Sometimes the vehicles used in a movie can attract as much attention as the actors itself. One classic example is the villainous truck driven by a mysterious psychopath in Steven Spielberg's first feature Duel. Some vehicles stand out because of their distinct, or human-like, personality. This can be attributed to either its colour, design, or the shape of its headlights.
In Mohanlal's Neerali, which releases this Friday, there is an old Tata 207 which has caught the attention of many viewers. Given that it's a mystery thriller, the vehicle has a character of its own, says the film's line producer Vinod Unnithan. And he has a fascinating story to tell about this. "When Ajoy Varma (director) approached me for a vehicle -- a pick-up van which can accomodate two passengers as well some luggage -- the initial plan was to get two vehicles of the same model, to be used before and after accident. Initially, it was not a Tata 207; it was a Bolero and we had even finalised it."
So what made them change their minds? "It was Santosh Thundiyil (cinematographer) who told us that it doesn't have a distinct personality. And that's when we decided on the Tata 207. We also thought of getting the new model Xenon. Me and my team members started looking for the 207 in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. And when the action director came on board, he gave us an idea about where and how the accident is to take place. Then came the challenge: he needed four vehicles to stage the scene.
To get four vehicles in a limited span of time...it was difficult. The shoot date was fast approaching. I said I'll get three vehicles. I told the producer (Santhosh T Kuruvilla) I needed some cash. My plan was to buy all three in one day. And there is a chance of someone else buying them if you don't have ready cash with you -- which had happened to us earlier."
Vinod had some help from the action director who knew a man called Noor Bhai, an experienced supplier of vehicles for movie production teams. However, when we got the vehicles we wanted, there was a slight issue -- the year of manufacture was different, and every new model comes with minor upgrades. The front grill and headlights were different. So I picked one of them, and told the art director that this was to be the final selection.
And then I told a man called Arif Bhai to make some modifications on the other two vehicles within 24 hours, so that it would resemble this one. This is cinema and these days people can note the differences easily. I also told him to change the interiors. We also fixed a window that wasn't there. And one model had its engine taken out. We got everything done in a week, just one day before shoot."