Decoding a scene: When Sreenivasan refused Mammootty's request for a retake

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Sreenivasan's 'Katha Parayumpol' stays close to the heart of Malayalam movie lovers for its melting climax wherein a superstar reunites with his long lost childhood best friend who is a poor barber.

Superstar Ashok Raj played by Mammootty breaks into tears narrating Barber Balan's influence in his life. The audience who watch this movie are still moved to tears by the originality and emotional value of this climax scene.

The movie's director M Mohanan has an interesting tale to tell about the making of this climax scene. Talking to Onmanorama, Mohanan said that the scenes shown in the movie were actually captured from the rehearsal sessions. The final performance was neither used, nor shot!

“Our biggest concern when we imagined this sequence was, to be frank, Mammootty's availability,” revealed Mohanan. “Would such a big superstar spare time for a guest character that spans over four or five scenes? Sreenivasan also doubted whether the concept would appeal to the audience,” he said.

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However, Mammootty was impressed by the storyline and he performed Ashok Raj's character without charging a single penny. The next hurdle was preparing a screenplay to suit the emotional encounter of Ashok Raj and Balan. It was on the previous night of shooting that Sreenivasan handed over the screenplay to director Mohanan.

"I sat alone in my room to read it. By the time I finished reading it, I could feel tears rolling down my eyes," Mohanan says. An emotional Mohanan noticed that several pages of that screenplay were wet. Sreenivasan had cried while writing it down.

On the day of shooting the climax scene, Mohanan was so excited that he couldn't even eat anything. "That was a really big scene. There were numerous components to it. A large crowd, children, junior artists, a superstar like Mammootty.. I was really tensed on the morning of the day of shoot," he says.

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All the more, Mohanan was nervous about how Mammootty would deliver such a deeply emotional speech under his direction. "I had all the anxiety of a beginner. By the time shooting had started, the crowd dispersed and there were hardly four or five people left. It was impossible to shoot that scene without a thickly packed crowd. My assistant directors ran around and arranged a group of people to constitute the crowd," he recalled.

Thus, after facing several hurdles, the crew actually started the scene. Mohanan asked the cameramen to shoot the rehearsal also. He didn't want to miss any candid moment when Mammootty was emoting such a scene. The scene was planned as four sub shots. They shot the rehearsal sequence using two cameras. Associate director Saji Varavoor was prompting dialogues to Mammootty.

When Mammootty started acting, Mohanan said, he continued it in the flow without pausing for shot-breaks. Cameraman also continued shooting the scene. Mohanan didn't get a space to say 'cut.' Cameraman, prompter and Mammootty continued the performance until the end of that scene.

"Mammootty was literally lost in that sequence. I could read it from his eyes. When they finally finished that speech, the crowd raised a loud round of applause," Mohanan said.

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When the scene was completed, Mammootty told Sreenivasan that he wanted to reshoot the scene because his tears were real. "Mammootty was literally crying. He said he couldn't act properly because the dialogues and the scenes were 'too much' emotional. He said he would correct it in the 'final take. Sreenivasan announced that there wasn't a final take anymore," Mohanan says laughing.

Sreenivasan convinced Mammootty that he was expected to be emotional and the scene was perfect. Though the crew had to reshoot a small shot in that scene due to some technical reasons again, the rehearsal shots were retained as such in the movie. The entire climax scene was shot by 2:30pm as a single shot.

'Katha Parayumpol' is a story taken from the real life experience of Sreenivasan. The entire movie is based on the on-screen chemistry of Sreenivasan and Mammootty which is exactly the same in real life also.

The director further explained that the scenes including Mammootty were shot using two cameras in a hurry because the actor had to leave soon. The crowd visuals were later shot independently. The movie's editor struggled to work on the climax scene of 'Katha Parayumpol' as it was very long and was shot using two cameras. All other shots were numbered except those of this scene. Still, he managed to render it in the most perfect manner.

Mohanan says that everyone in the crew felt as if the encounter between Ashok Raj and Barber Balan was happening in the real life. Ashok Raj's character is still close to our hearts because of the precious message of evergreen friendship shared in that movie, the ditector said.

Mohanan added that he still gets a couple of phone calls whenever that movie gets aired on television.

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