Thursday, February 11, 2010

More Vagamon commentary and photos: cows, rabbits, suicide points

(continued from here and here)

A dramatic scene featuring Naseer and Vipin Sharma (who played the stern dad in Taare Zameen Par)...

...and the actors in a more relaxed mood. The rocks seated up to seven or eight people during the outdoor shoots.

More worrying was when some of the crew members would fall asleep near the edge (see extreme right). Wake up suddenly and there's a 70 percent chance of rolling right off.

Naseer gets his body makeup done for a scene involving blood...

...and later, plays the biking stud with the ladies.

Meet Shaji Fernandes D’Souza, the most sardonic jeep-driver in Kerala. “I am three people in one,” he said as he told us his full name. (“So am I,” I replied, announcing mine.)

It takes a scoundrel to know a scoundrel, and I credit myself with having realised, very early on, that Shaji was a poker-faced practical joker. The others in our small sightseeing group took everything he said at face value and gasped in outrage when he proclaimed that he would charge us Rs 500 for waiting at a spot for a few minutes or Rs 100 for playing a particular radio channel. They also bitched about him in Hindi and were suitably mortified when he told us, at the end, “Mujhe bahut achhi Hindi aati hai”. I thought he was enormously entertaining. Only people like him should be allowed to procreate.

One thing we learnt about Vagamon was that every major tourist spot is called “Suicide Point”. Initially we thought there was one; later we learnt there are as many suicide points as there are jeep-drivers in the vicinity. Most of these spots are so beautiful, however, that death loses its attraction once you’re there, which makes it more like Suicide Pointless.

Abhilasha takes a picture of Aahana and Meghna near a suicide point.

A Shiva temple near another suicide point, with small rock carvings of lizards, would you believe. The ladies made filmi poses near the edge of the cliff, but we won’t put up those photos here.

Silhouette shots from one of the loveliest, most idyllic places I’ve ever seen, the Vagamon meadows, full of picture-postcard hillocks and no trees, so you get a clear view for miles around (no greenery in these pics, but we wouldn't have got the right effect anyway).

Of course, the hillocks and the “plains” were all situated atop a mountain range – we were already 1500 metres up to begin with – but you could scarcely make that out. This is a popular location for para-gliding.

We also went to the nearby Belgian monastery, famous for doubling up as a dairy farm and supplying thousands of packets of milk to the region every day. Very colourful flowers on their grounds; Aahana’s camera did them some justice (mine didn’t).

The monastery has these very Swiss-looking cows.

In general, the cows in Vagamon are not benign creatures. Possibly they resent human intrusion on their territory. One cow, locally known as Mrs Antony, was part of the shoot and everyone was mortally scared of her. (“We need a milder cow,” Anup said to me in one of his more candid moments, “but the problem is where to get one?”)

Two rabbits were also part of the shoot, but for most of us the scene where Naseer had to carry one by the ears was cringe-inducing. He wasn’t too happy about the whole thing either.

At one point, after doing particularly well in a take, Tipu the star dog bounded towards a rabbit-containing bag, thinking perhaps this was to be his reward. “Would it be too logical to keep the dog separate from the rabbits?” asked the soft-hearted Jessica – Satish’s wife – caustically. She cradled one of the rabbits more adeptly than anyone else in the crew had managed so far.

(There’s a joke here involving “Jessica Rabbit” but I can’t think of it)

Later, on the rocks, I spoke with Naseer about Maarten ’t Hart’s essay “Rats”, about his experiences as a rat-trainer on the sets of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu and his horror at how thousands of domesticated rodents were treated on the sets (boiled alive in a muddleheaded attempt to dye white rats brown; starved so that they turned carnivorous). Naseer agreed that this was unconscionably cruel but added “Look at the films [Herzog] made though! Anyone would be willing to go very, very far for a director like that.” The constant lugging of heavy shooting equipment through steep and winding hill roads reminded me (on a much more modest scale, naturally) of the ship being transported over the hill in Fitzcarraldo.


  1. Shaji sounds like an absolute riot! Enjoyed reading your accounts, Jai.

  2. I wonder if you're familiar with the cat and rat scene in Men Behind the Sun...

  3. Totally love the blog Jai! Was superbly excited to read the whole shoot summary! We're back now and recovering!

  4. Hi, I've been reading your blog for a while now, and I immensely enjoy reading your movie and book reviews. I was hoping (if you have the time and the inclination)if you could post a review on 'My name is Khan'. I would love to read your take on it!

  5. in my old avatar as a newspaper exec i had seen some shoot reports being masqueraded as stories. most done shoddily as space fillers, usually by journos who are trying to cop a story out of a junket.

    this one thankfully has no word constraints and makes for a delightful read.

  6. theidiot: thanks, but I must point out that I still have to cop a story out of this trip - and possibly more than one story (or long feature)! These posts were purely for the blog.