South Indian superstar Mohanlal is in top gear as he slips behind the wheel of a Porsche Boxter in Dubai to film a thrilling car race sequence for his latest Malayalam film, Casanova.
The brief from director Rosshan Andrews is seemingly straightforward: Put the pedal to the metal, swerve sharply to the left and overtake a BMW, all the while letting out a joyous whoop and winking at the lady passenger.
Sounds simple, right? As tabloid! learned, not really, especially when the car-chase scene is being shot in a stationary vehicle in a parking lot near the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
In building that adrenaline-charged atmosphere, Mohanlal's sole crutch is the spot-boys who point a fan to his face for that wind-swept effect. But the actor is undeterred and nails the scene in one take, then repeats it for different angles.
"This is my 33rd year in films and I am used to this. All it takes is practice. And when you do something continuously, you get better at it. It's like just any other art or profession," says a modest Mohanlal between takes last Sunday.
But don't be fooled by his self-effacing statements. His natural gift for movie-making is highlighted when his passenger (a model-turned-extra), with a cute Yorkshire terrier in the nook of her arm, finds herself having a tough time coughing up any emotion. Safe to say Lulu the terrier — whose costume consisted of a glittery cap — had a more animated face.
But the 50-year-old thespian is not one to give up on his co-star, putting her at ease with gentle cues such as, "Why don't you try mouthing ‘Oh My God' in your mind?"
"I have always believed that you get a good shot only if your co-star does better than you. I have always respected my colleagues and it's always about team work," says the award-winning actor, who has over 300 films to his credit.
For Casanova — billed as Malayalam cinema's slickest and most stylised production yet, with a budget exceeding Rs150 million (Dh12.32 million) — Mohanlal even secured a UAE driver's licence prior to the shoot.
‘The right thing'
"In Casanova there are many car-chase scenes, so I felt we should respect the law, since I was doing all the car-chase stunts myself. So I took driving lessons and cleared the test. That's the right thing to do."
The action-packed thriller, shot extensively in Dubai and Bangkok, is about a billionaire playboy, Casanova (Mohanlal), who heads to Dubai to settle scores with his enemies. The twist? His weapon of destruction is not war, but love.
"Casanova is an action-packed thriller with a message that love can heal crime. I plan to conquer my enemies through love."
According to producer C.J. Roy of Confident Group, the film is slated for a festive release during the Malayalam new year, Vishu, in April 2011. The company is making its first foray into Malayalam film production, having previously made Kannada films.
"Casanova is a production meeting Hollywood standards. It's stylish and slick, with the best talent on board. The film will showcase Dubai in a different light and will take viewers to places that they have never been to," says Roy.
Casanova in numbers
- 5: Number of heroines in Casanova
- 25: Number of days the Casanova team will be in Bangkok
- 40: Number of expensive cars — like Porsche Boxters, Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Rolls Royces — being used in Casanova
- Dh7,000-8,000: The price of renting the cars per day
- 50: Number of days Casanova is being shot in Dubai
- Dh1,500: The terrier Lulu's daily wage
- 3,000: Number of extras
Bollywood stunt director Allan Amin
His previous work includes: Dhoom, Dhoom 2 and Mission Kashmir
Is this your first Malayalam venture?
Yes. But the stunts are no less impressive and are as good as the ones in [the] Hrithik [Roshan]-starrer Dhoom 2.
Yesterday, Mohanlal and I worked together on a bike action scene where we executed a stoppie, a stunt where you stop with the front brake of your bike in such a way that you purposely bring the rear wheel off the ground.
We have also planned some slick helicopter stunt scenes in the coming days. The movie has a budget that will help us accommodate such stunts.
How was it working with Mohanlal?
He likes doing all his stunts himself and even though he is a big star, he is always co-operative. Even if you ask him to do 10 takes, he is up for it. The professional that he is, he wants every action shot to be perfect. His attitude makes my job easy.
Director Rosshan Andrews
His previous work includes: Malayalam hits Udayananu Tharam and Notebook
Tell us more about Casanova?
Casanova is a romantic thriller about a rich businessman who loves all things beautiful — women and fast cars. My vision was to create a film with a strong storyline.
Why did you choose the UAE as the prime location?
Dubai is a land filled with Casanovas from around the world. So what better place than here to shoot it? And for this film, we have gone beyond the shooting at Dubai Creek scenes. For the first time ever, a Malayalam movie has been shot in locations like Emirates Palace and near the Burj Khalifa.
How was it directing Mohanlal?
This is our third film together after Udayananu Tharan, my first film, and Ivadem Swargamanu. He is a director's dream actor and I can confidently say that Casanova is going to be one of Lal sir's [Mohanlal] mind-blowing performances of his career.
What's the toughest part of shooting in Dubai?
It has to be the heat. But things are relatively cool now.
Dubai's model/designer-turned-actress Nova Krishnan
Her achievements include: Miss Kerala 2001
Tell us more about your debut, Casanova.
This is my first film and I have already shot a song sequence at the Dubai Festival City with Mr Mohanlal. The fact that it was being shot in Dubai was a big attraction for me, since I was born and bred here.
What's your role like in the film?
I play one of Mohanlal's love interests. But I have not read my script yet.
So when will you know more about your role?
I am returning to Dubai [from Mumbai] in a few days. The director, Rosshan Andrews, and [producer] Dr C.J. Roy are my good friends and I am sure they have a good role slated for me. I have placed my faith in them.