The worst of floods might be over, but a layer of rain clouds still loom over Kerala, threatening to break into a downpour any moment. In Mannarkad, a village in Idukki district, the crew of Allu Ramendran is gearing up to take the first shot. The location is a traditional middle-class household which serves as the house of the character played by actor Kichu. Playing his feisty grandmother is Amrutham Gopinath, a veteran danseuse-choreographer whom the Malayali audience would instantly recognize as the hostel warden who yells “Kambili Puthappu” into the telephone in an iconic scene in Ramji Rao Speaking. “I was leading a life away from cinema for so long. These boys wanted me to come back,” she smiles wide, as the assistant directors amiably direct her on the scene.
It feels good to get back to work, agrees everyone on the set. The air is brimming with energy. “The industry had come to a standstill for over a week. This is unprecedented,” says Badusha, the production controller who is referred to as “the ultimate go-to man” by his colleagues. “Shootings were postponed indefinitely, locations had to be quickly shifted, shows were cancelled altogether… but the industry is bouncing back really well,” he says.
Kunchakko Boban plays a cop in the comedy-drama Allu Ramendran. The actor will join the sets in the coming days, said Bilahari K Raj, whose previous project was Porattam, an indie feature film made on a shoe-string budget of Rs 25,000. The shoot was initially scheduled to begin on August 17 in Angamaly, the native place of Bilahari, but had to be postponed because of the floods that hit the neighborhood severely. He admits that the last minute change in location was a challenging decision to make. “I had incorporated some regional humour and nuances in the script. I had to rework it.”
Among the films that had to be postponed are Raja 2, Jis Joy’s Vijay Superum Pournamiyum, Oru Yamandan Prema Katha, Leo Thaddaeus’ untitled project that features Jayaram in the lead role, Sakalakalashala directed by Vinod Guruvayoor, and Sathyan Anthikkad’s Njan Prakashan.
“Some theaters in small-towns were ruined in the floods. We fear it might affect the films that are set to release in the coming weeks, starting from September 7,” says Badusha.
Onam is one of the most important release-seasons for the Malayalam film industry. This year, Rosshan Andrews’ big-budget film Kayamkulam Kochunni, Mammootty’s Oru Kuttanadan Blog and Biju Menon’s Padayottam were scheduled to release on August 17. All the releases have now been postponed to the last week of September or first week of October.
PADAYOTTAM – Release changed from August 17th !
On August 23, film producers, distributors and theatre owners met the members of Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce to re-arrange the dates for releasing at least 10 films scheduled for release in August. “Overall Rs 300 million loss has been reported in the theatre area alone,” Film Chamber General Secretary V C George was quoted as saying by the PTI. According to reports, at least four theaters in the state were ruined completely in the floods. A Manorama Online report quotes M Renjith, an executive member of Kerala Film Producers Association, as saying that producers have sustained a loss of Rs 4 lakh per day due to cancelled schedules.
Veteran producer Allwyn Antony says things are looking up post the floods. The successful box-office run of his latest film, Oru Pazhaya Bomb Katha, directed by Shafi, was interrupted by the floods. “Now the film is picking up again. According to latest collection reports, it has even crossed the box-office mark of Amar Akbar Anthony. After the floods, we see family audience coming back to theatres in large numbers, and we have the film running in 130 centres,” he says.
Upcoming releases in Malayalam:
September 7 – Theevandi and Ranam
September 14 – Oru Kuttanadan Blog and Padayottam,
September 20: Mangalyam Thanthunanena and Varathan
September 28: Chalakkudikkaran Changathi
October 5: Johny Johny Yes Appa
October 14 : Kayamkulam Kochunni