LOCATION - A department very close to my heart 'coz that's where and how I started my career in films - hunting for the best suited locations the script demanded.
Slumdog millionaire, Satya, Maqbool, A Wednesday are few of the films shot extensively in Mumbai and around. It's a great thrill when you watch the film and identify the locations. Slumdog millionaire is one film I would have loved to be on location. The slums, the railway stations, Chawls, old bungalows ... would have been quite a challenge matching and getting permissions for locations as per the script.
In films, once the script is ready, the location manager is the first guy to be summoned to identify, shoot pictures of the locations in the script. The location manager does an exhaustive search, uses his/her contacts to get all the locales that match the director's vision and comes back to the director with his pictures. The director does his shortlist, joins the location manager along with his team and cinematographer for a reccee` and post his approval necessary permissions and payments are done.
Ad films are equally challenging. My friend and I once went hunting for a lonely tree all the way till Karjat for an adfilm. A hunt for a housing society with lots of space and narrow roads landed me at Dahisar's Dahiwali society. Where will you find a sea-facing apartment with lots of artefacts? Ask me. But you will get an eccentric Parsi couple free, along with the location. Theek hai? Want a sea facing terrace? Gujju family + loads of veggie thaali food free!
It is indeed a tough job to get the location the director has in mind. The director would want an old bhoot bungalow bang in the middle of the main road with a side lane next to the bungalow... with one tea shop on the lane, a small room outside the bungalow and so on. And the location guy's job doesn't stop with taking permissions and making payments. Arrangements for parking generator vehicles, makeup vans and cars and permissions to park them if they need parked in the middle of the road need to be taken. Then comes permissions from neighbours and their dogs. The cinematographer, right in the middle of his shot may want the light at a distance of 1 km in someone's house to be switched off. The location manager has to RUN ,convince, beg and plead with the neighbours to switch off the light.
Oh yes, how can I forget location owners' eccentricities? If you are shooting at a particular location for the first time, you are bound to face a whole lot of problems. The owners don't understand, don't know anything about film shoots. Can’t blame them really 'coz no one tells them that a shoot involves a bare minimum of 50 people at any point at the location, paan chewing-spitting production guys, caterers who lack the basic civic sense using your place like a dump yard for their paper cups and Bisleri bottles and annoying location managers who apologize to you time and again for the mess.
But ofcourse there are regular bungalows and shooting locales that you will find in every other film. S S Vasan [Gemini] house in Mylapore was a regular shooting place till it was replaced by this building, a few years ago.
There was an article in the Mid day on Sunday [Jul 26 '09- can't find link] about Mumbai locations in films. It recalled all major scenes shot in the Mumbai background of CST, Bandstand and the famous Marine Drive.
Want to rewind and go back and see how Madras looked? Watch this clip. I am sure the location manager didn't shell out a penny to shoot at any of these locales. These days, the under-the-table monies to the Police guys, Corporation officials is more than the cost of hiring the location.
Express estate and Binny mills are the most sought after locations in Madras for songs and fights. Athiradee from Sivaji was shot in Binny mills. Alaipayuthey, Bombay were shot in Express estates. Besant Nagar beach was an eternal 'lauvv point' or 'chase-fight location' in films from the 90s. Maniratnam loves Chalakkudi falls. Check out the collage from his songs that were shot in Chalakkudi falls in Kerala.
And guess who or which film made this location famous before it started becoming a Maniratnam regular? 1....2.....3... juuuummmmppppp!
A few films shot at Hampi - Guru, Padaiyappa and Iruvar
Tirumalai nayakkar mahal, Madurai - In Bombay, Guru and Iruvar
Like I said earlier, its a major thrill for me to spot locations from different films and say "Isn't it this familiar?" or "Weren't these two films shot at the same locations?" like this one....The picture on top is from a film released in 1980 and the one at the bottom is from a '97 film.
Meendum kokila and Iruvar [2:17 onwards] were shot at the same location. Does anyone know where this bungalow is?
The next time you watch a tamizh film, look closer. It just might have been shot in your neighbourhood.