We discover why Muttom is Tamil cinema’s beloved — the beach offers drama and a setting for every situation

I’m walking all alone and barefoot on immaculate red sand washed afresh every now and again by a tumultuous Arabian Sea. It is a cloudy afternoon, and I stop to burrow my toes in sand that feels like silk in what is perhaps one of South India’s cleanest beaches. White-tipped waves come tearing at me, but as I back away, they crash into dark rocks jutting out of the water and foam around my feet.

Admiring the effect of the white surf on the brick-red sand, I tell myself many a leading lady in Tamil and Malayalam movies has done what I am doing just now. For, Muttom has, for decades, been the film industry’s favourite backdrop for romance — just scenes, songs or even entire movies.

Muttom’s pull is irresistible from the first sight. It began when I took a sharp curve to the coastal village after a drive along coconut groves from Nagercoil. The coastline here drops down steeply from the road from where I caught an almost 360-degree view of the grey-blue sea with dark rocks rising sharply and bright blue sails bobbing on the waters. One can’t possibly pass this place without pausing.

Muttom offers drama, thanks to the capricious sea with its unpredictable mood swings — one minute it caresses your feet, the next you are swamped by the powerful waves. It has a setting for every scene in a script, as directors have discovered. Want to capture troubled times? Nothing better than the turbulent sea with lashing waves breaking apart on brooding rocks. A romantic duet? The pristine sands fringed by the surf are game for frolic. Quiet, intimate moments? Small rocks sheltering fine dry sand seem made for lovers’ trysts. Fleeing from enemies? Craggy boulders offer an adventurous scramble. Little wonder that the seaside hamlet was almost a character in yesteryear Tamil blockbusters such as Kadalora Kavidhaigal and Alaigal Oyvadhillai.

And just like our movies that switch from songs to stunts in quicksilver speed, a little away from the sea, the land dips into red ravines and gullies, where many action sequences have been canned. Though I am tempted to scurry down to the rocks that form a bridge into the sea, I turn around and trudge up to the lighthouse. Rising over 100 feet above the sea level, it was commissioned around 130 years ago by the British (open from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m.). We wind up the narrow staircase to the glass-encased lantern room for a glimpse of the rotating optic lens and a mercury halide lamp. Even as the assistant lists out the technical details of the lighthouse, I’m drawn to the gallery that runs around the lighthouse. The view is breathtaking. The sea gives way to an unfinished harbour dotted with brightly painted boats, and melts away into the village that’s dominated by a majestic Portuguese-styled church with its many steeples soaring into the sky.

Getting There:

Muttom is 17 km from Nagercoil, the nearest major railway station and the administrative headquarters of the southernmost district of Tamil Nadu, Kanyakumari. The nearest airport is about 70 km away at Trivandrum

Where to stay:

There are many hotels in Nagercoil and Kanyakumari

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