Krishnaswamy Reddiar.  At that time in KUNGUMAM magazine Uroob and Kadavanadu Kuttikrishnan were also present during the script reading session. After hearing the subject, they suggested that the film be titled SWAPNADANAM instead of  the intended title PALAYANAM.

Switching on the Camera
The main location was Thiruvananthapuram Medical college, a few houses, Kovalam beach  etc. George, Latheef, Editor Ravi, myself and few others were accommodated in the M.L.A's Hostel at Palayam. It may have  been the only time that a Film Unit had stayed there. It was possible because the Producer had  connections  with some of the Ministers. For the lead character Gopi enacted by Dr. Mohan Das we required  a scooter as set property in a number of scenes. Latheef told us that  he knows a cinema crazed youngster who has a scooter and we can use it for the shoot free of cost. He came to the set every day with the scooter and soon became part of the unit.Soon he  made friends with Soman and Rani Chandra by bringing home made Kanji and Chutney etc. He picked up the rudiments of film making by observation and soon   directed a film called THANAL and won the Best Director Award from the Kerala Government. It was Rajeev Nath.

Rajeev Nath, N.L. Balakrishnan and myself

Since Rajeev Nath, myself and Still Photographer N.L.Balakrishnan were sporting stylish French beard, we had a photo taken together. Though Rajeev Nath wanted me to work in his debut film THANAL, I could not accept it as I had committed myself for another film on the same dates. After many years we happened to come together for Rajeev Nath's PAKAL NAKSHATHRANGAL in 2008, resulting in the photo given below:

Read the full story in Malayalam FLASH MOVIES magazine article given below : 

We had many hallucination scenes in the film and George had some strange imagery in his mind and I had to visually translate it without any help from the special effects department. One long sequence towards the climax we planned to shoot at night in Vettukadu Beach. By the time we reached there were thousands of people and when the artistes arrived they were mobbed and could not get down from the car and they returned back. But our Production Manager Latheef calmed the crowd with his friendly talk and cleared an area for our shoot. Then the artistes arrived  and the shooting stated the crowd was quietly sitting and watched the show. Since we were delayed we had to extend the shoot till the sun rose in the morning and some how we managed to finish  all the scheduled shots.

On Location
Another Hallucination scene was to be shot in the Dissection hall where the cadavers were arranged on the row of tables and the female lead Rani Chandra  had to lie on the steel table.When told about that she started crying and refused to lie on the table along with the dead bodies preserved with formalin. In order to give her courage and to prove that nothing will happen if you lie down on the table, I climbed up and posed like a dead body, saying that one day we are all going to end up like this. N.L.Balakrishnan clicked a photo of it. Encouraged by my action  finally Rani Chandra took her position on the table for the shot to be taken.

In Mathrubhumi Weekly, N.L.Balakrishnan' column "Behind the Photo"  the incident and the picture were published:
Mathrubhumi Article

Another Hallucination scene was to be shot at night in the Mortuary of the General Hospital, rows and rows of dead bodies were arranged including a fresh one of  a recently hanged criminal killer. Many from the unit were afraid to enter the hall and stayed out. It  was midnight when we finished lighting up an extreme long shot of the big hall and the camera was placed at the exit door. All unit members were standing behind the entrance door. I went inside the hall to check the final light readings with my exposure meter. The whole place looked eerie  with darkness,  with patches of light highlighting the dead bodies. I was the lone person walking among them, suddenly I felt some one tugging at exposure meter's cord. My heart stopped for a moment and when I turned back, I found that the cord had somehow got entangled with the outstretched hand of a corpse. It was indeed a most frightening experience.

Mallika, Rani Chandra, myself and Dr.Mohan Das
Our main location was a house belonging to the son in law of  Minister Ilangath, which had spacious exteriors and large living room etc but the bed room  was not big enough for our purpose. So we decided to erect a set at Merryland Studios. To keep it realistic I  asked the Art Director to build it with a full ceiling  so that I won't be tempted to light up the scenes by using  catwalk mounted lights. I lit the scenes from the ground as if  I was shooting in a real location instead of a set. In the film it matched so well that the bed room set appeared to be a part of the house itself .

At our Madras office an eccentric young man used to pester Latheef for a role in the film. We had some shooting  at Madras in a Private Mental Hospital at Neelankarai run by Dr. Dhairiyam. Latheef thought that we can use him as one of the patients in the back ground and asked him to come for the shooting on a particular day. But  somehow the shooting was postponed. Without knowing that this man went to the hospital and wanted to join the shooting, but they told there was no film unit in their campus. But he created a lot of fuss and tried to get in forcibly but was subdued by the warders and put in a cell. By evening it had a calming effect and he begged them to release him showing them his bus ticket etc. He straightaway came to our office and started abusing Latheef, who then pacified him and later on gave him a role as one of the inmates.

 Dr. Mohan Das was basically not an actor  but he suited the role admirably. George had the marathon task of enacting each action during rehearsals, several times so that at least he can get 50%  result from Mohan Das. Ultimately when the time came for the State Film Awards,  Dr.Mohan Das was declared as the Best Actor. He also served as member of the the Award Jury too in later years!

Another location was the hill station of Yercaud, near Salem and during the shooting the relationship between Dr.Mohan Das and Rani Chandra became stronger and stronger. It was so deep that  when she died tragically  in an air crash, he was one of the few persons to come  from Kerala  to Madras for attending the funeral ceremonies. My reminiscences about Rani Chandra in my earlier BLOG Entry  can be found HERE

Although a few songs were recorded  for the film by Bhaskar Chandavarkar, who was the Head of the Department of Music at The Film Institute, Poona, it was never used in the film. He also did the back ground score for the film.
Bhaskar Chandavarkar

The film when released was well appreciated and won several Awards in the State and National levels.

K.G.George had written about the film in his Memoirs - FLASH BACK: ENTEYUM CINEMAYUEYUM , Published by D.C.books, Kottayam.

Also, Mathrubhumi Books had brought out the Full Script and Memoirs of the Producer Muhammed Bappu in the book  - SWAPNADANAM : JEEVITHAVUM CINEMAYUM

 After many years the SWAPNADANAM team got an opportunity to  meet  during a marriage function where Kabeer Raother whose Hindi film LUBNA was produced by Muhammed Bappu and Jitin Shyam, Music Director of THANAL, were reunited with K.G.George and me.

(From L to R) Muhammed Bappu, myself, K.G.George, Kabeer Raother, Jitin Shyam

Finally,  a few lines from MY POEMS :

SWAPNADANAM -  A Journey in Dream

( To K.G.George.)

He had a million hallucinations
To be forever transfixed on celluloid.
The path was long and arduous,
I was a fellow traveler
On this psychedelic journey.

We built dreams upon dreams
On an invisible foundation.
In that mad house
Strangers herded together
Shot each other.
Fools fell in love with fairytale princesses.
Some had nightmares even when awake, and ran off to distant places.
Others followed us blindly
Without knowing their destination,
My friend led the way in the darkness
His polestar was called “Fellini”.
At last the long night seemed to end.

The new Cinema
Hangs frozen on the horizon
Like a Truffaut ending.

The weary world watches hopefully
For the slightest upward movement
To pronounce a new Dawn.

In that twilight
Before us lies the endless road in to the sky
And we march on ………


Film Data:

Banner: K.R.Films International
Producer : Muhammed BappuDirector: K.G.George
Cinematography: Ramachandra Babu
Story: Psycho Muhammed
Screenplay: K.G.George, Pamman
Music : Bhaskar Chandavarkar
Editing : Ravi
Production Manager: P.A.Latheef
Art: Sundaram
Sound : Devadas
Stills: N.L.Balakrishnan
Make up: P.N.Mani
Actors: Dr.Mohan Das, M.G.Soman, P.K.Venukuttan Nair, P.K.Abrahaam, Issac Thomas, Rani Chandra, Sonia, Mallika, T.R.Omana, Prema, Azzez, Anandavally

Release date: 12 March 1976
 Please go to  Malayalam Movie Data Base Page Here to listen to songs not included in  the film


  1. This is like finding a treasure....it was great reading memories that have turned into history...thank you

    Prema Manmadhan

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. See...... my Babu you have given me nostalgia...enjoyed ...I remember days with you and k.g.george......thankyou