Malayalam actor Fahad Fazil claims he's not a good dancer and wouldn't be caught dead busting moves around trees. But it's tough to take his declarations seriously, especially since he was caught doing just that in a glitzy Dubai shopping mall on Sunday, when mall-trawlers at The Dubai Mall were witness to a rather quick piece of filmmaking.
In three shots, Fazil — who plays Dr Arun Kumar, an oncologist in the Dubai-set movie Diamond Necklace — nailed the dance sequence effortlessly.
"I am not a great dancer, don't expect any intricate dance steps from my end," said Fazil to tabloid! before he got down to mastering chest thrusts as he clutched on to the steel railings, topping it all with exaggerated swagger. Fazil found success in 2011 sleeper hit Chaappa Kurush.
Diamond Necklace is billed as the first Indian film to be shot inside the Burj Khalifa, following in the footsteps of Hollywood blockbuster Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, although it's rather less expensive — it has a modest budget of Rs40 million (Dh2.84 million). "Shooting at the Burj Khalifa was a memorable experience. It's almost like a character in my film — the scene at the Armani Residences displays Dr Arun's high-flying lifestyle," said Fazil.
The 55-member crew — which had included comedian Jagathy Sreekumar — has been filming in the UAE for the last 35 days.
The news of Sreekumar's near-fatal accident in India days after he shot a vital segment for the film in Dubai brought the shooting to a brief halt.
‘The show must go on'
"Now, we have to re-shoot it with somebody else because there are scenes in the script that need to be shot in Kerala," said the film's director Lal Jose, calling Sreekumar one of the greatest actors in the Malayalam film industry.
"It will take Jagathy a year to get back on his feet. You have to be clinical about it — and Jagathy will understand, there are [millions] riding on this project and it's time bound. The show must go on — it's like being in a circus ring. Such a tragedy could have happened to any actor or director. But when it happens, I have to be like a stone and continue to finish my work."
Jose, who has hits including the college reunion drama Classmates and small-time crook comedy Meesha Madhavan, describes Diamond Necklace as a story about a youth who lives life on credit and pays for it dearly.
"At home, Arun was brought up by this strict mother but suddenly he lands in Dubai and gets all the freedom that he craved all his life. He ends up spending more than he should and uses credit cards relentlessly. The next thing you know, he's in a big financial mess. But in the end it's about how he sorts his life out," said Jose in between takes.
He's equally thrilled at having shot a scene at the world's tallest tower.
"This is my 16th film, but it's my first film and the first Indian film to be shot at the Burj Khalifa — it's just symbolic. The guy who lived in the tallest tower in the world ends up in a labour camp — it's his fall and how he resurrects himself in the end," said Jose.
This is not his first attempt at showcasing the UAE. In 2007, he made the acclaimed Arabikatha — an underdog tale about the working class in the UAE.
"But Diamond Necklace is not that — it's about the rich people in this region. It's a love story but it's dealt seriously. Naturally, the privilege of the rich also includes beautiful women — he meets three of them in this film," said Jose.
The leading ladies include Samvritha Sunil, Gauthami Nair and newbie Anushree.
"This is my second film and I play a nurse yet again — she works with Dr Arun and that's how their relationship grows," said Nair.
The Kuwaiti-bred star, who made her debut in the critically-acclaimed Second Show earlier this year, says she's enjoying exploring the UAE. Other filming locations include landmarks such as Atlantis and the Gold Souq.
"Diamond Necklace is a film that will truly showcase Dubai in a colourful way, plus it shows two extreme ways of living," said Fazil.
So far so good. But ever-altering weather conditions this winter did play spoilsport.
"But that's not Dubai's fault — it was just our luck that the days we planned our outdoor shoots the weather just changed dramatically," said Jose.
"With this film, Fahad will represent the new wave of young actors in Malayalam industry today. The whole acting pattern will be redefined. Diamond Necklace will surely go down as one of the gems in Malayalam cinema on both the content and acting departments."
The film is expected to release in May.