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‘Irrfan loved Kerala’ says Karwaan director Akarsh Khurana

But having Mammootty's son Salmaan on set meant crowds of thousands turned up on location while they were shooting in the South Indian state: 'it was like the last scene of Lagaan'

Mithila Palkar and Irrfan Khan in ‘Karwaan’, which draws humour from a shocking scenario Kamal Photography
Mithila Palkar and Irrfan Khan in ‘Karwaan’, which draws humour from a shocking scenario Kamal Photography

Irrfan Khan, Dulquer Salmaan and Mithila Palkar film Karwaan is a story of a road trip from Bangalore to Kochi to collect a dead body. And most of the film was shot on location, which meant that the crew spent a decent chunk of their 35-day schedule in the south Indian state of Kerala. Often called “God’s own country”, Kerala boasts beautiful beaches, sanctuaries, backwaters, mountains with tea and coffee plantations and national parks.

Crowds turn out for Salmaan

Having Salmaan, the son of Southern superstar Mammootty and a popular actor in his own right on set, made shooting in the state challenging explains the film's director Akarsh Khurana. “To be fair, he had warned us about it in his humble way, saying that there will be a couple of people showing up, but we didn’t expect like 1,500! We were aware, of course, that he is a big star and knew there is a lot of love for him, so loads of people showed up. Having said that, they were a very well-behaved crowd, and they cooperated as long as they got a chance to see him later.

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“There was this one incident that really scarred me,” Khurana tells me. The cast and crew was driving past a brand new bypass road near Thrissur, when they decided to stop at a bridge [the one featured on the movie's poster and in the main picture] and take a few shots. “There was nothing for miles, except a house in the distance, and suddenly in a matter of 15 minutes, there were thousands of people pouring in from everywhere, it was like the last scene of Lagaan,” Khurana jokes. “We got pushed back as people started to climb railings to get a look at Dulquer. I was actually proud to see the star of film get so much love, and while I took out my phone to capture the moment, a fan thought I was also part of the crowd, and decided to climb on my shoulder and sit there to get a better view.”

In fact, the cast say it was so crowded, that Khan couldn’t get to his car, and asked one of the passing bikers to drop him off. “I have to say, a week later they named that bridge the DQ bridge, one of the local crew told me,” jokes Khurana.

Irrfan Khan loved everything about Kerala, and even went vegetarian

Even though the cast and crew had to battle crowds, they relished their time in the state. “When we reached Kerala, we missed Onam [an annual Hindu festival] by a day, so we didn’t get sadya [a traditional spread featuring a variety of vegetarian dishes eaten on special occasions and festivals], but our hotel in Kumarakom offered to make it for us, and I made everyone sit down for it and eat it by hand,” says Salmaan. Infact, Khan loved the spread so much; he decided to detox and become vegetarian for the rest of the trip.

The film's star Palkar talks fondly of their time in the Kochi. “We were all staying together on one floor in this hotel called Starlit Suites and had a complete blast,” she says.

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Khan, in particular, who is currently battling neuro-endocrine cancer, seemed to love being in the state. “He was really happy in Kerala ­– he loved the state, their culture, the food, the terrain, and was very curious about Malayalam cinema. I think he was in a really happy place while shooting for the film. In fact, his staff came and said that after Piku, this is the happiest they have seen him on sets,” Khurana reveals.

“This road trip and geography was new to him, and he was discovering – so everytime we stopped, he would wander off, especially in Mudumalai and Ooty, it was the monsoon season and beautiful,” Salmaan adds. He reveals that the senior actor would sometimes take boat rides on his own in his free time, and if there were fishermen taking short fishing trips, he would even tag along with them.

“For them [the rest of the cast and crew] it was like a holiday. I was staying at home, and seeing all the fun these guys were having in the hotel on social media. Personally, I like to shoot outside of Kerala, I am happier if no one recognizes me,” he adds.

Dulqer Salman, Mithila Palkar and Irrfan Khan in Karwaan.  
Dulqer Salman, Mithila Palkar and Irrfan Khan in Karwaan

Updated: July 31, 2018 05:49 PM