Stepping back into the Chola kingdom

Being in a Mani Ratnam film for the first time, Ashwin felt the pressure, but he also learnt a valuable lesson on how to tackle it.

Published: 18th April 2023 01:13 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th April 2023 01:13 PM   |  A+A-

Ashwin Kakumanu

Actor Ashwin Kakumanu

Express News Service

Shooting for Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan 2 was full of surreal moments for actor Ashwin Kakumanu. Being a huge fan of period films, this was one shoot he was eagerly waiting for.

“One of the first things that happened before the shoot began was the look test for actors. I remember walking into Madras Talkies office and seeing a lot of costumes, armour, spears, jewellery, and wigs laid out on racks. I love watching behind-the-scenes making videos of epic period films. To be part of a period film and to experience the making in real-time was surreal for me,” says Ashwin.

The first day of the shoot for him was in Thailand. Getting ready for the shoot was apparently hectic. “We had to wake up at 2:30 am and leave the hotel to arrive at an area designated only for hair and make-up. There, senior make-up artist Vikram Gaekwad and his team were taking in dozens of actors systematically, with photos of their looks and costumes for reference. Once we were ready, by 5:30 am we reached a faraway island where the shoot was scheduled.”

Being in a Mani Ratnam film for the first time, Ashwin felt the pressure, but he also learnt a valuable lesson on how to tackle it. “This wasn’t a contemporary film and so our posture, hair, language and diction were far removed from our daily reality. So I was nervous about getting it right. My first shot in PS2 took place in a boat near an island in Thailand.

The boat was constantly rocking due to the changing currents, which affected the camera angles. I was under pressure to constantly ensure I was not blocking other actors while getting my lines right and at the same time hoping Mani sir was happy with the shot. But the pressure lifted when Mani sir told me to relax. He said that he would tell me if he didn’t like any shot. That day I learnt a valuable lesson: To just do my work and not focus too much on the result.”

With such a star-studded cast, Ashwin couldn’t help but become star-struck. “I saw respected seniors whose movies I have grown up watching, like Prabhu sir, Sarath Kumar sir, Nizhalgal Ravi sir, Prakash Raj sir and others, chatting informally, without any starry airs. That’s one of my most cherished memories of the shoot.”

Ashwin enjoyed shooting at exotic locations for the film for more reasons than one. “We also shot at Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, where a huge set was erected to fit 1000 junior artists for the kingdom’s courtyard scene. We shot in palaces in Maheshwar and Gwalior, locations which I recognised from Mani sir’s previous films. It was wonderful to see how the same locations had been re-purposed for this story. We shot the Rakshasa Mamaney song there.”

For the last day of the shoot, Ashwin travelled to Melukote in Karnataka. “The Rakkamma song from Thalapathy was shot here at the Raaya Gopura. For a cinephile like me, it was a surreal moment to visit the location of an iconic film.”


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