In December, 2016, the cast and crew of the upcoming Mollywood film, ‘Godha’, was shooting at Mohali in Punjab. “The people there were not used to seeing a film shoot,” says director Basil Joseph. “Whenever we placed a camera on the road, a huge crowd would gather around us.”
In the film, there was a scene where a police officer (played by Bollywood actor Vineet Sharma), was supposed to move away from a riot situation, and make a call while standing in front of a Gypsy car.
Basil was pondering over how to shoot the scene, without a crowd gathering around. That was when he got an idea. He narrated it to the crew.
Soon, cameraman Bijith Dharmadam, Associate Directors Dipil Dev and Jithin Lal, along with Associate Cameraman Sharath Shaji stood some distance away from the Gypsy. Then Jithin picked up a small camera and said, “Action.” Dipil and the others started fighting.
As expected a huge crowd gathered around. There were a lot of shouting and yelling. “In the meantime, we placed a camera inside a shop and surreptitiously shot the scene of the police officer speaking on the phone, while the riot was occurring behind him,” says Basil.
So, thanks to a fake shoot, Basil could do his work in peace.
Meanwhile, the crowd mobbed Dipil thinking that he was the hero. Several took selfies. Children ran after him. Basil heard the people say, “South Indian Superstar.”
The crew had a huge laugh later on.
Basil also had fun during the shoot of his debut film, ‘Kunjiramayanam’. On the first day, in April, 2015, the crew gathered around at Udumalaipettai, near Pollachi. “All the technicians, including myself, were in the age group of 24-25,” says Basil. “Most of us wore T-shirts and Bermuda shorts.”
Senior actor Dinesh Panicker stepped outside the hotel. He looked at the crowd, and said loudly, “Are these schoolchildren? Has the school bell rung?”
Another senior artiste, Seema G Nair, looked puzzled. She asked, “Who is the director? And the cameraman?” Basil quickly introduced himself and the others.
Meanwhile, the shoot of ‘Godha’ shifted from Mohali to Palani. It was a single shot of 3 ½ minutes length.
“This was the title sequence,” says Basil. “It was a recreation of a wrestling scene from 1990. To convey that it is the past, I wanted it to be like a tableau, with the 600 extras standing without making any movement.”
The plan was like this: On a crane, cameraman Vishnu Sharma would be dangling from a height of 60 feet. Then he would come down to the ground and in a smooth movement run towards the road, where there is a jib (a boom device with a camera at one end).
Then Vishnu would mount the camera on the jib and move towards the godha (wrestling pit), all the while moving among the extras. “We started rehearsals in the afternoon,” says Basil. “It took us a long time to make the Tamilians understand what we needed.”
The whole night went past, but the crew could not get the right shot. By dawn, the extras felt frustrated. Despite the crew’s pleas, they began moving away. In desperation, the crew tried their last shot at 6 a.m. “There was a blue sky just before dawn,” says Basil. “It looked good in the frame. And it was with this last shot that we managed to get it right, in the nick of time.”