Kochi: Mollywood film crew need not head to Pollachi or Chenkotta to shoot scenes on a train or at a railway station, anymore. Beating the locations in Tamil Nadu, the newly renovated Cochin Harbour Terminus has now become one of the favourite locations for Malayalam film shoots. The fascinating railway station built in the Victorian style, on an island, had a facelift recently on a whopping budget of Rs 7 crore. Since there aren’t any train services to this station, the movie crews can shoot here at any time without any hindrance. This is what makes this elegant station stand out from the other railway stations that come under the Southern Railways.
Recently, the filming of Nivin Pauly-starrer 'Mikhael' and 'Irupathiyonnam Nootandu' starring Pranav Mohanlal were held at the Harbour Terminus. As the plot where the station stands, is owned by the port, huge crowd wouldn’t turn up at the location to watch the filming. There are 2 railway lines and 2 platforms where trains with up to 18 coaches could be halted. As the surrounding area too is incredibly beautiful with lush greenery, the railway hopes that more films would be shot at the Harbour Terminus.
Savings for all
Trains with 4-5 coaches are allotted as per the demands of the filming crew. The Railways earns up to Rs 4–5 lakh per day when there is a shooting at the station. A security deposit of Rs 1 lakh, collected by the Railways, will be returned after the filming is over. The rate would further go down if the crew shoots only on the station premises, without hiring a train.
The permission to shoot at the Harbour Terminus must be sought from the chief public relations officer of the Southern Railways. As the procedures have been made simpler, the permission would be granted within just a few days itself. Thiruvananthapuram Division Commercial manager Ajay Kaushik said that a single-window system would be soon introduced in granting permission for film crews. Action scenes of the movie 'Irupathitonnam Nootandu 'involving lead actor Pranav Mohanlal were recently shot at the station.
Producer Anto Joseph, who is bankrolling the upcoming film 'Mikhael' said that the island station had all the facilities that are usually available at the stations in Tamil Nadu. Having an amazing location to shoot scenes involving a railway station or train, in Kochi itself, would help to significantly reduce the cost of production of the Malayalam cinema, which is mostly based here. Since the actors and technicians are all based in Kochi, the producers are able to save big on the accommodation and transportation. Anto Joseph said that he had spent around Rs 22.5 lakh to build the sets of a railway station in Palani for the Dileep-starrer 'Ivan Maryadaraman'.
The Harbour Terminus had, in fact, been a favourite shooting location in the past as well. The major portions of the superhit movie 'Cochin Express' starring legendary actor Prem Nazir were filmed here. The thriller was about a young detective and his assistant played by Prem Nazir and Adoor Bhasi respectively, who chase, in their car, the female villain, escaping in the Cochin Express from the terminus. In those days, the terminus was a busy station and the surrounding areas too were bustling with activities. Cochin Express which had services to Chennai was re-christened as Alleppey–Chennai Express since the inception of the railway lines in Alappuzha.
Train brings luck too
There is a belief among the film fraternity that showing trains or having significant scenes shot at a railway station would bring incredible luck, resulting in the movie turning into a blockbuster. One cannot easily forget the epic train scene in the climax of the Bollywood movie ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ which turned out to be the biggest blockbuster of all times. The scenes in which Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) holds out his hand for his lady love Simran (Kajol), who is running after the speeding train, was apparently shot multiple times as the train was a bit too fast. It took almost 20 minutes for the train to return to the spot where it started, for the scene to be shot again. Kajol had, however, said in an interview, that the most difficult part was to arrange her hair every time the scene was re-taken. Like the audience, the actress too, thinks that Raj should have pulled the chain and stopped the train instead of making her run so many times. However, she gives the credit for filming the scene with such perfection to the movie’s director Aditya Chopra.
The 'Chaiyya Chaiyya' song from the movie 'Dil Se' in which Shahrukh Khan and Malaika Arora danced merrily on top of a moving train had captured the imagination of millions of cinema goers. Similarly train played a prominent role in the movie 'Chennai Express' starring Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone in the lead roles.
It was late actor Raghuvaran who once told that, in the Tamil movies, at least one scene with a train was shot, even if the plot didn’t demand one, as it was considered incredibly lucky.
Trains in Priyadarshan movies
Trains and railways stations play pivotal roles in almost all the movies directed by Priyadarshan. The Malayali audience vividly remembers the scene in 'Kilukkam' where the character played by Revathy is introduced as she is getting off a train. The movie ends on the same railway platform as well, where the beauty of the misty Ootty can be clearly perceived.
Muthalamada railway station where the platforms are lined with banyan trees are shown in movies like 'Megham' starring Mammootty and 'Vettam' in which Dileep plays the lead role. The vibrant local trains of Mumbai and the crowded platforms are amazingly portrayed in the superhit movie 'Chandralekha'. Muthalamada station makes an appearance in the movie 'Oru Yathra Mozhi' as well, for which Priyadarshan had written the screen play. The movie 'Kakkakuyil' begins by showing the entrance of the famed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai.
Priyadarshan believed that showing railway stations, trains or railway lines in his movies would bring him luck. He has been holding on to this belief ever since the release of his hit movie 'Poochakkoru Mookuthi'. The opening scene of the movie was shot at the Trivandrum railway station. There are many movies in Malayalam which are mostly shot inside trains. 'No. 20 Madras Mail' which featured screen icons Mammootty and Mohanlal is still one of the favorite movies of Malayali movie enthusiasts. It must be an interesting coincidence that Priyadarshan too had made a cameo appearance as himself in the movie directed by Joshiy.
No.20 Madras Mail
Screen writer Dennis Joseph, who prepared the screenplay of 'No.20 Madras Mail' says that the movie was filmed at various railway stations like Thiruvananthapuaram, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Salem. The train was running on the Shorannur–Nilambur rail route when the scenes inside the coach were shot. The screen writer admitted that it indeed was difficult to shoot inside a moving train. However, he credits director Joshiy for filming the movie so amazingly. Dennis recalled that passenger train services oin the Shoranur route was available only in the morning and evening.
“As there wasn’t any train service on the route during the day, we used special coaches for the filming. I used to travel on the Madras Mail at least four times a month, as Malayalam cinema was based in Chennai then. So I knew everything about the journey in that train. We have tried to portray it in the film as well. I lived so close to the Ernakulam North railway station. I could reach the station in just 10 steps,” Dennis Joseph expressed his love for trains.