In the recent Malayalam release ‘Kala’, a house becomes a battleground. Similarly, in Macbeth adaptation ‘Joji’, there is a beautiful portrayal of dysfunctional characters with a tomb inside the house holding the ground of the storyline. In ‘Irul’ and ‘Aarkkariyam’, houses with inviting facades to conceal more sinister interiors thereby adding mystery to the plot.
The writers and directors of these films talk about how they envisioned these locations, what was the process of identifying them and why they are so important to the overall set-up.
In Kala, Shaji ( played by Tovino Thomas) feels unsettled in his home long before the attacker shows up. While the house is named after him, it actually belongs to his acrimonious father.
“The biggest hurdle on this film was the location. We looked at houses 24×7 for a month, going all the way from Wayanad to Kochi to Munnar,” co-writer and director Rohith VS told Film Companion. “If the house was more spacious, then the characters would have been more relaxed,” he says.
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The house and its suffocating atmosphere were so crucial to the plot of 'Joji', writer Syam Pushkaran says he decided to only start plotting the film once a location was found. On realizing that several films would be set indoors during the Coronavirus-induced lockdown in Kerala, he wanted a house that would stand out.
“We wanted a Christian house, but avoided the typical Kerala Christian house with a tiled roof and a mosaic floor. Instead, we looked for a terrace house built between 1995 and 2000. These aren’t too common here,” he told Film Companion.
When Sherley (played by Parvathy Thiruvothu) and her husband (played by Sharaf U Dheen) pull up to her father’s house at night, it’s bathed in a warm, inviting glow.
Co-writer and director Sanu Varughese was inspired by 'American Beauty' (1999) and the idea of a perfect suburban facade that hides dark secrets. “That contrast was important because Ittyavira (played by Biju Menon) is a religious man who murders someone in the belief that what he did was right,” says co-writer and director Sanu Varughese.
The remote house inside which most of 'Irul' is set belongs to a murderer. “I wanted the house to have a sense of romanticism,” says director Naseef Yusuf Izuddin.
“The intent was not to make it creepy. There are candles, there’s a well-stocked bar, all of this creates a welcoming atmosphere. I wanted the audience to feel safe and comfortable. It’s only when the characters go down into the basement that the mood changes,” he added.
The film was shot in the middle of the remote Pattumala tea estate in Idukki.