The nation-wide lockdown to counter COVID-19 put a dampener on wedding celebrations all over the country. However, when some couples resorted to ‘online’ wedding to overcome the lockdown, it made headlines. One such wedding in March caught the attention of filmmaker Parthan Mohan and his Ontario-based friend Kavitha K Menon.
“The couple married through WhatsApp video and we wondered about the legality and other aspects of such weddings wherein the bride and bridegroom were actually going through the process of marrying themselves by doing things like garlanding themselves and wearing the ring on their own instead of the would-be-spouse doing the honours! Kavita, a lawyer, and I debated the manifold facets of such marriages,” says Parthan.
During the discussions, they explored the possibility of a film based on such marriages and Kavita wrote a script and sent it to Parthan. He fine-tuned it and the writing and editing continued till both were satisfied with the script. The duo’s theme was about an online wedding between a groom in Kerala and a bride working abroad. A tragedy forces the woman to evaluate her marriage and her legal and social status.
Filming of Dheerkha Sumangali Bhava began in May and Arun Karthikeyan, a friend, was cast as the bridegroom, while Nalini Menon, Kavita’s aunt in Kochi, stepped in to essay the role of the bride’s mum.
“I did the shot design and planning and we shot the film in the format of a WhatsApp video call. Our discussion were also via WhatsApp calls,” says Parthan.
Each character’s portion was shot separately due to lockdown restrictions and also because they stayed in different cities, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Ontario. “Kavita herself played the bride while our friends shot the film, edited it and did the background score. It required a bit of work because we first filmed Arun’s portions and sent it to Kavitha. She had to react to the lines and situation accordingly. We had to re-shoot certain sequences to make the frames flow with the narrative,” explains the director.
Cinematography was done by Anoop Mohan, Sreerag Kallingal and the cast themselves. Skilful editing by Athul Krishnan has helped the makers narrate an interesting theme of the times we live in and the many issues it has thrown up. Jyothish did the music for the short film. Jayasankar Menon, Syed Nabeel, Patrick Lamarre, Dominique D’Angelo and Sujatha Kannan are also in the cast.
Parthan laughs when asked about the budget for the film released on YouTube. “Since we were friends working together on a ‘lockdown’ film, all that I had to spend was on a meal for the cast and crew in Thiruvananthapuram.” But he feels that Dheerkha Sumangali Bhava will be the first of many films that delve into aspects connected to the pandemic, the lockdown and the many ways it has shaped our society and lives.