2018 was the year of the flood. The unusually heavy monsoon inundated several districts in Kerala. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Many people lost their lives and many more lost almost all their possessions. However, it was also the time when many turned heroes. They came in boats, in helicopters and in trucks, rescuing people, providing them with food and shelter, cleaning their homes and helping them restart their lives.
2018, Jude Anthony’s film, celebrates those unknown heroes and their stories of courage, empathy and survival. The multi-starrer, shot on a large canvas, is the first film that tries to capture the magnitude of the flood, its aftermath and rescue operations.
It took three years for Jude to complete his dream project, but he has no complaints. With 125 characters and several subplots, 2018 is a story of hope and resilience, he says.
The idea for such a film began when Jude was approached by an NGO to document the heroic acts of thousands of people during the flood on film, as a positive message for our times. “That set me thinking,” Jude says. “I started reading up everything on the flood. I drove down to Kollam to meet the first five fishermen who had set out in trucks with their boats for rescue work in Chengannur. They did it on their own with no previous experience in such work. I also spoke to as many of the other fishermen, as I could.”
Jude Anthony Joseph with Kunchacko Boban on the sets of his film 2018
, Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
Jude interacted extensively with the police, volunteers, army personnel and fire force workers who had taken part in the rescue operations. He also spoke to the survivors. “I did my best to reach out to many of them to make the narrative as realistic as possible.”
Jude worked with novelist Akhil Dharmajan on the script and the first draft was completed in June 2019. They polished the script and with the third version, they began shooting at a school in Kalady in October 2019. Since the film has a huge star cast, The dates had to be finalized with each of the busy actors.
“The plan was to shoot Tovino Thomas’ portions in 12 days and resume shooting in March 2020. We had begun working on the set when the lockdown came into force. By then our schedule became redundant,” recalls the filmmaker.
In the meantime Jude directed Sarah’s with Anna Ben and Sunny Wayne. The cast and crew of 2018 had moved on to other projects.
“There were many stars such as Kunchacko Boban, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Tovino, Nivin Pauly…Just getting their dates would have been difficult. Many advised me to do separate films with each of them. Interest in the film waned but I was not willing to give up so easily,” asserts Jude. Moroever, Jude felt that the script was too good to be dumped, especially when he had the opportunity to make the most of it.
“Even after my film is made, there is scope for several movies to be made on the same theme. Water is difficult to shoot on screen. It takes time and effort. Perhaps that is why we haven’t seen many films on the deluge yet.” Jude’s ambition was to create a set and use water without depending wholly on CG.
He points out that although survival films are popular in Hollywood, they have not been many made in India, especially not on the scale that one sees in Hollywood cinema. There have been movies that tell stories of individuals and families affected by disasters but not of the disaster itself.
Jude worked with the art director to design a miniature set to show the producers, Anto Joseph, CK Padma Kumar and Venu Kunnappilly. They explained how they planned to shoot the film and that convinced the producers of the viability of the project.
“When the shooting resumed in 2022, we had tightened the script and it was the 14th th draft that we finally used. During the lockdown, I worked hard to edit and fine tune it. I think we have the best version now but we had left out chunks of the stories we had collected.”
The sets were erected on a 12-acre plot leased in Maravanthurutu, near Vaikom. The entire shooting was kept under wraps as the team was not sure how it would all work out. A large area was filled with water. “We were in water for eight to 10 hours. It was physically exhausting and technically challenging but we did it. The actors and technicians were extremely helpful. Since we were in water, sync sound was ruled out and the entire cast returned for dubbing.”
The ensemble cast includes Kunchako Boban, Vineeth Srinivasan, Narain, Nivin Pauly, Tovino Thomas, Asif Ali, Gautami Nair, Aparna Balamurali, Lal, Jaffer Idukki, Ranji Panicker, Aju Varghese and Sshivada.
“Since there are several characters in the film, I wanted well-known faces. A character seen in scene three may next appear in scene 41. If played by a newcomer, audiences might find it difficult to recall who the character was. Stars, on the other hand, have a recall value and that is why I insisted on a multi-star cast.”
The director whose filmography includes light-hearted entertainers such as Om Shanti Oshana and Oru Muthashi Gadha agrees that he stepped out of his comfort zone for 2018, “I worked with actors much more experienced than me and it was wonderful.”
Jude says he is planning for a release later in the year.