In December, Chitra died by suicide after she was found hanging from a ceiling fan in a Chennai hotel she was staying with her husband.
Calls, a murder mystery written and directed by debutant filmmaker J Sabarish, also stars Delhi Ganesh, Nizhalgal Ravi, R Sundarrajan, Devadarshini, Vinodhini Vaidyanathan, Jiva Ravi, and Sriranjani among others. The film is produced by Sabarish under the Infinite Pictures banner and is distributed by Rockfort Entertainment. The film’s music is composed by Thameem Ansari.
Speaking to Silverscreen India about working with Chitra, Sabarish said that he had approached many female actors but could not fix one due to their schedules. He had then he come across an image of Chitra on Google. Considering her to be apt for the role as Nandhini (her character’s name in the film), Sabarish said that the talks to rope in Chitra began between January and March 2019.
Sabarish said that Chitra had a lot of “fears” and concerns about stepping into the film industry.
“Chitra worked really hard on the film. She had to overcome some fears and concerns she had about coming into the film industry. She initially feared the working environment on a film set may be hostile and she had concerns of someone misbehaving with her on set. Later, she became friendly and comfortable with everyone on the set of our film.”
‘Calls’ poster. Photo source: Sabarish’s Instagram page
Speaking about Chitra, Sabarish said that when he narrated the film to her, she heard only the first half and agreed to work on the film.
“She wanted to find out what happens in the film as the shooting progressed, scene by scene. When I narrated the script, she only listened to the first half and said she really liked it. The second half, she said she would like to find out more about it during the actual shooting process,” he said.
“She did not know how the murders took place in the story and who are the people behind it.”
While Sabarish has written the story and screenplay of the film, he is also producing the film and has handled cinematography, sound design, production design, and editing of the film.
Speaking about how the project began, Sabarish said, “The project’s script was worked on after mid-2018 and was finished it within six months. It was a quick process for me.”
Sabarish said that he signed the actors for Calls in 2019. A total of 80 new artists have acted in the film, he said.
The film’s shooting began in July 2019 in Thanjavur and took place in other districts in Tamil Nadu, including Tiruchy and Chennai. The filming was completed in December 2019.
In the film, Chitra plays a BPO employee.
The film’s final cut was never seen by Chitra, revealed Sabarish. “She was involved in various aspects of the shooting process but, unfortunately, could never see the final cut of the film,” he said.
Sabarish said that Chitra was an avid fan of actor Nayanthara. “There is one costume in which she had to shoot many scenes. I had suggested another one but Chitra was determined to wear a costume worn by Nayanthara in an older film–a blue and red salwar kameez,” he said.
The director said that Chitra was quick and spontaneous with her shots, because of her skills as an anchor. He said that Chitra could sense him when he wanted to retake a scene. “Once I say cut, and if I hesitate, without me saying, Chitra would understand that scene needs to be re-shot and would immediately ask ‘One more?’”
Sabarish said that in the initial phase of shooting, Chitra had to learn a few film acting tricks.
“First, we had a screen test for her. She excelled in that… However, I had to teach her a few things of how cinema acting works. For example, I had to tell her that the reaction should not change once ‘cut’ is said but had to prolong. There should be some stay in expression after the dialogue is delivered, unlike serials where shots are filmed quickly,” he said.
Calls will release in over 85 screens in Tamil Nadu.