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Suspense in the post office

It is yet another busy day for the Podanur Thabaal Nilayam shooting crew. The team has transformed a 125-year-old building in the Town Hall area into a post office. From the postmaster’s room with its old-fashioned switches and musty stacks of files to the recreation room where the employees watch television and play carom, director Praveen Venkataraman has looked into every minute detail that will make the set look authentic.

It is not surprising, as Praveen’s father was a postal assistant and he grew up listening to post-office stories. “We feel the post office is a dull place and many have asked me how I can set a suspense drama there. But, for me a post office throbs with drama and this forms the central thread of the film’s narrative.” Praveen doesn’t want to give away any more details, but will only say, “It records three days in the lives of eight people who work in a post office. Even the most ordinary day-to-day affairs contribute to the narrative.”

The set was built from scratch with broken wooden artefacts and second-hand furniture. “An indie film maker has to resort to clever measures,” winks Praveen. “It has to look like a big film, even if it is made on a shoestring budget.” 

The team combed down old stationary shops in the cities to collect dusty files, folders and sheets to put on the shelves. For lighting the crew used regular bulbs, wedding video lightings and parking lights along with white umbrella shades to give off a soft, filmy glow!

Podanur Thabaal Nilayam is Praveen’s dream come true. After running behind three to four producers with the script, Praveen decided that he will be his own boss. A producer even took his script and never got back .

“I gave him the original script. He still has not returned it. I worry about someone making the film out of my script, before I do,” he laughs.

Praveen packed his bags and took a train to Chennai nearly 10 years ago. He aspired to be an actor and was confident that he would get a foothold in the industry once he mastered the art of film making. He studied animation, and worked as a technical director in Walt Disney films and was a pipeline director in Kochadaiiyaan. Still, when it came to make something of his own, he faced the same hurdles as any other young filmmaker.

There were no takers for his script, even though it was chosen as the best in the Tamil Screenplay Competition, held in Chennai by Screenplay 2014. After this series of disappointing outcomes, he decided to fund his own film and also act in it.

He was determined that he was not going to compromise on his film’s creativity.

“Thanks to a bunch of friends, family members and film buffs, we were able to mobilise a decent budget,” he says.

For the last one month, the team has been sleeping, eating and shooting in the heritage building. “This is almost our home. Our boys double up as technicians, tea distributors and extras.”

The technical team consists of young short filmmakers from Coimbatore. It took him eight months to finally find a good technical team that would be as “passionate” as him. Some of them shoot wedding videos and run studios in the city to earn a living. The film is not special just to Praveen but also to these young technicians, who are also awaiting a break, to make it big one day. They hope that the film will be the launch pad for them to realise their dreams.


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Printable version | Jun 15, 2022 10:32:40 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/suspense-in-the-post-office/article7579268.ece