It is difficult to refrain from using superlatives while describing the beauty of Kerala. The naturally endowed landscapes of the state are well documented — be it the magnificent beaches, stretches of paddy fields, houseboats plying through backwaters, spice plantations, waterfalls or hill stations.
But irrespective of whether you’ve heard or read or seen visuals of the beauty, once you sample the natural magnificence of the state first hand you realise that the grandeur goes way beyond the medium leaving you totally spellbound. No wonder many a celluloid dream has found a muse in the state’s scenic locations.
The Sabbir Khan-directed Baaghi, starring Tiger Shroff and Shraddha Kapoor, has been extensively shot in some picturesque locations in the state. Songs like Girl I Need You and Cha Cha that are fast racing to the top of the charts have showcased some panoramic views of the enchanting land, its climate and its culture.
Sabbir mentions that the story demanded that the film be shot in Kerala. Shraddha plays an aspiring actor whose father is taking her south to try her luck in films while Tiger is travelling to Kerala to stay in a Kalaripayattu ashram run by his father’s friend in order to tame his rebellious streak.
They travel together in the same train to Kerala. Sabbir says, “I had never visited Kerala before and came here first for a recce and though I had heard so much about the beauty of the state, once you see it, it takes your breath away! My crew was completely taken aback and all we wanted was to do full justice to the beauty.” Seems they went beyond the call of duty - Girl I Need You has Tiger and Shraddha cavorting amidst lush paddy fields, in narrow pathways through the backwaters with ducks swimming merrily nearby, with shots of plantain groves and houseboats. The visual treat is mesmerising and a sight for sore eyes.
The film was shot in Alappuzha, Chembakassery backwaters, Fort Kochi and a beach with white sand and blue-green water whose name Sabbir cannot recollect. There is a visual of Tiger and Shraddha dancing in the backwaters dressed in black with midriff-baring clothes and huge elephants standing majestically in the background.
The visuals and the costumes immediately bring to mind the Shah Rukh Khan-Preity Zinta song Jiya jale jaan jale from the film Dil Se — so similar are they. Sabbir reveals, “When I was location scouting at Athirapally waterfalls, I was informed by the locals that this was the place where jiya jale was shot and I thought it would be cool to pay a tribute to Mani Ratnam, Shah Rukh and Preity through Girl……. I spoke to my choreographer, to Tiger and Shraddha who jumped at the idea. It is an iconic song and I have tried to recreate it and it is my small and humble tribute to all of them and hope they all like it.”
Talking about the food and the attitude of the locals, Sabbir gushes, “We were tripping on the food, especially the sea food. Shraddha and I are complete foodies and Tiger though careful about his diet loved the fish varieties. I can come back again just for the food! The locals were very supportive and I had a lot of crowd scenes but faced no problems. There was a major boat race sequence which I recreated in part but we also shot some real footage from the annual boat race after getting permission. I had immense support from the Kerala Tourism department.”
Tiger Shroff was not on Sabbir’s mind when he was developing the story but as the story grew he felt Tiger suited the role. The duo had already worked together in the hit film Heropanti but Sabbir did not want to impose on Tiger who was being careful about his roles post the film’s success. It has been two years since Heropanti and when Sabbir finally narrated the script to Tiger he was interested. Baaghi has Tiger sporting long, untamed hair and a chiseled physique. Incidentally Sabbir changed Tiger’s look eleven times to suit the role. He laughs and agrees, “I did not want the audience to be reminded of Heropanti and wanted to break new ground. I had an image in my mind of a cross between James Dean and Heath Ledger and I guess we pulled it off!”
Sabbir’s father was a lyricist and his mother passed away when he was four. Doing the rounds of the recording studio (with his dad) had him completely enamored with direction. He says, “Growing up a loner I wanted to tell stories and movies seemed to be a good way to do that.”...