When Anup Kurian - director of the 2004 film Manasarovar and a longtime online acquaintance - invited me to watch some of the shooting of his second feature (tentatively titled "The Hunter") in Vagamon, Kerala, I was immediately interested. Nearly anyone who's watched a film being made will tell you that it's a tedious, banal process, one that quickly disabuses you of any delusions about the "glamour" of moviemaking. But as a longtime armchair film buff who’s never been close to a movie set before, I didn't want to pass up an opportunity like this, especially since “The Hunter” is very low-budget, and I wanted a firsthand sense of the challenges that go with making a film on limited resources.
The second attraction was that the lead role is being played by the peerless Naseeruddin Shah, a man whom I've long admired not just for his acting (and his dedication to acting as a craft that must continuously be honed, even when you're already acclaimed as one of the finest performers around) but also for the forthrightness and intelligence that always comes through in his interviews and writings. Anup's invitation seemed especially serendipitous in light of the fact that I had had a couple of phone chats with Naseer a few months ago (in connection with my book on Jaane bhi do Yaaro - another low-budget film made in very trying conditions 28 years ago!) but never got to meet him.
So off Abhilasha and I went to Vagamon, which is a very beautiful hill town located around 100 km from the Cochin airport. Our five days there were deeply satisfying, despite the fact that stretches of the shoot were expectedly slow (mainly the ones that took place in the middle of the day, under a fierce sun). Really, when you watch the filming and re-filming and re-re-filming (over several hours) of what will eventually be a 30-second scene, you wonder how a movie ever reaches its finished form.
A quick word about the film: it centres on a recluse known mostly as “Colonel”, living with his dog Kuttapan(!) in a forest retreat secured by high-tech surveillance equipment. Here he cultivates a potent variety of marijuana, an activity that makes him the object of unwanted attention (mainly from his unscrupulous buyers), and his life is further complicated when he is forced to play host to a young woman, Jaya, who is in mortal danger.
I'll be writing a feature about the visit at some point (it might take a while) but for now I’m putting up a few posts with photos and snippets. The film's release is at least 4-5 months away, but Anup has given me the go-ahead to publish the low-resolution photos I took with my own camera. Watch this space over the next few days.