Allu Ramendran directed by debutant Bilahari was one of the recent hits of Kunchacko Boban which saw him as a frustrated cop.
Written by Bilahari, Sajin Cherukayil, Girish AD and Vineeth Vasudevan, the film was developed from a one-liner thread as how a decent cop gets his nickname 'allu', meaning spikes.
Unlike any usual action-filled police story, 'Allu Ramendran' had all elements of a comical thriller. The climax of the film required a sequence involving a festival and dramatic scenes related to it.
"The entire temple festival (utsavam) scenes were shot at (writer) Vineeth's hometown at Kuzhur (in Thrissur district)," said Bilahari.
"Initially, we had plans to shoot at our native place itself but owing to floods that submerged the initially chosen locations, we had to hunt for new ones.
Thus we shifted to Thodupuzha, but we headed back to our hometown as we wanted the festival scenes to have the real look and vibes. Hence we opted for a Guerrilla shoot for the festival sequences. This meant that the shots needed to be taken quickly in real locations without any warning for the locals.
The people who thronged the festival venue didn't know that a shooting was on there,"Bilahari added.
The filming was held for two days. One scene had a crowd from the middle of which actors Dharmajan and Kichu had to run.
Talking about the same, the filmmaker said, "A major challenge for us was that, apart from the artist, all others in the frame should be in their normal selves and shouldn't respond in any way that would hinder the shoot.
The way out for us was to make the production associate to gesture to his own crew on the premises. The characters would enter the frame from the midst of the crowd when the people in the throng looked towards the source of noise we had intentionally created to distract them. By using gimbal shots the characters were filmed in seconds even before others around them could turn back. It was indeed a tough job and the hardest part was going for a retake."
Yet another challenge involved actor Kunchacko Boban as people waited around just to meet him upon realising that the star had come for a shoot. "Our script was prepared in such a way that he would enter the frame only by late at night and by the end of the climax. Interestingly, a bunch of kids and a group of youth waited there to meet the actor.
The crew served food to the kids saying that Kunchacko would arrive soon. They had it first at 7 pm, then again at one-hour intervals until 10 pm. The kids finally left as they were tired of waiting. When Kunchacko's shot came at 2 am, only a few people were left at the location and we could shoot easily.
Other scenes had the characters running around the temple premises and for that our junior artists were set everywhere around the temple in order to have a balance amidst the crowd," said writer Vineeth.
The scenes, apart from showing the characters, had to show folk arts like kavadi, chendamelam (percussion concert), thullal etc. As per the customary temple ritual of 'pallivetta', silence should reign at the venue as it is believed that the deity is sleeping after the ritual.
The major worry for the team arose when the temple authorities ordered that they should not make noise.
"We were allowed to shoot but under the condition that we should picturise the chendamelam without making any noise. With this rule we were in a predicament though it was apt time to continue shooting in the wee hours as people were sleeping and many locals were not aware of our presence.
But we decided to proceed and we shot the chendamelam sequences by limiting the sound to a particular decibel level. Thus creating a silent chendamelam was one big task.
In between (director) Bilahari wanted to have a kavadi scene as well and asked me to somehow arrange for it. As it was my own hometown, I knew three people practising it and I immediately rushed to get them. By 3 am it was raining and the people I brought returned home. The shoot resumed by around 4 am, and I was left with no choice than to take the kavadi myself," Vineeth revealed.
There were also issues with regard to the shoot as the set and prop were drenched, but these didn't deter anyone from the team to finish shooting. The whole feel of the festival, be it the crowd and those subtle nuances that are essential for the film were very well captured.
"We reached the festival venue with a bus full of artists as the locals anywhere would often ask whether we could arrange artists on our own. We are glad that we could make happen something like this at our own hometown," said Vineeth.
"Yes, of course, we were at times tense and confused with regard to crowd management, but we felt really great when we watched the scenes on screen," Bilahari remarked.