Moviemakers strive for that perfect end which would leave a long lasting impression on the audience. The power of climax is such that a grand ending could carry a mediocre movie through box office while a weak one could spoil things even for a well-crafted film. Moviemakers and studios impel their scriptwriters and researchers to squeeze every ounce of creativity out of their muse in the quest to find a perfect climax.
However, there is a group of filmmakers who tread this route of uncertainty without even a script, leave alone a foolproof plan for climax. Mollywood director Abrid Shine is one such deviant. In his last film, 'Poomaram,' Shine not only went on floor without a script, but also allowed the movie to develop organically. Decoding a Scene for Onmanorama, Shine shared in detail how the climax of 'Poomaram' blossomed.
'Poomaram', with Kalidas Jayaram and Neeta Pillai in the lead, tells the story of two colleges vying for the university arts festival crown. Storyline of the movie, joinely bankrolled by Dr Paul Varghese and Abrid Shine, demanded a crowd of college students and Shine, known for his realistic movie making style, was not ready to cheat the audience filling the scene with junior artists. He went around colleges in person to invite students for the shoot. And handpicked the second line of faces he needed for each shot from the crowd. Shine took two years to complete the film, which gave a break to numerous youngsters.
“One comment, whether it was an appreciation or criticism, from various quarters was 'It's a collection of candid shots from a Kalolsavam (youth festival).' To reproduce a Kalolsavam as it is was a difficult task. Equally difficult was its climax,” said Shine.
According to Shine, they started shooting 'Poomaram' with a basic thread in mind and then allowed the story to evolve as the shoot proceeded.
“For the climax, we decided that, under certain circumstances, Maharaja College would fail to present one of the competition items on stage. They would then create a different art form at a parallel venue to spread the message,” said the director of 'Action Hero Biju' and '1983'.
Shine and crew wanted the art form to be an attestation by the students of Maharaja College in front of the public. The team decided to create an art installation of Buddha after pondering on the climax for long. “Our next dilemma was how to showcase it.”
The long breaks between schedules allowed the team to research on art installations thoroughly. “We finalised that it should be an anamorphic installation after referring to various art installations across the world. And decided to use a material that would reflect light,” said Shine.
After deciding on this point, Shine reworked his storyline by assigning reflection and related themes to various competition items in the Kalolsavam, building slowly to the grand finale. Well-known Malayali painter and curator Bose Krishnamachari helped Shine connect with artist Anil Xavier to make the installation for which the “initial sketches were done by Rebecca, a student of Kerala University.”
“Our first thought was to use glass, but later decided to use lighter acrylic glasses considering the weight,” said Shine. Going for a grand ending, they decided to make a 30ft-high art installation. It was not an easy task and before going for the actual shoot, they shot on miniature models of the installation to fix frames and lighting.
“As secrecy was a main concern, the size made it impossible to shoot outdoors. Hence, we created a temporary studio of '80m width X 200m length X 40m height' and made the installation inside it. It took artists and students seven days to finish the installation,” said Shine.
The temporary studio consumed half of Mangalam College of Engineering's football ground at Ettumanoor.
Shine made DOP Gnanam Subramanian to use minimum ambiance light to create the night feel even when they were shooting in the morning inside the studio. They decided that the main light source in the climax shot would be the candles and torches in the hands of students.
“Our idea was to create an interactive art installation, which will come to life from the light of the candles lit by people coming there.”
The symbolic language of the interactive art installation was so deep that many from the field questioned Shine about its acceptance among the viewers.
“People had asked me about the risk I was taking by introducing a new concept to the viewers. But I had a clear vision. For those who would miss the concept of the climax there were the nostalgia factors, songs and small emotions to take home. I was sure that those who would understand it, even if it was a minority, would communicate the concept to others,” said Shine.
And that happened. People from various walks of life wrote about the politics, emotion, and the message of the climax without Shine uttering a word about it. “It gave me immense joy. Though we make all the products with utmost sincerity, 'Poomaram' is closer to my heart,” said Shine with gleaming eyes.