A group of young men stormed into the cabin of the Palakkad collector equipped with bombs and guns on Oct 4, 1996, leaving the onlookers and the office bearers numb with fear. After tying the then collector WR Reddy to a chair, they started negotiating with him over the Adivasi issue. A huge police force had already enveloped the collectorate. Finally, he was rescued with police interference.
Considering they had only witnessed such a hostage drama in films, this was like a bolt from the blue for the onlookers, the state machinery, and police. A hostage drama staged by the Ayyankali pada for 9hrs which shook the entire state of Kerala is back in limelight now, thanks to ‘Pada’. Director Kamal KM is happy that his film and that incident are discussed widely.
“Pada reflects the life and struggles of the backward class. The film is essentially a question towards the conscience keepers of politics and society in Kerala. This is an incident known to most people. Let people see the film and then discuss. I am happy that ‘Pada’ is discussed widely on social media.’
What was the challenge of making a film on a real-life incident?
We had to shoot some of the major scenes with around 800-1500 junior artists for more than 15 days.
How would you describe the journey from real to reel?
It was in 2018 that I had the thought of making a film on the Palakkad hostage incident. We started the pre-production work and began filming in July 2019. But despite completing the shooting, covid wrecked our plans and the release kept getting delayed. Since we all thought the film deserved a theatre watch, we decided to wait.
It’s been a decade since your first film, 'ID'. Why such a long gap?
‘ID’ is a small film shot entirely in Mumbai on a budget of 15 lakhs. It was the result of a collaboration of friends like Madhu Neelakandan, Rajiv Ravi, Rasool Pookutty, Suni Bavu, and B Ajith Kumar. But to our surprise that film received wide appreciation and accolades. We were able to screen it at over 40 film festivals and also won a lot of awards. It was also there on Netflix. After this film, I joined as a Scriptwriting and direction head at KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts, Kottayam. It was after I quit that job that I came back to cinema.
We have used 95% sync sound for the film. I think there is more honesty in the performance where sounds and dialogues are recorded on the spot than adding them later in the dubbing studio. That’s why we opted for sync sound despite knowing the challenges of using it in a film of this canvas. The idea of using the anamorphic lens to shoot was also to elevate the visual experience.