Kodambakkam in Tamil Nadu used to be film buffs’ destination and centre of film activities once. The Hollywood of India’s South then, its high road was lined with film studios. The homes of the living gods and goddesses and the superstars were located around the belt. Directors and producers chose the area for settling. Moreover it was the abode of Mollywood too.
The situation has changed. Kochi, the business capital of Kerala, has now become the Kodambakkam of Mollywood. Like Kodambakkam, Kochi is also growing up as a film city. Mollywood’s glitterati—actors, directors and technicians—based in Chennai and different places in Kerala shifted their residences to Kochi. They include Mohanlal, Mammootty, Jayaram, Indrajith, Prithviraj, Jayasoorya, Lal, Kavya Madhavan, Meera Jasmine, Bhama, Samvritha, K G George, Joshiy, Rafi Meccartin, Shafi and Siddique. They own their own houses or flats in the city.
Why did they choose Kochi as their home? Each has his/her own reasons.
“Every State has its own film cities, Tamil Nadu has Chennai, Andhra Pradesh Hyderabad, Maharashtra Mumbai. Likewise Kochi is becoming Kerala’s film city”, says Indrajith, who shifted to Maradu in Kochi from Thiruvananthapuram nearly five years ago. “Take a look at my shooting schedules. I used to spend most of my days in Kochi, but only few days in Thiruvananthapuram. Staying in Kochi is advantageous to me”, adds Indrajith.
His brother Prithviraj owns a flat at Kadavanthra. Kunchacko Boban, the ‘chocolate hero’ of Mollywood, came from Alappuzha nearly five years ago to take up residence in a flat, also at Kadavanthra.
“I used to feel like a frog in the well while being in Alappuzha, my hometown. My arrival here has wrought a lot of changes in my life. It has made me understand the new trends and current developments and opportunities in the film world. Most of the people connected with the Malayalam film industry, especially technicians, artists and directors, now live here, some in their own flats or homes and others in rented houses. My being here enables me to interact with them easily”, says Chackochan. He expects Kochi to become a Kodambakkam very soon. “Kochi has been in the news for long because of the IPL controversy. It is fertile enough for business too,” he says. Besides being an actor, Chackochan is also a well-known businessman. He admits that his entry into Kochi has made him enter the film industry too.“We can easily spot locations suitable for any scripts in Kochi in a matter of two or three days,” says art director Salu K George. He moved from Changanassery to settle in Kakkanad seven years ago. “Kochi has its own beauty. Within a radius of 30 km you can find many different landscapes in Kochi for shooting a film—the sea, paddy fields, lagoons, rubber plantations, high-rises, port, harbour, forest, airport, railway station, villages. That’s why a majority of Malayalam films are now shot in and around Kochi,” adds Salu George.
“There is no such location in Kerala as Kochi. Everything is available here”, says Lal, director, actor and producer. He is now staying at Kakkanad. “Besides good locations, all technical facilities are also available here. With new equipment and studios, Mollywood will prove self-sufficient in filmmaking technologies within a short time. Until a few years ago we had to depend on Chennai for post-production works. With the launching of studios like Lal, Vismaya and DLS in Kochi, we can do the technical works at very competitive rates and save a lot of money,” says Lal. Editing, dubbing, sound effects, graphic work, song recording, final mixing—every facility is available here. Travel and transport facilities in Kochi are also very good. We have railway stations and an airport. So artists and technicians from Chennai and other parts of the country can reach here easily. After their work, they can also travel back easily”, says Lal. Availability of prime fitness centres like Talwalkars and Biorhythms is another attraction for artists to choose Kochi as their home.
Samvritha Sunil came from Kannur to Kochi three years ago and has settled at Kaloor. “I started learning dance as a child. I continued this till I reached Kochi. Gradually my travelling for shooting purposes became more frequent, which affected my dance classes. Then I decided to go to a fitness centre. I benefit a lot by attending the centre. I spend at least one hour in the gymnasium after shifting my residence to Kochi”, says Samvritha. “Kochi is the main venue for the poojas of all Malayalam films. I had great difficulty reaching here from Kannur for such programmes. But now it is easy. Most of the activities for Malayalam films presently take place in Kochi.” says Samvritha.