Thus, began my journey into film making, without really knowing how to go about it but with a guiding light who could steer me in the right direction throughout the process. I felt very comfortable with the various uncertainties because I, as a person, am accustomed to first jumping into the sea and then learning to swim.
Anil went back to Kerala to work on the script and the first draft of the script was made in Malayalam. However, the story, as mentioned earlier, was set in the backdrop of Kerala in a riverine landscape which had to be adapted to suit a place somewhere up in the north. Since, the experience of their journey along the Ganges had inspired both Dr Alex and Anil, we homed on to Varanasi, the abode of Lord Kalabhairava which is spread along the shores of Ganges, to shoot ‘Maiya’.
We now had the script ready in its skeletal form, though in Malayalam. Our next agenda, at hand was the translation or transformation of the script including the migration of the idea from one cultural perspective to another, given the vast difference it involved. WE homed on to Mr Vardhan from Madhya Pradesh to help us in the task. Since, I am an Army Wife and have been fortunate to have moved around and be stationed at various parts of the country, this gave me an exposure to the cultural diversities that our country is blessed with. That exposure made me the natural intermediary between Anil and the Vardhan, primarily since Anil was not very affluent with Hindi. I would, therefore, translate the dialogues into simple Hindi through a voice note to him. We did a lot of research on the rituals in practice in North India as they differed a lot from those practiced down south in Kerala.
In Dec 2014, while we were still working with the script, Dr Alex learnt that a dear friend of his, Mrs Asha Puthli, an internationally acclaimed singer, song writer, producer and actress with a lot of experience and expertise in her field had recently come down to Bengaluru from abroad. He suggested that we should have a meeting with her as she had great contacts in Hollywood and we were, at that time, very keen on casting Richard Gear for the international film that we had started work on earlier, “Atmika”. We therefore, fixed an appointment with Asha Puthli, who was very keen on meeting Dr Alex. So, Dr Alex, Anil and I drove to Bengaluru to meet her. During our discussions we also happened to narrated the story line of ‘Maiya’ and she seemed very keen and interested in it. On our return, during one of our discussions, Dr Alex expressed that he was indeed very interested in casting Ashaji as “Maiya”. Though we were yet to reach the stage of selection of cast, both Anil and I felt that she would be a suitable candidate for the lead role of a mother. However, we decided that we’ll make the final call when we reached the stage that stage of casting.
We now had a script for the film and a company to back it up and we went full swing with the preparations. We did a lot of exercise with the script by reading it out to various segments of audience that we could find including the young and the old. This, we did especially because the subject dealt with the ‘loneliness experienced by the elderly’. Though all aspects were falling in place and I was enjoying the entire process, I was at the same time, growing a bit concerned about managing the finance to make the movie happen. Our initial budgeting set a requirement of 2.5 to 3 crore which is not an easy amount manage. I happened to voice my concerns to Dr Alex and his calm and surefooted reply helped me in putting my worries to rest and focus on the task at hand. He told me not to worry about the money and was very sure that it will come in due course. He assured me that it was his responsibility to arrange for it by the time we would be ready to start the shoot. I never looked back after that and continued with the efforts needed. Anil chipped in his bit and we had enough to manage all the preproduction expenditures.
As things moved on, it came about in one of our discussions that we should attend the Cannes Film Festival, as that would give us an exposure and a clear insight on various aspects regarding the international film scenario. I was absolutely clueless as to what we would be doing there or even what could be achieved from this endeavour. As a person, I never had any inhibitions about going anywhere, I am always ready to explore. So, Cannes, it was, and the clueless me, prepared to witness the biggest conglomerate of international films. However, as the days drew closer to the event the health of Dr Alex started to deteriorate. It seemed unlikely that he would be in a condition to attend the festival. He, therefore, asked us to carry on without him to Cannes.