On location ‘Paattinte Palazhi' traces the highs and lows in a singer Veena's life.

Caravans and huge generators indicate the location of the sets of a film on the vast premises of the KINFRA park at Kazhakuttam in Thiruvananthapuram district. One of the dubbing studios has been converted into a recording studio for the shooting of Rajiv Anchal's film ‘Paattinte Palazhi.'

It is a little past lunch time and the crew and cast are gearing up for a scene featuring Meera Jasmine, Manoj K. Jayan, Nedumudi Venu and Revathi. “It is a musical; a story about Veena, whose only ambition in life is to make it big as a playback singer,” says Rajiv who has also written the story of the film.

The director believes that Malayalam cinema has to rediscover its heroines to bring back family audiences into theatres. Thus ‘Paattinte Palazhi' centres on Veena and the highs and lows in her journey in music.

While the technical crew sets the camera and the lights, Revathi, dressed in a beautiful silk sari, gets her hair done for the shoot and also chats about her role in the film. Revathi feels that Raziya, her character, for a change, is a life-like portrait of “an intelligent contemporary woman of Kerala.” She adds: “Such women are rarely seen on the screen and so I am really enjoying playing Raziya, Veena's friend.”

Meanwhile, Venu, in the garb of a traditional Ustad, joins the director. Venu plays Meera's mentor in the film.

“Although we acted in ‘Vinodayatra,' Meera and I had just one scene together in the film. So, this was an opportunity to act with her and that too in the role of a musician. This Ustad is not too keen on Veena's burning desire to make it big as a playback singer and eventually he encourages her to look beyond playback singing and delve into the ocean of music,” explains Venu.

Soon all the actors who feature in the scene troop into the room and a little later cinematographer Azhagappan sweeps into the sets and takes his place behind the camera. Nedumudi Venu and Revathi (Raziya is his niece) sit on a sofa, tension and concern writ large on their face.

Recording a song

There is pin drop silence in the studio as playback singer Veena warms up for her recording. Her anxious husband (enacted by Manoj K. Jayan) holds his breath as she hums the lines. Dressed in a black and green sari, Meera is a picture of concentration as she listens carefully to the director.

Under the watchful but encouraging eyes of her husband, guru and friend, Veena gets ready for the recording. To enhance the mood of the scene Rajiv plays the beautiful number, written by ONV Kurup and tuned by debutant music director Suresh Manimala, in the background. As the actors go through their paces with ease, the shot is filmed.

“We are filming the climax of the film. There is a bit of a pschyo-drama and the scene shows Veena making a comeback to her music after several tumultuous events in her life,” says Rajiv. There is some good-natured banter and joking as one of the props, a flask, proves to be a little heavy. Manoj is supposed to lift it effortlessly but this one requires quite a bit of muscle.

Manoj is in an ebullient mood as he walks out during the break. After a successful 2009, Manoj is hoping 2010 will also bring him his share of good roles and commercial success.

Striking a balance

“I made a number of wrong decisions after an excellent innings. But I have learnt from my mistakes and choose my roles carefully now. Sometimes one is forced to choose between meaty roles and commercial gain. It is a difficult choice but I hope I have made the right choices,” says Manoj.

“This is Meera's film but I have no qualms playing second fiddle to another hero or heroine. I am first an actor and as long as I have a significant role, I am not particular about always being the hero,” he adds.

Finally, after the two scenes are done, Meera steps out for a black tea. Agreeing that it is an author-backed role for her, Meera says, for her, Malayalam cinema, has always been her home ground.

“I am in talks with other directors too but it would be premature to announce anything now,” she says. A little later, she rejoins the sets for the next scene.

Produced by Aditya Cinema, the film will reach theatres by April-end. Still photographer is Jayakrishnan Payyannur.