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Priya Anand, actor

After her debut in Malayalam cinema with Ezra, Tamil actress Priya Anand returns with Kayamkulam Kochunni.

She was least expecting the role when director Rosshan Andrews called her and asked her to report the next day for shooting in Kerala.

“I was completely surprised when director Rosshan said, ‘You are my Janaki,” recalls Anand.

Janaki is a Shudra (low caste) woman whom Kochunni falls in love with.

“She is like every other girl who wants love and acceptance. Getting into her skin, I could relate to how she must have felt in that age when caste was a factor. Janaki will bust the image I seem to have as an actor; I am known to play only urban roles. With Janaki I got to play real emotions, and it’s an honour working in this period film.”

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MS Bhaskar, actor

When a Tamilian like M.S. Bhaskar speaks Malayalam as fluently as a native, Andrews was bound to offer him a role.

Kayamkulam Kochunni is Bhaskar’s second film with Andrews after 36 Vayidhinile, the Tamil remake of How Old Are You.

Bhaskar plays Sankara Iyer, who runs a grocery store where Kochunni begins work as an eight year old.

“I share couple of scenes with Nivin. It’s a significant role,” Bhaskar said. After meeting Mohanlal, he found him unassuming. “He carries no starry airs,” the actor added.

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Binod Pradhan, director of photography

Binod Pradhan has largely worked in Bollywood, and enters Malayalam cinema with Kayamkulam Kochunni.

“When Rosshan narrated the story it was clear that he was not looking for anything glamorous, but a more gritty and mature presentation,” recalled Pradhan.

Long hours of shooting in remote places, and in the night through forests with little lighting were challenging. Being a period film, lanterns were used.

There was no trace of artificial lighting, said Pradhan. “Our aim was to make it real and in tune with nature. Even the romantic scenes of Kochunni were not treated like a regular teenage love tale. We keep it gritty and natural,” he said.

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Sunil Babu, production designer

Counted among the leading production designers of Indian cinema, Sunil Babu has worked in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam cinema. This is his second film with Andrews after Casanovva in 2012.

“Keeping in line with Rosshan’s vision, the effort was to make it as authentically as possible,” said Babu who approached it like a folk tale.

“What’s difficult today is the non-availability of open spaces. Our requirement was a vast area of open land, close to a river bank but everywhere today’s technology with its satellite towers and highways interfered in the spaces.”

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Vaishnavi Reddy, art director

Vaishnavi Reddy has been working with Babu since 2008 on the sets of Ghajini, the Hindi remake. Despite the nine months of hard work under extreme heat and in the jungles with wild animals and snakes for company, Reddy misses the sets of Kayamkulam Kochunni.

“It was a dream project,” she said.

From scouting locations of open barren land to sourcing traditional craftsmen and procuring weapons, the hurdles were many.

Her work as an art director involved erecting the exteriors and interiors of the sets in spaces that Babu, production designer, had marked.

“Sunil understands the graph of the film and story. He decides on the look and visually breaks it into locations,” said Reddy.

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Don’t miss it!

Kayamkulam Kochunni releases in the UAE on October 11.