Deserts have fascinated Manikuttan several times, but until joining the sets of the war-thriller 1971: Beyond Borders did not have a hang of things up close. A sea of sand had little to evoke wonder in him, till a life there, was a lesson of a lifetime. “During stage shows in Dubai, I have been to desert areas. Yet, this was the first time, I had been to a desert in India. Here things were different. It was a 10-day schedule in the dunes of Rajasthan. It was a baggage of things unexpected. Climate fluctuated unexpectedly. We shifted between extreme hot and cold conditions. Thankfully, no one got affected or fell sick," rewinds Manikuttan. Unpredictability factor was high with the availability of arms and ammunitions — the real ones. “Thing was that we shot with real war weapons. Its availability decided everything, like how we should plan a day’s affairs. The shot involving equipment was planned the moment those arrived the sets,” he explains.
Whay was Rajasthan chosen for war scenes? “The location was not a place where movies are usually shot. To us, it happened mainly due to Major Ravi sir’s influence. Though the place was Rajasthan, it was just 50 kilometres away from the Indo-Pak border. That was where we put the set for bunker. There was a real war atmosphere all throughout the shoot,” he reminisces. The war life anyway couldn’t linger too much for he had the next movie lined up – Dileep-starrer Kammara Sambhavam. Having completed two schedules of the movie in Theni and Neryamangalam, he looks forward to the next slot coming in May. “It’s too early to speak about the movie or my role. My character’s name is Thilakan. It’s a period film that demands me to undergo a makeover. It is a 1945 era subject. Also there will be two different time periods portrayed. It will be a surprise package,” he signs off.