PALAKKAD: The proposed film city in Ottapalam being contemplated by the State government undoubtedly has been conceived from the numerous films being shot on the banks of Nila, ‘tharavadus’ and at the lush green paddy fields in the Ottapalam-Shoranur belt. The one preferred location in Ottapalam is the Varikassery Mana near Manissery here.
For the past five years, no one lives in the mana except the caretakers. It is exclusively let out for film shootings and is also considered a “lucky mascot” by select directors and superstars, especially Mohanlal.
The mana struck a chord in the minds of the Malayalee cinegoers in 1993 as it was converted into the Mangallassery house and the arrogant feudal landlord Neelakantan was depicted by Mohanlal in ‘Devasuram’.
“When myself and Renji Panicker went to meet Mohanlal on the sets of ‘Devasuram’, I felt a positive vibration which has ever since attracted me to the mana. Any story which has a feudal background naturally will be shot here. When I sit in this house, I feel relieved and peaceful,” says director Shaji Kailas whose Prithviraj-starrer ‘Simhasanam’ is his 10th film being shot at the mana. “I have also shot the Tamil film ‘Jana’ here,” added Shaji. “It was only after ‘Devasuram’ (directed by I V Sasi) became a hit that producers and directors began to queue up for this location. Until then only one film was shot here,” says Murali, one of the managers of the mana. “When traditional houses were being dismantled due to the costly maintenance expenses, especially the replacement cost of wood, some members of our family decided to retain the mana which is around 110 to 120 years old. There were 25 heirs to this mana and 15 heirs sold their share to outsiders. The purchasers and the remaining members formed a Trust. It rents out the house for film shootings and the revenue is used to maintain the mana which is located in 4.20 acres,” said Unni Thampuran who lives in Keezhur around 20 kilometres from Manissery. Film buffs in the vicinity point out that more than 50 to 60 films would have been shot here till date including a Hollywood film, Flames in Paradise. The rent border around Rs 15,000 per day which is reduced for long shootings, say insiders even as the owners are not willing to discuss the charges.
“The traditional houses were being demolished. The people here are also not star struck. Therefore there is no crowd and the atmosphere is peaceful. I can’t afford lavish sets for my films. The large rooms here could be converted for various scenes. I put up a ‘padippura’ and the scenes came out well,” said award-winning director Priyanandanan who shot the film ‘Sufi paranja Katha’ here based on the novel of K P Ramanunni. “The mana is an art director’s delight as it can be converted in any way. The ponds, temple, ‘sarpakaavu’ etc combine to provide a perfect ambience,” said film journalist Das Mattumantha.
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