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Jude Anthany Joseph: Even leading DOPs dropped out of 2018 as they believed it was impossible to shoot the floods

2018 director Jude Anthany Joseph recounts the challenges he had to face while conceiving and making a movie of this scale

Last Updated: 04.55 PM, May 03, 2023


For director Jude Anthany Joseph, even getting his upcoming movie 2018 on floors was a crowning achievement. From its inception, the road to assembling the cast and crew, finding producers and shooting a movie was paved with challenges. It only kept getting tougher with each year, thanks to the pandemic as well as people from the industry who didn’t believe that the man behind Ohm Shanthi Oshaana and Oru Muthassi Gadha can pull off something as massive as a disaster film in Malayalam. But that’s exactly what Jude did.

In a candid conversation with OTTplay, the filmmaker talks about the movie, which is based on the Kerala floods in 2018 and has Tovino Thomas, Kunchacko Boban, Narain, Lal, Asif Ali, Aparna Balamurali, Vineeth Sreenivasan and Tanvi Ram as part of its cast.

Jude Anthany Joseph
Jude Anthany Joseph

Making a big budget movie like 2018 would never have been easy, especially in an industry such as Malayalam. How did you go about it?

It was a Herculean task, and fortunately, everything came together. The thought of making this movie struck me in October 2018, two months after the floods. My initial worry was that it was a huge undertaking because I had to delve into the stories of common people and for that the movie had to have 8-10 tracks. In that case, every actor’s screen space will be limited. The other way to tackle it would be to have popular actors playing those pivotal characters, so people can connect with them in no time. That’s how it became a multi-starrer. When I first pitched it to (producer) Anto (Joseph) chettan, he asked me if we could convincingly show the floods. I said I can and that’s how we announced the movie in 2018.


Since then, a lot has happened. The cast had changed, the pandemic had delayed the film…

After I started writing the script is when I had to weather challenges, because every Tom, Dick and Harry would tell the producer that this is a futile attempt and that I could never pull it off. So, people were trying to waylay the plan. They tried to convince the producer that it’s impossible to do such a movie in Malayalam and that based on my previous projects, I don’t have the calibre to complete a massive movie like this. But Anto chettan said we will go ahead and that’s how in October 2019, we shot a few portions with Tovino.

The main schedule was supposed to start in May 2020. We got working on the pre-production and by then some of the most renowned cinematographers in Malayalam backed out despite coming onboard all gung-ho about being part of the film. Some of them didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me that they were pulling out, because they didn’t believe they could shoot the floods. That shocked me. Art director Mohandas and I met at least 7-8 cinematographers ourselves. A leading Malayalai cameraman, who cranks the camera for pan-Indian movies in other film industries, asked me to drop the film. “It’s practically impossible to shoot this,” he said. I told him it might be impossible for him but I can, and still soldiered on.

Right when everything was set in March 2020, the DOP who had confirmed also pulled out. So, we didn’t even have a cameraman, but Anto chettan still said we can find one and go ahead with the shoot on April 1. That’s when the pandemic struck. So, we had to stop all work and everybody forgot about this project, except for me.

Jude Anthany Joseph during the shoot of 2018
Jude Anthany Joseph during the shoot of 2018

So, what led to the project’s revival?

Whoever saw me after that, asked me, ‘Did you finally drop the film?’ I kept saying I didn’t. It was frustrating though, because we had put in a lot of effort and work, and were just about to start shooting. To distract my mind from all this, I did a small movie titled Sara’s. After that, people started calling me again. Anto chettan called and talked about reviving 2018. He had invested a lot of money in Malik back then, and said he wouldn’t be able to produce the film alone. We met a lot of people including big production houses, but they all were of the same opinion that it was impossible to pull off.

But Anto chettan said, “It’s your biggest dream, so I will support you.” He was the one who got us to producer Venu Kunnappilly, who right after reading the script, asked me, “We don’t have an opinion on the script because it’s about stories that everyone knows. Everything depends on the making.” I said I have complete belief that I can pull it off and he asked us to go ahead.

Jude Anthany Joseph with the film's co-producer Venu Kunnappilly
Jude Anthany Joseph with the film's co-producer Venu Kunnappilly

How did you approach the film this time?

For the second round of pre-production, I brought in people whom I knew would stick by me through thick and thin. This included cinematographer Akhil George. I asked around about him and found out that he was a dedicated professional and always coming up with novel ideas. I also wanted someone like that. The other person was editor Chaman Chacko, who had only worked in two Malayalam movies back then. All of us synced well with each other, and then we roped in other people, who didn’t have too much to show in terms of experience but were ready to put in the effort. Art director Mohandas chettan is the only person in the crew who has worked in big films.

Lal, Jude Anthany Joseph and Narain during the shoot of 2018
Lal, Jude Anthany Joseph and Narain during the shoot of 2018

To pull off a movie of this scale, but with a budget far below what is usually earmarked for big-scale disaster films, would have required some sort of innovative approach.

We did have an extensive pre-production phase. For every scene, I insisted we have a storyboard with visuals. A lot of people said for big films, you need pre-viz, but we didn’t even have enough budget to shoot the movie. So, we stuck to storyboards and made miniature sets to explain what we were planning to do. The production team was convinced with that.

After that, I thought about what other problems would crop up – because already several people tried to derail the project. So, I told the production team that from the time we begin the shoot till we complete it, let’s not make too much noise. I don’t know why people were being cruel, maybe it’s to save the producer his money but it was cruel nonetheless.

Jude Anthany Joseph and Tovino Thomas during the shoot of 2018
Jude Anthany Joseph and Tovino Thomas during the shoot of 2018

Did the hurdles stop once you went on floors with the movie?

During the shoot too, we did have problems because so many actors were involved and there were date clashes. For instance, Chackochan (Kunchacko Boban) only had five days to allot; three of these include day-night shoots. These were scenes in a control room, but due to the hectic nature of the shoot, many assistant directors left. So, I had to get people with no experience of working in films whatsoever. But they were fully committed for the 102 days we shot the movie, day or night, come rain or shine. In a way, all the people who joined the movie later were much better than those who dropped out.

There was also a time that the wall of a set had collapsed, and the water was drained out. We couldn’t shoot that day. Also, Khalid Rahman’s father VP Khalid had passed away while shooting for our movie. We didn’t shoot on that day either.

All of this also impacted the shoot schedule because we only had limited dates of each actor and combination scenes became difficult. The plan was to finish Chackochan’s scenes in May 2022, Tovino’s by June-July and Asif’s by mid of July. On the very night Asif joined, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and we had to break for 10 days. So, the dates were further shifted. My job wasn’t just directing this film. I also had to coordinate with actors and do the scheduling. There was no other option. Also, during the shoot, there wasn’t a single day that there wasn’t rain.

So, it was never easy shooting this movie. It involved a lot of stress and practically, it was way tougher than we expected it to be. But all of us stuck through it – be it Akhil and his team, my ADs, Mohandas chettan and his team as well as the crane operators and other crew. All of them felt they were being part of a movie that will be remembered in history. I kept wondering how they had so much confidence in the film even before it hit theatres. None of them worked for money, they were driven by passion to be part of such a project. Even on the final day of shoot, everyone said that we will all meet up on the 100th day of its theatrical run.

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