How often do we find our minds caught in a deep, emotional pit from where there is seemingly no escape? Sometimes there is a glint of light visible and it is that light that becomes a beacon prompting us to crawl to salvation. Director M.B. Padmakumar has shot his third film – Telescope — in a 50-feet-deep pit to show the struggles of a group of people and mirror society in a symbolic way. Padmakumar has a way with his scripts that talk hard-hitting realistic subjects. His very first film, My Life Partner, looked at the taboo subject of a gay relationship. His second film, Roopantharam, was a tale of a visually-challenged man and made the rounds of various film festivals.
Telescope is about eight people stranded in a 50-feet-deep, abandoned pit. The individuals are all from different strata of society and include an elderly eighty-year-old man, a woman and a child of eight years. These people can escape from the pit provided they all rally together and at last, circumstances dictate that they do. The pit, Padmakumar says, represents society. The whole film was shot inside the pit — not an easy task, but one fraught with danger at every turn. The actors were all selected from social media with the exception of actor Balaji. Padmakumar explains, “With a subject of this kind, no established actor was willing to act. So I got a bunch of new faces but they did not disappoint and became very involved with the shoot, even in the face of acute discomfort.”
If you wonder about the discomfort, Padmakumar is only too glad to explain, “We had an agreement that the actors would not eat too much food or drink water during the shoot period because they had to remain inside the pit from seven in the morning to nine in the night. Nature’s call was answered in a bottle because lifting the actors from the pit every time would mean a loss of three hours of shoot time! It was only in emergency situations that they were pulled out!” These were not the only concerns, “Oxygen supply was limited in the hole and oxygen cylinders were provided,” he narrates. The director planned the shoot in October so that the rains would have abated but then when does Mother Nature dance according to plan? “We had covered the hole with tarpaulin to protect it but once heavy rain led to a huge surge of water entering the hole. All the actors panicked and we brought them up and had to bring in equipment to pump out the water!” Padmakumar recalls with a shudder.
Not that any of these incidents fazed the actors. Neither the elderly man nor the child or the woman made any complaints, rather they accepted each discomfort without a whimper. Padmakumar says, “Even after the actors were brought up after the shoot, they kept hearing the sounds of the pit and took a long time to shake it off!” If you thought this was an off-beat film, Padmakumar assures that it is not. He says this is fast-paced thriller but will be shown at film festivals. “I am very happy with the outcome. The soundscape is also very different.” The film will see its commercial release next year.