Padmavyooham, directed by techie Bijoy P.I., is a mystery thriller based on the treasure in Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple

The treasure ‘unearthed' in the underground vaults of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple is now the stuff of legends. But, while being awestruck by this modern equivalent of El Dorado, have we ever stopped to wonder why Anizham Tirunal Marthanda Varma, the King of erstwhile Travancore, the ruler whose idea it was to surrender his Kingdom to the deity of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple (known as the ‘Thrippadidanam') and rule in His name, the warrior who secreted away the treasure of the Kingdom within the temple vaults, did what he did?

Looks like this has been on the mind of a lot of Malayalis. Now, a group of youngsters led by city-based software engineer (with SunTec) and film buff Bijoy P.I. try to uncover the mystery surrounding the treasure with the thriller Padmavyooham.

Visionary leader

“King Marthanda Varma was a great visionary. Legend has it that Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple was never intended to be just a shrine. One explanation is that Marthanda Varma did what he did to protect his Kingdom and its treasure from the marauding armies of Tipu Sultan. But surely there must be something more than what is obvious to his reasoning, an extraordinary logic behind it even. Perhaps, he really believed that Lord Vishnu (the deity) could protect the Kingdom and the people in all manner of ways, even physically. Surely there is something beyond all the glitter...” says Bijoy, who directed Padmavyooham and wrote its story and the screenplay.

Padmavyooham is set in the present and the narrative progresses with an investigation into a series of murders relating to the treasure, weaving in legends surrounding the temple, the events leading to the Thrippadidanam and takes the viewer “into the mind” of King Marthanda Varma. “In Padmavyooham, the King (enacted by debutant Noby Tharian, a techie based in Amsterdam) is portrayed as an ordinary individual who has to step in and take responsibility. After all, it is not riches and brawn that make one a King; it is how one shoulders responsibility that clinches the position,” adds Bijoy.

The title of the movie too has a significance too, says the director. “Padmavyooham is another word for Chakravyooham; a military formation that is supposed to have only one entry and an exit known only to very few (it was used in the Kurukshetra war by the Kauravas, which eventually led to the fall of Abhimanyu). Here the investigation takes an unexpected turn and enters a Padmavyooham. The series of events that follow formthe crux of the movie,” says Bijoy who was earlier part of the team of techies who made the short film, The Myth (2008), also a murder mystery based on certain legends associated with the temple. The movie is being produced under the banner of Megawave Productions, which debuted with The Myth.

Shot in and around Attingal Palace, Attingal town and the city, on a state-of the-art Red One camera, Padmavyooham is 90 minutes long and “is an extended re-telling of The Myth. Unlike The Myth, though, I've tried to give a positive ending to the narrative.” Bijoy has been researching on the subject for more than six years.

“We were actually set to make a movie based on the ill-fated Island Express – the Perumon tragedy. However, due to some unavoidable circumstances the idea had to be dropped. That's when I realised that I had a ready-made subject, ideal for a feature film, something that hasnever been done on reel before,” explains Bijoy, who roped in art director Ajayan, who has worked with directors Jayaraj and Mani Ratnam, to create a life-size idol of the deity for the climax of the film. “It was unbelievable. Ajayan actually recreated the 18-feet idol in his back yard!” says Bijoy. “We've also got a one-minute animation sequence – by DC Animations – as part of the climax to show how the idol and the sea are related,” he adds.

To add to the climax, veteran playback singer Shankar Mahadevan has sung the song Brahamapravahame... “Getting Shankarji on board was a coincidence actually. We thought we'd try our luck requesting him to be part of the film and much to our surprise he agreed immediately!” says Bijoy. The other numbers have been sung by Vidhu Prathap and Neha Nair. The movie is set to release in June.