It was now time for us to fix a date for the shoot, which in turn required that we finalise on all the remaining aspects. The core casting was almost done and we finalised on Jain Joseph as the Cinematographer. Anil and he took a trip to Varanasi to finalise on the locations for the shoot during which, Anil sent me back a lot of photographs which was my first darshan of the soulful city.
Rajit Kapoor was in Chennai for some theoretical work and when I met him, he introduced me to Shirshir Sharma who we finalised for the role of Advocate. Nixon, a friend of Anil helped us with a lot of coordination aspects including preparing the website and also helped us in bringing in Atul Wassan (Ramakrishnan), the erstwhile cricketer and many other crucial members.
For the role of Dadaji, I approached my maternal uncle, Madhavan Nair, popularly known as Madhu, a very senior and veteran actor in the Malayalam Film Industry and he readily agreed to my request which was a great blessing for me to garner because if there was a name that could give me an address, a meaningful introduction to the film industry, it was his.
Anil’s reputation in the industry was such that we did not really have to worry too much about the availability of people. People readily agreed and came for the simple reason that he had asked them to. The fog around the concepts and the process involved in art direction, costume designing etc slowly became clear to me. I just got involved in every way that I could make myself useful, even if it was something as trivial as going to the market and handpicking the sarees for Maiya (Asha Puthli).
We put together a hundred-member crew and the magnitude of coordination and man management that was involved in arranging their travel by various means available and manging all aspects involving their administration at all the locations including Haridwar and Prayag in addition to Varanasi was mammoth. I enjoyed every bit of all the activities and the commotion that was involved. I had Nixon by my side to help me with all the issues in addition to which, I also involved the family of Dr Alex to handle many coordination issues. This, I did, since I felt an obligation to do so given the connection our project had with Dr Alex. I also got his younger son Basil to help me at the sets as he had a lot of experience since he had already acted in a film.
The entire experience was a learning to me, as it was the first time, I was actually a party to such minute aspects that were involved in the shoot of a film. My only other experience was that as a child when I visited my uncle on his sets. I, therefore, went about like a small girl, trying to absorb and assimilate everything that I came to experience. I was inquisitive as well as overwhelmed at seeing all these individuals, each an expert in their field, working in unison to bring to life something that started as just an idea. It was creativity pouring out from everywhere I laid my eyes upon. We also got Poly Varghese, a well-known Hindustani musician and Mohan Veena player to be the Music Director. It was a treat to watch him work as he went about with the composition of the various numbers and scores. Towards Christmas, that year, we also got Sayed Zaidi, whom we had chosen for the role of Kishan, to come and stay with us for two weeks, as we felt that it was important that he gets to know all of us in the team in a better way so that he would be comfortable during the shoot. By the end of December 2015, we were all prepared and ready to start with the shoot of our dream project. ‘Maiya’ was about to be a reality.