Director Padmarajan’s movie locations are treasure houses of travel memories

Renowned Malayalam film director P Padmarajan would have turned 65 years of age on May 23, if fate hadn’t snatched him away so early. Born in 1945 in Kerala’s Alappuzha district, Padmarajan is widely regarded as one of Malayalam cinema’s best ever directors. Along with KG George and Bharathan, Padmarajan formed a formidable trio responsible for the renaissance of Malayalam movies in the ‘80s, before he passed away in 1991.

No, we are not going to dissect his movies and script writing here. Instead, there is ample scope for exploring the way in which he used travel and locations to tell a story. Often, the location felt like a character in the movie.

Let’s take Thoovanathumbikal for example. Regarded as one of the cult movies in Malayalam, the Mohanlal-Sumalatha starrer was shot in and around Thrissur. People who have never been to Thrissur started making a beeline for it. No one can forget the way the scenes were shot around Thrissur town. Scenes involving Vadakkumnatha temple and Kerala Varma college are likely to be etched in the memory of anyone who has seen the movie. It’s almost difficult to imagine the movie being shot somewhere else as Thrissur becomes such an intrinsic part of the story telling.

In Moonnampakkam, the highly emotional movie starring Jayaram and Thilakan, Padmarajan takes us to Kanyakumari’s beaches. Many scenes in the movie show the ocean as a backdrop, including some of the songs. Very rarely has anyone captured the beauty of these beaches as Padmarajan has done in this movie. Many had thought that the scenes were shot in Alappuzha.

The beach becomes a central character in the movie Season as well. Popular tourist destination Kovalam is the chosen location and the fun way in which the spot has been shot, adds to the charm of the movie. Though Kovalam was already popular among foreign tourists as a picnic spot, the movie gave it a Goa-like aura.

In Namukku Paarkan Munthirithoppukal, Padmarajan turns his attention to Mysore. Now Mysore is a city in Karnataka that Malayalis knew about, but not really familiar with back in the ‘80s. But today, most Malayalis would fondly remember Mysore for the way in which the director shot the iconic romantic scenes of the movie. Almost every tourist location has been captured, including the Chamundi Hills and Mysore Palace.

A few years prior to that, he did Koodevide. The movie took us to Ooty. Though many movies were shot in Ooty before this, again Padmarajan showed why he’s a master craftsman. The way he captured the beauty of Ooty along with the novelty of a modern residential school made a big difference to the movie. The same can be said about Innale, which was shot in Coorg. The coffee estates and hilly terrains of Coorg were not familiar to most Malayalis at that time. This added to the charm of the film, showing us again why Padmarajan was a master at choosing the right locations to tell a story.

Without making it obvious, the legendary director had shown us the value of tourist locations in and around us. He proved that you don’t need lavish sets or foreign locations to create magic on screen. Our domestic travel destinations have the palette to absorb every mood.