Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval's directorial Nna Thaan Case Kodu, a satirical courtroom drama hits the theatres tomorrow. Starring Kunchacko Boban and Gayathrie Shankar, the film traces the life of Rajeevan, a reformed thief, and his court charge against a minister. And the film has an interesting backstory. In a conversation with Vishal Menon, Ratheesh shares that the entire film was shot as a rehearsal before it actually went on floors.
"Before the actual filming, Nna Thaan Case Kodu was shot with the full cast as part of a 15-day rehearsal shoot. Actually, it was an audition, but instead of making the cast do a scene for an audition, the entire movie was shot. We didn't have a court, so we went to a library and made it into a makeshift court. It didn't even have the standards of a short film. We shot for 15 days and edited the movie. We then made a movie with a runtime of 2 hours 20 minutes and showed it to a few trusted people for feedback. And based on their feedback, I rewrote the script. I created a prototype, found the issues within it, and rewrote the script," says the director.
Ratheesh notes that doing a rehearsal shoot is a profitable move, both financially and creatively. He says, "The Magistrate who is seen in the teaser of Nna Thaan Case Kodu initially had a backstory in the rehearsal shoot. After Rajeevan (played by Kunchacko Boban), if there's one character that would be noticed in the film, it's him. There was a logical backstory to why he was behaving a particular way—he's a drunkard, there are issues in his family life, etc… While editing (the rehearsal movie), I realized this backstory was not needed and even without his backstory, Rajeevan's story made sense. So, we chopped 20 pages off the script, which in turn meant that we needn't shoot those 20 minutes, a move that ended up saving us money. Around Rs 15 lakhs was spent shooting the rehearsal, but it's nothing when you look at it in terms of a movie's budget. If you shoot a rehearsal and find that the movie isn't good, you will profit from it even if you drop the movie."
Speaking about whether the idea of a rehearsal film had anything to do with the genre, Ratheesh says, "It's not just about courtroom drama, it (such rehearsals) is necessary for every movie. Because when you chop parts during an edit, it is almost equal to burning the producer's money. For Android Kunjappan, we had to chop a lot of parts. To shoot a 4-minute footage, we often spend an entire day, and the cost of that will be around Rs 4-5 lakhs. Chopping such parts during the edits is a bit of a cruel thing to do. So, to avoid such things, I did this rehearsal shoot. It's difficult to cut things from the script, but when you see it visually, you understand what can be chopped."
Ratheesh asserts that a rehearsal shoot also helps one calculate the time required for each scene and shape the character better. Interestingly, the process also helped actors come up with dialogues of their own. "The dialogues went through a lot of changes after the first rehearsal. During the rehearsal, we didn't give the actors any dialogue. We had a script but we didn't have any dialogues. We just told them the situations, and said, for instance, 'you are a lawyer for the MLA and you are a lawyer for the other character – now you can decide how you want to present this in court.' They then came up with their own dialogues and we wrote it down. This was the process. So when they came for the actual filming, we told them, 'This dialogue was written by you, so you cannot make any mistake.' So they were actually the dialogue writers," Ratheesh concludes.