Dubai: While doctors across the world are being hailed as real-life heroes in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of them in Dubai have ventured into becoming reel-life heroes also by making a film amidst the pandemic.
While there may have been other film projects involving doctors with creative talents, what makes this thriller stand apart is that majority of the cast and crew are doctors from the UAE and India.
Production, story, screenplay, dialogues, music, lyrics, playback singing, acting — doctors from the UAE have tried their hands at almost all onscreen and behind-the-camera roles.
Hailing from Kerala in India, the doctors here have joined hands with their compatriots back home to come up with the movie named Ezham Kadalinum Appuram (Beyond Seven Seas) in their mother tongue Malayalam.
How the movie took shape
Most Dubai-based doctors working on the project are members of the Association of Kerala Medical Graduates (AKMG) in the UAE. It is a group of around 1,500 doctors that holds cultural events and theatre productions to help the doctors’ fraternity showcase their artistic talents and also conduct social service activities.
The doctors in their 40s and 50s and mostly working in dental specialities told Gulf News that all of them had actively participated in and won artistic events and competitions during their younger days and came together for the project because of their lifelong passion for movies and music.
They said Dr Titus Peter, who always aspired to be a filmmaker, despite being a successful oral surgeon, sowed the seeds of the project and the rest of the doctors with supporting talents joined him.
“Dr Peter had an interesting story in mind,” said Dr Arif Kandoth, president of AKMG Dubai. An acclaimed and award-winning theatre artist in the UAE theatre circle, Dr Kandoth is also acting in the movie.
His wife Dr Nita Salam, who has been popular as a host in several cultural events and also at Sharjah International Book Fair, is rendering her voice to a song in the movie.
“Though I have learnt classical music for some years, I have been more into mono acting and event compering than singing. I got the chance to sing a song in this movie because it is a folk song for which my voice suits well,” said Dr Salam.
They are not the only doctor couple in the project, though. Dr Smily Titus, wife of Dr Peter, is co-directing the movie with director Pratheesh Uthaman.
One of the three main characters is portrayed by Dr Prashanth Nair, a martial arts expert who has already acted in some Malayalam and Tamil movies while working in Dubai a couple of years back. Currently chasing his acting dreams in Kerala, Dr Nair said he was looking forward to a big break through this new movie from his medical fraternity.
Another Dubai-based doctor, Dr Hrudaya Mary Antony, has also acted in this film.
Music and story
Dr Vimal Kumar Kalipurayath, who has sung songs in hundreds of Malayalam music albums, including the first one by doctors in Kerala, has composed the music for five songs in the film. “I have tried to include songs with traditional music and peppy numbers that will attract the new generation,” said Dr Kalipurayath who has also sung a song in the movie.
Lyrics have been penned by Dr Unnikrishna Varma, great grandson of A.R. Rajaraja Varma, the celebrated poet, critic and grammarian known as Kerala Panini for his lasting contributions to Malayalam literature.
Other doctors from the UAE working on the movie are associate producers Dr Ann Tharakan and Dr Joshua Peter.
The story unravels in a mystical background with the era of myths and dark forces and takes the viewers through a fantasy journey shot at picturesque locations in Kerala.
Portraying the fictitious family thriller genre was not an easy task in the COVID-19 pandemic scenario, according to Dr Peter. “The film was designed way before the pandemic, so the impact of the pandemic on the project was tremendous,” he said. “The main issue was the timeline. We would have gone for the release long back if not for the pandemic. Doctors, being the pivotal part of COVID-19 crisis management, had to prioritise their professional responsibilities over everything else. Only when things were under control was everyone available to work for the movie,” he added.
Doctors got too busy with COVID and some even backed out, he revealed. “Hunting for artists, shooting with restrictions during the lockdowns and the financial constraints posed by COVID posed major hurdles. As with most projects, it started off small, but metamorphosed into a big one,” he said.
“It was a rollercoaster journey with all its inherent feelings of excitement, stress, despair and finally relief and accomplishment. More than a couple of times we had to restructure the script and tweak the storyline to fit into the changing needs and to face the upcoming challenges. In the end, we hope a ‘hitherto untold story spread on a big canvas’ is ready to reach the spectators through theatres and the OTT platform soon.”
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With post-production work now on in full swing, the doctors are hoping to release the move in theatres. Discussions are also underway for an OTT release.
Since their debut attempt has given the team enough confidence in this field, the doctors are also planning a new project. “The new movie will be shot in Dubai and partly in Eastern Europe. Many doctors have already committed to the project,” said Dr Smily said.