No director would have run helter-skelter as much as Arun Gopi did to bring out his first movie. While the eventual success of Ramaleela made all these troubles pale, Gopi feels that certain incidents which happened in the making of the movie must have happened for a reason.
Filmmakers are on a constant hunt to find the best and apt shooting location. Those who have watched Ramaleela will not forget the beautiful resort in the second half of the movie. The search for this idyllic island was not a walk in the park, remembers Arun Gopi.
“I have been on many trips. The one journey, which made me anxious and scared, made me seriously contemplate calling it off and yet astounded me in the end, was the trip seeking a location for the hideout sequence. That trip was an experience in itself and I felt divine interventions at many points,” Arun Gopi said.
We needed an isolated island for the movie and we found one in Maldives – Sun Island. I had not been able to visit the location due to various time constraints. Nobody in the crew had seen the location, we'd only heard about it. While the shooting was in full swing, the producer Tomichan Mulakuppadam went to see the location along with his wife. They turned that into a trip. There was a break in the shooting at that time and Tomichan told me that the island is only a ten minute boat ride from Male airport. Making use of the gap in schedule, I decided to go see the location and took a flight to Male and then a boat to Sun Island.
My expectations were sky high. The flight into Maldives only increased these hopes. From the sky, all the islands looked beautiful. Glistening in the sun, they looked like jewels scattered on a blue carpet. But all my hopes came crashing down when we reached Sun Island. This place was almost as big as Thiruvananthapuram. It could be designated a district in itself! It had a giant resort, a school to train the staff and pretty much every modern convenience you can think of. This would not do for the island I had in mind. The return flight was in two days, leaving barely any time to search for another spot. It looked like we'd have no choice but to go with what we had.
My spirit took a serious hit as I knew that viewers will only think that we shot this sequence in Thiruvananthapuram. I was very disheartened but it seemed like there was no choice. On the day we had to leave, we left Sun Island early in the morning. Our return flight was at 2 pm from Male. Shiju, a friend of M K Munir, received us there. It was around 8am and I told Shiju about our desperate situation.
When I described my dream location to Shiju, he felt that Rihiveli, an island 3 hours off Male, could meet my requirements. He added that if conditions are favoring, we could speed up and cover the distance in 2 hours. According to Shiju, if we left immediately we would reach Rihiveli by 10am and reach the airport back by 12.30pm after spending half an hour there. It sounded like a plan as we only needed to check in by 1-o'clock.
Suspense on sea
Tomichan was also supportive and suggested we give it a shot. It being a Sunday, took us a while to find a boat on hire. It was already 9 when we set out. The sea was unusually rough and those on the boat were saying they had not seen currents like this for many years. To be honest, everyone on board was extremely scared. But no one wanted to show this outside. I kept reassuring the others saying nothing will happen. But I was really scared. The sea was tossing and turning and it seemed like the boat will capsize any moment. Still, when I thought of returning without a location for the movie, I felt we should push on.
We reached Rihiveli around 11am. The boat had to twist and turn in between walls of rocks to reach the shore. When we reached there and I stepped onto the beach, my mind was screaming with delight. It was like the image in my head had been brought to life - a paradise in the middle of the ocean with only this one little resort and nothing else.
The water was dazzling blue. A small resort with another island only a walk away. The resort had all other modern amenities a traveler would require.
Tomichan kept reminding me that we had to leave straight away in order to make it in time for the flight back. After a quick scouting of the resort, we got back on the boat. We decided we can get back to Kerala and make the necessary arrangements from there.
The boat driver refused to drop us off at the airport, which was on an island on the way. In spite of us offering him more money, he was adamant on dropping us where he picked us up from. It was finally 1:30pm when he got to the airport.
This whole journey was a real eye opener. It was only because the shooting had stalled that I got time to make this trip.
When we went to Rihiveli with Dileep, Kavya, Meenakshi, Prayaga and the crew, I warned everyone to expect a turbulent ride. The water was very calm on that day though and they kept pulling my leg about the stories of a rough journey I had tried to scare them with.
Why visit Rihiveli
I feel everyone should visit Rihiveli at least once. If you are looking for a destination to enjoy a perfect vacation near clear, listless water, cool climate, enough privacy, then this is the place. Many asked me about the location once the movie hit the screens.