Not long ago, Malayalam filmmakers preferred shooting their films in locations like Thodupuzha, Palakkad, and Ottapalam, but it seems all the crews are zeroing in on Malabar these days. There has been an evident increase in the number of films shot in various spots around Malabar. A major portion of last year’s biggest hit, Sudani from Nigeria, for instance, was filmed in Kozhikode.
Industry insiders say that this is set to continue this year. Aside from a couple of big projects ready to go into production next month, a few others in various stages of development are set to be shot in Malabar. These include two upcoming Asif Ali films (Kakshi: Amminipilla and Underworld), Nivin Pauly’s Love Action Drama, Biju Menon-Lal Jose’s new film, and Mridul Nair’s web series, Instagraamam.
“At one point, Fort Kochi used to be the top location,” recalls production controller Harris Desom, who cites heavy expenditure as one of the primary factors that has compelled production houses to film in Malabar. “After having had enough of the exorbitant rents, bribes, greedy locals and union members, we switched to places like Thodupuzha as filming proved to be very cost-effective. But once people figured out that we could be fleeced, we couldn’t afford these places either. That’s when everyone decided to move to areas like Malappuram and Thalassery. Apart from finding picturesque villages that you can’t find elsewhere, we are able to significantly reduce the budget. Moreover, there is the option of casting the locals, as we did for Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu.”
Jose Sebastian, who shot his debut film Ente Ummante Peru mostly in Kozhikode and Thalassery, also attributes the trend to the location’s enduring appeal. “There are places in Malabar that make you feel like you are travelling back in time. Some places still remain unchanged even after 20 and 30 years,” he says. “Also, our script had characters who were stuck in the past. We don’t usually find people like that in Central or South Kerala.”
Anoop Venugopal, the executive producer of Underworld, says the team selected Thalassery as the main location to break the monotony. “Places like Thodupuzha and Thiruvananthapuram have already become so familiar.
We wanted our film to feature some unfamiliar locations like some of the Portuguese structures in the area which we felt would go well with our subject,” he says. “Initially, we considered Kochi, Coimbatore, and Goa, but given the logistical challenges, we felt it would be wiser to go with Thalassery, Kannur, Mangaluru, and Goa because they are all on the same belt and hence, would also make travelling very convenient.”
Dinjith Ayyathan, who is making his directorial debut with Kakshi: Amminipilla, believes that this trend will last for another year at least. He found Thalassery to be apt for his film given the lead character’s political leanings and the novelty that comes with using the Thalassery dialect. However, he is slightly sceptical about continuing to film in Malabar. “There is already concern of the prices going up, given the influx of filmmakers in these areas. Everything will run smoothly as long as brokers and location managers don’t impose unfair sums on us,” he concludes.