Once upon a time, after its return from the good ol’ Madras, Malayalam cinema revolved around Chitranjali Studio and Prasad Colour Lab in Thiruvanathapuram. But, the hustle and bustle slowly shifted northwards.
And, for the past 15 years, Kochi is the hub of Malayalam cinema, the capital of Mollywood. At present, an average of four to five Malayalam movies are shot in Kochi everyday and the number is on the rise.
Industry experts feel Kochi owes its popularity as a base of Malayalam cinema to its unique specialities; availability of all type of locations, facilities for post production and necessary infrastructure facilities. The property owned by FACT at Ambalamughal and Eloor are two key locations that film makers prefer. Both are available for a per day rent of `20,000.
The greenery and availability of godowns for setting up indoor sets are two major reasons that draw film makers to Kochi. Besides, Fort Kochi and Mattanchery too are equally preferred locations.
The majority of actors and technicians, including superstars like Mohanlal, Mammootty and Dileep, have a home here. If the shoot is in Kochi, the actors and lead technicians prefer to stay at their homes which helps the producer cut cost. Kochi also offers a variety of hotels, from the Taj to the normal rooms provided by local inns like Shamsu Tourist Home. This is a great advantage for producers when it comes to accommodation for the film crew. Most of the preferred locations are in and around Kochi which is well connected with road network. The Airport, too, is not far away making it easy to bring artistes from other states, thereby making a considerable cut in travel expense. The availability of dubbing studios and DTS mixing facilities also is another advantage .
Variety of Locations
Kochi also has a variety of locations that a director would want. For instance, if the shot is set in a village terrain, Poochakal area is not far away. The Jew Street and Fort Kochi area with a colonial style can satisfy the need of a posh setting.
The rich Panmapilly Nagar with its stylish buildings to traditional palaces like Kalikkotta Palace at Tripunithura and the Aspinwall building, which can be converted into a palace or a rich bungalow at the same time are some of the prime choices of directors. Actors like Dileep have a belief that shooting at least a scene on their favourite location in Kochi will bring luck to the movie. “In 2003, we had a hard time shooting for Sethurama Iyer CBI at Mattanchery as some local thugs were causing us trouble. Gone are those days. Now Kochiites cooperate during outdoor shoots. That is also another reason because the artists and technicians are comfortable in working here,” Mohan added.
According to Aroma Mohan, one of the senior-most production controllers of Malayalam cinema, Kochi is one of the most vibrant and live cities in Kerala. “There is no night or day difference while shooting here. We, the production controllers, can find anything needed for the shoot 24X7 here. We can dial a shop owner even at midnight. He will be ready to serve us anytime,” Mohan said.
Some do Have Anti-climax
Though frequent film shoots give Fort Kochi and nearby places a special aura, the barricades and structures erected for the shoot often turns a headache for the Corporation as in most cases, the crew fail to dismantle the structures over the shoot gets over.
There are also allegations that the film crew was untidying the premises by dumping food waste in public.
“It was after the shoot of a Malayalam movie that some of the chairs set up at the beach got damaged. The food waste dumped on the road side is a major cause of worry for the Corporation cleaning staff. The historically-important Aspinwall House too suffered damage after the shoot of a Dileep flick,” said Antony Kureethara, Fort Kochi Divisional councillor.
Besides, there are charges that the security deposit collected for the shoot does not go into the maintain and upkeep of the premises.
“At present, the film makers pay a fee at District administration but not a single penny is used for cleaning and maintaining the spot,” Kureethara said.