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Shooting on Everest: A director’s dream

Published Nov 30, 2014, 3:41 am IST
Updated Mar 30, 2019, 10:32 am IST
35 days in the mountains was exhilarating as well as exasperating
Breathtaking: Nani and Malavika Nair check out the scenic view
 Breathtaking: Nani and Malavika Nair check out the scenic view
Hyderabad: The highest peak in in the world, Mount Everest, is trending these days in both films and television. While director Ashutosh Gowarikar made his TV debut with the show titled Everest, in Tollywood, Nag Ashwin’s debut movie starring Nani Yevade Subramanyam (Who is Subramanyam?) also has Everest towering over the film.
However, what sets the film, which is produced by Swapna and Priyanka Dutt, apart from the TV serial is that unlike Gowarikar, who shot a few scenes for his show in Lukla, a town situated at an elevation of 2,860 metres above sea level in the Khumbu region of Nepal and then shifted the shooting to Uttarakhand, Yevade Subramanyam is the only Indian film to be shot at some of the highest points of Everest. 
The Everest schedule of the film wrapped up just two weeks back and the movie will release early next year. Its first look though will be out beginning of next month.
Talking about the plot, the director-cum-scriptwriter and a Hyderabad Public School alumnus explains, “It is basically the journey of a guy who sets out to find his true self.
He is a very successful corporate chap, earning the highest pay package... These things defined him. So you take this guy and throw him in the Himalayas, where things like how much he earns doesn’t matter... then the question about who he truly is becomes relevant. This is an existential comedy. It is more about a grumpy fellow wondering what he is doing in the Himalayas.”
Wasn’t Ashwin scared of making such an experimental film since audiences are all for typical masala films? “Yes, people are used to huge movies like Magadheera and Bahubali, but this too is a huge film in a different way.”
The trek started from Lukla, an hour by flight from Kathmandu. “You know, there are these links that you keep getting on Facebook about ‘10 scariest airports’. Lukla is number one! It is right on a cliff and it’s a slope.
There have been a lot of accidents,” says Ashwin. The next stop was the Gokyo, which is 4750 metres high, followed by Chola Pass at 5420 metres. Apart from shooting, the team also needed to be prepared for trekking as they had to wrap up work in one place and walk to the next location.
The first problem they encountered was acclimatisation people were having trouble breathing and the next was accommodation. “At one point we couldn’t get rooms, so everyone slept in a dining room Also the bathrooms were lousy. You have something called ‘hot showers’ which are gas powered showers but they are not as warm as you would want them to be in such cold climate,” says Ashwin. 
Apart from Nani and the film’s heroine Malavika Nair, the rest didn’t see the need for daily showers. And, after a hard day’s shoot, the cast and crew had only bland potatoes, dal and a few more unexciting items on the menu to look forward to.
Even acting was not easy as Ashwin explains, “One day we tried shooting at 6.30 am when the sun was just coming up. It was so cold that the actors couldn’t say their lines, they were just stuttering. Half of us thought that we would lose at least a finger.”
At times, when he was cold, hungry and exhausted, Ashwin would wonder, “Why couldn’t I shoot a regular college romance back home?” But this thought would quickly disappear when he would see the breathtaking beauty around him. 
Also, Ashwin took it as a sign that he and the team had a spiritual connect with the Himalayas after randomly meeting Amelia Hillary, the granddaughter of Sir Edmond Hillary, the first person to climb Mount Everest along with Tenzing Norgay. “Amelia told us to respect the mountains as they were alive.
Only if you are worthy of the mountains will they let you climb them. It was her boyfriend’s birthday, the place was softly lit, so there was an ambience when she leaned in and told us this,” says Ashwin.
Among other incidents, which now seem funny, were the make-up man getting chased by a baby yak and Ashwin getting hit by a horse.
But the cast and crew didn’t give up. Now, back in Hyderabad, they feel a great sense of accomplishment. But life in the city seemed very strange to them after spending more than a month in the tranquil mountains.
Nani’s wife told the team that her husband had barely uttered a word after she picked him up from the airport. He apparently just stared out of the window looking at the buildings and the traffic.
But one of the great things about the trip was that everyone came back looking leaner and fitter.