Filmmaker Lijo Jose Pelliserry is the talk of the town today, with his latest release Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam receiving praise from audiences and critics alike. Ever since the film has been available for streaming, viewers have been sharing detailed interpretations and breakdowns of the film's pivotal moments. Pelliserry fans have something else to be happy this week, as the eccentric director's fifth film, Angamaly Diaries (2017) just turned six.
The film is remembered for many things, including its portrayal of a realistic milieu and masterful visuals. But the film's pulsating climax, which was filmed in a striking 11-minute single take has remained to be one of the crowing achievements in the director's career. On the film's sixth year anniversary, let's look at how Pelliserry conceived and executed the sequence.
In an earlier conversation with us, the director revealed that the initial portions of the scene were deliberately filmed as a long take with a trolly camera to immerse the audiences into the reality of the sequence. “When you start the scene, you can see a firework trolly. Normally, clubs in Angamaly arranges fireworks during church festivals. In the scene you see that the firework is about to start. The idea behind this long take is to make the audience feel that they are not watching cinema, and bring them to the scene instead.”
The director contended that despite rehearsing with the actors and DOP in the morning to get the choreography and their positions right, the real challenge was filming with the presence of a huge crowd. “What we did was during day time, we went there with our actors, DOP, and basic core team. The street was empty during morning, so we structured the entire choreography of the sequence," he says. The team then began improvising with the actors. "It was not a rehearsal with the crowd, so we didn’t even know how it would be when the crowd would come in. We practised it like that and as for the camera movement, we practised with a normal phone. But in the evening when the crowd came in, we got a real hang of the entire scene and it was not as easy as it looked during our practice scenes.“
There is a certain fluidity to the events in the film occurring before things get chaotic as the situation descends into a full-blown brawl between the characters. Lijo believes this tonal shift was difficult to film as they had to ensure the characters remained in frame while capturing the mayhem. “The initial 10 minutes of the scene was normally moving along with the characters, but half way through, it gets transforms into a brawl and the characters start running. That was the difficult part because you have to follow the characters and the characters should not go out of the frame. The crowd just move in and out, there was this one instance where you could see the camera hit someone’s shoulder. The camera is hung in the middle of the equipment and once it hits any object, it will take a while to balance itself to come back to the centre. “
Despite being happy with how the sequence was executed at the time, the director reveals that he continues to find flaws in it. “I still find lot of flaws, but this is the best we could do on that day. I was so happy and I said, “great, I think we have got it.”
Angamaly Diaries is available for streaming on Netflix.