Several people have been separated from their families during these lockdown days.
Actress Mallika Sukumaran too has been living alone in Thiruvananthapuram. Her younger son Prithviraj has been stranded in Jordan, while elder son Indrajith and his family are in Kochi.
Prithviraj had left for Jordon to act in director Blessy’s ‘Aadujeevitham’ on February 29.
To prepare for character Najeeb, Prithviraj had shed 17kg in three months. He survived only on fruit juice and vegetable soups. He also grew his hair and beard long.
While movie buffs praised Prithviraj's efforts to look apt for the character, his mother Mallika looked on apprehensively at her son's transformation.
Her worries increased after her brother and popular director M V Pillai warned that the sudden weight loss could affect the immunity of the body.
As his body weakened, Prithviraj remained home with his family in Kochi for three months and did not even listen to new movie scripts.
In the middle of the desert
A group of 58 people led by Blessy had left for Jordan. Prithviraj had reached the foreign country one week in advance to adapt to the new location. His assistant and make-up man were also with him. As only Najeeb's lonely life was to be filmed in the desert, other Mollywood stars were not part of the team.
Mallika was mainly concerned over whether Prithviraj can withstand the heat of the desert. She was later relieved to know that it was cold.
The team lived at a resort, which is in the middle of a desert that was four hours away from Jordan capital, Amman. The entire crew leaves for shooting in the morning and returns only by 8pm every day. By then, it would be midnight in India.
Initially, Prithviraj was not available on phone. If his wife Supriya got some information on him, she would pass it on to Mallika. After some time, Prithviraj was able to contact Mallika over WhatsApp.
The shooting was affected after a curfew was imposed in Jordan. But then the film crew got permission and the shooting resumed. However, the filming is stalled again.
Mallika's worries were further increased by the news reports from the foreign country.
"One day, I was shocked to see a news report on a TV channel. I assumed he was kidnapped by someone. Our minds jump to the worst possibility when we are scared and alone. A mother is constantly worried about her children's well-being," Mallika said.
But then the news channel was merely referring to the film picturization being stalled in Jordan.
Though Mallika was relieved, she was again concerned over whether Prithviraj had access to food and water. However, the actor consoled his mother that apart from the lack of flights to return home, he faced no other problems in Jordan.
Words of assurance
During these days, Indrajith has been pestered with hundreds of phone calls, including those from the fans’ association workers. Indrajith had to switch off his phone as he was flooded with calls.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Minister A K Balan also intervened in the issue. Film associations also tried to do their bit to ensure the safety of the crew.
However, Mallika was further distressed to note these developments.
"I was worried if something happened to my son that I did not know of. What if they were not telling me the truth about him?
"Then Mohanlal called me and I told him all my concerns. We spoke for half-an-hour and he consoled me. Actor Suresh Gopi also called. Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi had made enquiries in Jordan and gave me the updates,” she added.
Actors Jayaram, Maniyan Pilla Raju, K P A C Lalitha and Siddique also spoke to Mallika over the phone.
“Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan also called me up. The minister told me that a Thiruvalla native worked at the Embassy in Jordan and that he was looking into any needs of the film crew. And that there was a medical team with the crew. The minister assured me that the welfare of the crew would be ensured," she added.
Mallika is grateful to all those who backed her at this moment of crisis.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the film crew celebrated Vishu and Easter in Jordan. As there were no konna pookal (yellow flowers) in the desert, the art director made flowers using clothes.
The curfew was relaxed from April 20 in Jordan and the shooting was resumed. The makers have also cancelled the shooting scheduled at Algeria and Egypt.
Mallika further said that ‘Aadujeevitham’ was the dream project of both Prithviraj and Blessy. And that Academy Award winners A R Rahman and Resul Pookutty are collaborating with the project as they are aware of its potential.
Mallika is hopeful that her son will be rewarded for all the misery he has had to endure for the movie.