Filmmakers sometimes turn to external factors like locations, props, lighting, camera angles, editing, sound, and music – apart from actors' performance - to give an extra bit of depth to their story telling. While research and perseverance help directors to find this X-factor, chance delivers the accidental stroke of brilliance.
During the making of 'James and Alice', Sujith Vaassudev needed a heaven for the climax sequence. And he could not think of a place better than the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat – a place that induced a heavenly feeling in him whenever he visited.
Decoding a Scene from his 2016 directorial, Sujith disclosed how the harsh surface of the world's largest salt desert became his heaven.
“From the initial stages of the scripting, I had the tail-end sequence and climax of the movie in my mind. As I had been to the Rann earlier, I knew well how the place would look like in the morning, afternoon, evening or under full moon. Apart from afternoon, the place has always imparted a heavenly feeling in me,” said Sujith sitting by a pile of books.
However, when they went there while scouting for locations, the Rann gave them a dampened welcome. “The place was under ankle-deep water,” Sujith said accepting that little they knew about the place getting submerged by sea water during rainy season.
People accompanying him, who were on their first visit to the Rann, were concerned about shooting in such conditions. “However, native people assured us that we should be able to shoot over sprawling salt crystal in other seasons,” said Sujith.
The climax portion of 'James and Alice' featured James (Prithviraj) interacting with St Peter at the Pearly Gates. “Beyond this gate, a soul will have no recollection of the past life. According to the Bible, to pass through the gate, one will have to leave behind all sins and debts,” explained Sujith.
Though it was the visual aspect of the Rann that prompted cinematographer-turned-director Sujith to choose it as his heaven, the salt desert proved that it was the apt place to be the gates of heaven with its empty vastness. The spiritual cleansing nature of salt and the emptiness added a metaphysical dimension to the sequence.
With cross cuts from hospital, where Alice (Vedhika) was visiting James to seek his apology, Sujith, brought in the material elements important to earthly life. James, who had walked on the cleansing path along with a saint, now, had a clearer vision and wanted to rejoin his wife. The white expanse of Rann of Kutch drove this heart-wrenching sequence to new heights. The filmmaker used a bit of CGI to convey the internal conflicts of James at this moment.
“A lot of people appreciated me for choosing the Rann of Kutch as the location for this sequence. Certain scenes demand more than the performance of actors to convey the exact idea to the audience. The Rann of Kutch provided just that to me. It was the heaven I had imagined,” said the director of 'Autorsha'.