Finding a dedicated crew was significant: Dr Pragabhal on making 'Muddy'

Actors Arjun Kapoor, Fahadh Faasil, Jayam Ravi and Unni Mukundan, among others, launched the teaser of debutant director Dr Pragabhal’s upcoming movie Muddy. The movie is touted to be India’s first film to be based on off-road mud racing, an off-road motorsport and Pragabhal, who has a PhD in marketing says that the journey wasn't really easy though he is all set to reach his destination. Director Pragabhal talks about how he conceived the project and more. Excerpts:

Muddy is the first movie in Indian cinema that deals with the theme of mud racing. Was Muddy born out of your desire to make your debut movie unique?

Yes, of course. I wanted my debut movie to have a unique theme. Besides, I wished it to be an adventurous thriller and wanted to present it in the most realistic way. That dream has led me to the theme of mud racing. I personally am interested in vehicles and racing. So, I watch mud races regularly. Moreover, I have many friends who are mud racers. As much as it is thrilling, mud racing is quite risky too. When I watched this race, I was instantly drawn to it and found the thread of the plot from it. The screenplay was prepared by highlighting this thread.

Many mud racing sequences that are extremely thrilling and riveting are included in the movie.

What were your challenges as a debut director who did a movie on mud racing?

I have faced many big and small challenges right from the moment I began contemplating a movie based on mud racing to the pre-production, production and post-production stages of it. After the pre-production stage, selecting the actors to play the roles were the most challenging. I needed actors who could do mud racing and were willing to take risks. Besides, they should be able to act well too. So, casting was indeed challenging.

During the pre-production stage, preparing a detailed story board and hunting for the locations that stay true to the plot was quite difficult. We had spent around a year for this. We had shot at unique locations that have never been shown in any other movies. As the movie is shot inside forests and other difficult terrain, I needed really talented technicians and a supportive crew. Finding such a dedicated crew was significant for this movie. Filming the mud racing sequences, using modified vehicles, without losing its thrill and adventure was really challenging. As the movie has lots of racing and chasing, there had been many accidents as well. Dealing with all those factors were stressful. Reaching these highly adventurous locations was not easy, as most of these are in off road areas and vehicles wouldn’t easily reach there. So, we had to spend quite a lot of time travelling. Many of the production vehicles broke down or met with accidents. We got very few hours to shoot in a day. Most importantly, heavy rain posed grave challenges, making the roads and forest paths not fit to travel. This again forced us to travel through other roads which were longer; there had been days when we couldn’t film at all.

A movie like this requires fabulous post-production works. There were more than thirty hours of footages and the editing had to be perfect. We tried to shoot the sequences from all the angles using multiple cameras as the scope for retake in these difficult terrains was meager. We had used around fourteen cameras for the shooting. That resulted in producing an overwhelming amount of footages. I and the editor had spent lots of time watching those footages and selecting the best shots. We even did many trial runs and created multiple versions using the footages. The sound designing had to be done in a way where the sound of the racing vehicles do not clash with the back ground score. Similarly, we worked hard to try out various sound track versions and did many sound experiments too.

The final color tone of the movie was decided after trying out different color tones. We had overcome countless challenges like this to finally make this project happen. Personally, I had faced the most common question that every new director faces, ‘How many projects have you worked earlier’? However, I believe that I was able to bring out the best performance from every department and that the result is amazing.

How did you manage to bring noted music composer Ravi Bassoor who worked in KGF on board?

I had concentrated more on the technical side from the beginning of this movie. I believed that the movie based on mud racing could be presented without losing its unique ambience only by giving importance to its technical side. I contacted Ravi Bassoor and shared the details about the theme through phone. He came to the location once and watched the footages that were shot until then. He was very happy and said that it was a movie with a unique theme that offered ample space for him to compose. He signed the project, hoping for amazing results, and had been working hard since then to make this movie a stunning success.

Can you say more about the locations?

The detailed storyboards helped in hunting down the perfect locations. It took us around a year to find out unique locations that suit the adventurous nature of the movie. The crew had to depend on jeeps to reach those locations that were mostly accessible through off - roads. We had shot in many thrilling locations that are new to Malayalam cinema. I believe that all these would help in making the movie an amazing visual experience.

Was it a deliberate decision to cast new comers?

Casting for this movie was very stressful and challenging. Detailed narratives about each character were prepared while writing the screenplay itself. I had done research to decide on their attitude, behavior and why these characters are vital to the movie. I had tried to approach a few artists during the initial stages of the project. However, it wasn’t successful as I am a debut director. Besides, I too had demanded certain things from the actors who essay the roles. I wanted the mud races to be real and the actors had to do them without dupes. Besides, they had to reach the extremely adventurous locations to act in those sequences. Most importantly, I wanted people who were willing to spend more time and energy for this movie. Besides, they must be talented actors too. Later, we began thinking of casting new comers who fit into all these categories. Anyways, I have tried to treat the audience to a unique cinematic experience.

So, I decided to make this movie by casting some amazingly talented and dedicated group of newcomers.

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