Shaji Kailas is working on his next project, `Chintamani Kola Case.'

Murder mysteries are eagerly awaited, whether they come from Agatha Christie or Kottayam Pushpanath. Shaji Kailas, whose last film was `Tiger' is on to his next project, `Chintamani Kola Case,' under the banner of Rajaputra (produced by Ranjit). The shooting of the film is going on in Kochi and adjoining areas. "This is my first movie in which Suresh Gopi is not carrying a gun around. He dons the lawyer's robes, and is therefore, more powerful," says Shaji Kailas, as he scans the screen before him, calling out, "Bhavana, please come forward. Yes, a little more to the left." Just as you wonder where Bhavana and the camera are, Shaji calls out again, "Ready, start camera, action."Bhavana and the others, including the cinematographer, Rajarathinam, are all in an adjoining room while Shaji Kailas and Don Max, the editor sit in front of the screen. This is the advantage of spot editing. Instead of looking into a viewfinder and getting the actors' positions right, it is all masterminded from the non-linear editing machine, which looks like a computer with a large screen.

Spot editing

"This is the second movie in which I am using spot editing, after `The Tiger,'" he explains. The entire movie can be seen right at the spot when it is filmed with this technology. If any scene is flawed, it can be shot again then and there, while in the conventional way, it would have been discovered only on the editing table. The actors too can take a look and satisfy themselves.Don Max, the editor, is fresh in the industry. He went to Ketan Mehta's school for advanced cinematics in Mumbai where he learnt the latest techniques of editing on the non-linear editing machine. Don says that he did the editing of `Rashtram' too, also a Suresh Gopi starrer, but it wasn't done on the spot. Only the final editing was done in the conventional way. Suresh Gopi says his character, Lal Krishna Viradiar, is a crazy, daring and successful advocate. He takes on impossible cases where it is very obvious that the accused are indeed culprits. But Viradiar fights their cases and gets them acquitted with his legal skills. He always gets amply rewarded too. "This character has a bad past. He is not a gun-toting hero, but there is action in the movie. There are fights. There are a lot of gimmicks involved. I won't say what and to that extent, it is indeed a challenging role," Suresh feels. Viradiar is a pious man who belongs to an illustrious family of advocates who are famous for their unparalleled skill in bailing out criminals, whether they have committed the crime or not.

Social issues and inequalities

"The movie handles social issues and inequalities that prevail in our society," he adds. A brilliant advocate, who sometimes takes the law into his hands, with shades of the angry man sums up the character of Viradiar. Rekha plays his sister. There is no romance for the hero, though there is plenty of glamour on the sidelines. That is what is new in `Chintamani Kola Case?' Nine models play significant roles. They are Chintamani's (Bhavana) hostel mates who are accused of ragging her, resulting in her death. All nine play hip girls from very rich families and form the mod, bad, glamour brigade in the film. Viradiar, of course, takes up their case and fights it. Apart from a few who are from Kerala, the others have been brought from Bollywood and Kollywood. "Our girls here refuse to wear modern clothes. So we had to find these girls, some of who are models," says Shaji. The girls from Kerala have also modelled, though some are students of Plus Two. All have fairly good roles, being suspects in the `Chintamani Kola Case.' Bhavana plays Chintamani, whose murder sparks off the incidents portrayed in the movie. Unlike other movies of Shaji where the action is more important than other aspects, here relationships play an important role, says Shaji. The father-daughter relationship between the characters played by Bhavana and Thilakan and the sister-brother bond stand out. There are no songs in the film, the background score is by Rajamony. Art director Boban says he has just started setting the set of the court, where a lot of the drama takes place. An anatomy lab is another special set he has to put up. A house in Palarivattom has been transformed into a medical college hostel where the shooting is on. About 55 films old, Boban says the success of a set lies in a stray comment by any cinegoer who says, `I never knew it was a set.'He was the art director of the Hindi film `Chachi 420,' the Kamal Hasan film. The bus station and the hero's house in `Bus Conductor' were sets, he discloses. Some of his other works include `Aaram Thampuran,' `Thommanum Makkalum' and `Rajamanikkam,' which needed elaborate sets, but looked very real. A.K. Sajan, who has written the story, script and dialogues, says it is an unusual story. Cinematographer Rajarathnam was an associate of Ravi K. Chandran, who worked with Shaji Kailas in his early days. Sajan has just finished directing `Lanka,' with Suresh Gopi in the lead. It is slated for a Valentine's Day release. Thilakan, Biju Menon, Sai Kumar, T. P. Madhavan, Bhiman Raghu are the others in the cast.