Malayalam film `2018` which chronicles the devastating floods witnessed by the state in the same year has been selected as India`s official entry to the Oscars. The film made on a tight budget has been directed by Jude Anthany Joseph and boats of a multi-starrer cast including Tovino Thomas, Asif Ali, Lal, Kunchacko Boban, Narain, and Tanvi Ram, among others.
The Malayalam film does not just focus on the floods but the stories of the people of Kerala who stood together in trying times and emerged as heroes. However, recreating the floods was not an easy task. The mammoth task was deemed impossible by members of the industry and the director claimed that he was discouraged from even pursuing the film with his vision. Several big cinematographers had also dropped out of the film at the last moment hearing naysayers. However, after crossing all the hurdles, the film proved to be a technical brilliance and has got recognition with its selection for the Academy Awards.
The team recreated the floods in live locations of Kerala using minimal CGI and VFX. In an interview with OnManorama, the film`s art director Mohandas explained how they recreated the floods for the film. “Everything from houses and intersections to dams was artificially created.“The flood was artificially created in a tank built on a two-acre land
While planning the movie, I met Priyadarshan sir narrated my plan, and asked him if he had any advice. ‘Find a place with a water catchment area in the backdrop, that is of utmost importance,’ he said. So, we decided to find a place where water availability won’t be a concern. But one main concern here was about releasing the water back into the river after using it. We can’t pollute it. So, we understood that we needed at least 25 acres of land while keeping in mind that no one would lay such a huge plot vacant,” he recalled.
“We found a plot in Vaikkom. Then we started discussing the budget, tank, size of the tank, how to build houses and other things. There was no cameraman at this time. After corona, Venu Kunnappilly stepped in as a co-producer. Venu sir has a construction business. It was with the help of his engineers that we decided on how to make the tank. They made a tank that could be filled with water. The township, intersection and houses were all built within it. All items were detachable and could be changed into something else. 14 houses were built in total and they were later converted into various types of houses and used as per need. Items such as electric posts, plants and trees were all made out of water-resistant material,” Mohandas mentioned.
“The real sea was shown only twice — once in a scene involving Asif Ali and another time when the boat was approaching the shore. Only the ship was generated via CGI. The rest was filmed with artificial lighting on the set itself,” he asserted.
Tovino Thomas: `For 40-45 days, I was immersed in water till my chest`
Talking to mid-day.com, Tovino spoke about the making of the film. “I asked Jude how are we going to recreate the floods. It`s not very easy. He said I have some techniques and I asked him what is it and he didn`t tell me, because if he had already told me the technique I would have opted out. His plan was to make a huge water tank on a 12-acre land. All the houses our art director made were kept in the water. It was a huge tank and for 40-45 days, I was immersed in water to my chest. We had night shoots as well with water, rain, and propellers at 2-3 in the night. I had a fever and a cold. After a point, our immunity gets affected by being in the rain for a week and being submerged in water. I got an ear infection and I met an ENT. He checked and said that it is fine for now and that it had not gotten worse. He told me to do an antibiotic course and told me to take painkillers for two days if I want to sleep and make sure that no water goes inside for a few days. I said from tomorrow our underwater shoot is starting and cannot say no to that. I took the painkillers, did the shoot and did the antibiotic course. When I look back, I don`t have the severe ear pain now but I have a very successful movie.”