Did you know that Thiruvananthapuram is where it all began for Malayalam cinema? In 1930, J.C. Daniel shot Vigathakumaran in his own studio, the now non-existent Travancore National Pictures at Pattom and since then the city has been a preferred location for filmmakers, even during the days when shooting was mostly confined to studios. Although, for a time, Malayalam cinema shifted to Chennai, countless movies from 1950s to 1970s were shot in Merryland Studio at Nemom.
Moving forward, Malayalam cinema embraced realism and shooting in real locations became the rage. The capital city continues to remain a favourite location for writers and directors to set their stories in. Here’s our pick of top film locations in Thiruvananthapuram city.
Bridging the past
‘Kireedam’ Bridge is perhaps the only location in Thiruvananthapuram city that’s now known by the film that made it famous. Who can forget Sethumadhavan (Mohanlal), the hero of Kireedam (1989) sitting on this dilapidated little bridge of sighs in pivotal scenes in the film, especially in that heart-rending song Kanneer Poovinte… The bridge that connects the Punchakkari wetlands to Vellayani lake is now an offbeat tourist destination and a nice place to take in the picturesque surroundings.
Since the 1980s Chitranjali studio at Pachalloor has been the place for many Malayalam films and tele-serials, with set designers waving their magic wands and turning the studio’s many production floors into homes, offices, schools, hospitals and even temples. A lot of the post-production work in Malayalam cinema and serials is done here as well. Padayottam, Geethanjali, Oppam, Munnariyippu, Veeram… are some of the films that were shot here.
White façade of power
The cunning Balachandran Adiga in Vasthavam and the charming Krishnakumar in Lion have their eyes set on the Government Secretariat. The seat of political power in the state, in real as well as reel life, the imposing white columns and corridors of the Secretariat are a ubiquitous sight in several notable Malayalam flicks. In movies such as Vasthavam, Thanmathra, Vakkalathu Narayanan Kutty, August 15 and so on, the plot or a portion of it is centred around the 140-year-old sprawling building at Statue junction.
Life in Jawahar Nagar
The sight of a listless Vinod (Jagathy Sreekumar) perched on a compound wall in Jawahar Nagar while listening, for the umpteenth time, to the brave tales of Fauji Rajashekharan (Shankaradi) is as nostalgic as it gets when it comes to Malayalam movies. The scene is from Venu Nagavally’s Sugamo Devi (1986), which was shot entirely in Thiruvananthapuram. The rib-tickler Odaruthammava Aalariyaam, was also extensively shot in the residential area. So was Thalayana Manthram and several other flicks. It was a favourite location of Priyadarsan’s during his early days as a director.
The quintessential green
Much like the Central Park in New York, we have our own little green haven in the middle of Thiruvananthapuram city. The landscaped expanse of Napier Museum and zoo have been a backdrop for innumerable songs and movie scenes. A brooding Venu Nagavally walking endlessly on the banks of the lake inside the zoo is a defining image from K.G. George’s Ullkadal (1979) and who can forget the colourful climax of Salt n Pepper (2011) set in front of the Napier Museum. Right from the black and white era onwards, the Museum grounds have seen many film stars ace it for the camera.
Waves and rocks
During a 1980s’ tourist season, Fabien (Gavin Packard), a drug dealer with a penchant for fraud, wrecked havoc in the lives of the locals desperately making a living from the growing tourism on Kovalam beach. The 1989 P. Padmarajan classic Season has a cult following among movie buffs for its haunting depiction of the rocks, blue sea and never ending coconut palms carpeting the hillsides of Kovalam. Much before Season, Amitabh Bachchan and Sreedevi romanced, for the movie Inqulab (1983), on the beaches and rocky heights of Kovalam. More recently the beach was featured in Shyamaprasad’s Off Season, one of the ten shorts that was part of the anthology film Kerala Cafe (2009). The Inspection Bungalow, perched on a cliff, mid way to Vizhinjam, is also a favourite with film makers, featuring in films such as Chattakaari (2012).
The Park Centre, inside India’s first IT park; Technopark Thiruvananthapuram, has been a movie star since the time it was opened in late 90s being a set for films such as The Truth (1998), Superman (1997) and FIR (1999). The tree-lined streets and green spaces inside the park have often been that odd ‘foreign’ country in certain movies. Rithu (2009) was perhaps be the first film in Malayalam that discussed the life of techies in the IT hub of Kerala.
The image of a teary-eyed Arathi (Manju Warrier), staring down the red corridor of University College to the tunes of Aaro viral meetti is still a striking visual, from Pranayavarnangal (1998). University College at Palayam, Government Women’s College at Vazhuthacaud, Mar Ivanios College at Nalanchira, All Saints College at Chacka, and, recently, St. Xavier’s College at Thumba have been the setting for that happening campus in quite a few Malayalam movies.