The rain has been an integral feature of Malayalam cinema. Leading directors, actors and cinematographers discuss film sequences when the rain reigned supreme.
Rain has an integral place in Malayalam cinema. It is commonly used as value additions for songs, stunts and melodrama. But seldom is it used as a narrative structural device. On the rare occasions when it was done, Malayalam cinema witnessed some of the most aesthetically pleasing scenes.
‘Piravi,’ ‘Thoovanathumbikal,’ ‘Mazha’ and ‘Perumazhakkalam,’ are some of the films where the rain came in as a character, where it functioned as a mood setter and a metaphor.
“As a cinematographer, I loved the kinetics and dynamism the rains provide in an otherwise static frame. But in ‘Piravi’ it was used as a thematic addition, as an undercurrent that runs through the film. The downpour is part of the mindscape of the protagonist,” says Shaji N. Karun, director of the many award-winning ‘Piravi,’ which undoubtedly has some of the best shots of rain in Malayalam cinema.
“It was completely shot during the monsoons with whatever light that was available. We had planned it that way. Cinematographer Sunny Joseph and I would set every thing ready for a scene and wait for the rains,” remembers Shaji.
For Mohanlal too rains revive memories. And first on the list is Clara, his soul mate in Padmarajan’s film ‘Thoovanathumbikal.’
“It is perhaps the best rain sequence I have ever done. One of very few films where rain are juxtaposed well with the script. Only a mastermind like Padmarajan could have envisaged such a character and situations,” says the actor.
Mohanlal feels that the rain or any such natural elements should be added with a definite purpose and should qualitatively enhance the emotional content.
“Many a time, when you enact a rain scene, you don’t understand the nuances it might have in the script. It dawns on you only when you see it in the film in totality,” he adds.
Agreeing with him is Lenin Rajendran.
“The emotion the rain represents also needs to be taken into account,” says Lenin, director of ‘Mazha.’
“I have used the rain in many of my films as a metaphor. My film ‘Vachanam’ starts with heavy rains, and it continues for the first eight minutes. It amply supported the progression of the story. The rain in ‘Mazha’ represents different feelings, ranging from romance to nostalgia. It had such a predominant role in the film that I changed the title from ‘Nashtapetta Neelambari’ to ‘Mazha,’” says the filmmaker.
But romantic notions apart, filming the rain is quite a task, points out cinematographer S. Kumar.
“Artificial rain needs careful lighting. The scenes are usually back lit to favour the rain, and excess back light may, at times, affect the subject in the foreground. There are chances of the artistes getting silhouetted. Cutting off sky and sunlight from the frame is also important. You cannot show a bright and sunny sky along with the rain,” he explains.
P. Sukumar, who shot the song ‘Pranaya Mani Thooval Pozhiyum Pavizha Mazha,’ one of the most vibrant songs in Malayalam cinema that has been picturised in the rain feels the same about the rain effect.
“It is a tedious process since we don’t have automated machines to control the intensity of the rain. So maintaining the continuity in a rain scene is a challenge for camera and direction departments,”
Setting the mood
But both the cinematographers agree with actor Meera Jasmine when says that the rain is a good mood setter.
“The very sight and sound of rain make you so vulnerable. I enjoy the monsoon. As an actor, I enjoy rain sequences, especially the ones in ‘Ayudha Ezhuthu’ and ‘Perumazhakkalam.’ But off late, it is the logistics that come to my mind first when I think of a rain scene. Getting drenched was fun in childhood; but not any longer; at least not while working...,” she concludes with her trademark smile.
Framing the rain
In a rain-drenched village, Raghava Chakyar continues to wait for Raghu, the son who will never return…. (Shaji’s ‘Piravi’)
As slanting silver ropes cascade into the muddy terrain of his home, Jayakrishnan gets a letter from Clara. Raindrops splash on to the letter, like tears, and the ink runs as Jayakrishnan watches helplessly the end of a deep but unusual relationship. (Padmarajan’s ‘Thoovanathumbikal’).
Bhadra wakes up from her trance, drenched in the rain as the Amritavarshini soundtrack fades off to silence. (Lenin Rajendran’s ‘Mazha’)
Razia and her father row down the Kallayi in the midst of a deluge; hoping to meet a bereaved Ganga and beg for mercy. Razia cries over her destiny through the journey; and the droplets wash away her tears. (Kamal’s ‘Perumazhakalam’)
The Rainman Tharangini Artificial Rain and Wind Suppliers, Thiruvananthapuram, are the leading suppliers of ‘rain’ for Malayalam cinema. Starting off with the film Vishnu,’ they have worked on many rain sequences of our time that have left an impact on the big screen.
“We have done around 250 films, comprising both indoor and outdoor sequences. We use motorised pump sets to produce rain. The most challenging task is to produce rain in movement shots, that is when the camera travels. We are also trying to get in soundless rain machines for spot recording,” says Saju, the proprietor.