Film director Lenin Rajendran's ‘Makara Manju' traces a period in the life of Raja Ravi Varma.
The artist carefully studies his model's face, gently applies kajal in her eyes and steps back to watch his work. Satisfied with the rehearsal, film director Lenin Rajendran decides to go for a take. “Camera rolling,” announces veteran cinematographer Madhu Ambat and suddenly the buzz of conversation on the set is replaced by silence. The lead actor removes the chewing gum from his mouth; a make-up artiste rushes in, rumples the actor's hair and dabs a little foundation on his face. The actor curls the tips of his moustache, takes a deep breath and says: ‘I am ready.' The rehearsed scene is flawlessly enacted and then the lead actor, ace cinematographer-director Santosh Sivan, saunters over to take a look at his work.
The royal artist
In a white dhothi with a broad jari border and a green kurta, Santosh looks the part he is enacting – that of the royal artist Raja Ravi Varma in Lenin's latest film, ‘Makara Manju.'
“I only said yes because it is a film on Raja Ravi Varma and it has got people like Lenin and Madhu Chettan at the helm,” says Santosh after the shot is over. Heroine Nithya Menon goes to change her costume and Lenin and Madhu discuss the next shot while Santosh takes a break.
The set has been put up in a lovely but dilapidated old bungalow known as ‘Church bungalow' on the compound of a Lutheran church, near Pallichal in Thiruvananthapuram district.
A corner of a room in the bungalow has been turned into the royal artist's studio. An easel, paper, brushes and paints jostle for space. Antique-looking furniture and artifacts lent the room an old-world grace.
‘“Makara Manju' is about Ravi Varma's life at a certain stage in his life. He is engrossed in painting Urvashi and Pururavas and the relationship between him and his model begin to acquire certain shades of the legend of Urvashi and Pururavas,” explains Lenin with a smile.
He says that Santosh will have three heroines in the film – Nithya Menon (who came up with a sterling performance in ‘Happy Journey' in ‘Kerala Cafe'), Karthika (yesteryear actor Radha's daughter) and Lakshmi Sharma.
“This is my fifth film with Madhu Ambat, one of my favourite cinematographers. He was the one who filmed ‘Swati Thirunal,' ‘Vachanam' and ‘Daivathinte Vikrithikkal,'” adds Lenin who says that he had been planning a film on Ravi Varma for a long time.
The film, which is being produced by Green Cinema, will also be shot in Kochi and Mumbai. ‘Makara Manju' is likely to reach theatres by the end of January.