(Based on the Original Screenplay,
film to be made in English & Hispanic languages)
Evolution of the story
The Ghost Guarding
Film to be made in English/ Hispanic Version
Original Screenplay by Jijo
As noted in the accompanying webpage https://www.navodayastudio.com/barroz-novel , this Afro-Indian-Portuguese myth was first considered for a children’s movie way back in 1982.
It was only in the year 2017 I wrote it down as a novel.
Though this was not intended for a film, the possibility of a screen narration evoked interest in my colleagues.
I then mooted the idea of making the film in English/ Hispanic languages.
This is because the two main characters in the story happened to be
(1) an aged Afrikaner and
(2) a teenage girl of Malayalee-Portuguese lineage.
Also, the story backdrop is of a rare Indo-European Maritime period in history, and hence suitable for a film that could transcend Indian borders.
(Script & Production Design to be published in December 2022)
The personalities who got enthused by the subject were
Geo Kuttappan Sar, Sureshkanthan, Pratap Pothen,
Anil Madhavan, Tiju Kurian and Josy Joseph.
It saw another well-wisher M. Najeeb involve his contacts in California to cast a black actor for the film.
Producer Swapna David, requested by Shajisar - Shaji N Karun to help me, called up her contacts at U.K. for screen-writing and project-funding. Swapna prepared a Project Budget and Timeline for the production. With her wisdom on film production, it was she who made me publish the novel for establishing the IP Rights.
Soon, other colleagues - K. Sheker, Ashwini Kaul and Prakash Moorthy came down to cheer-lead the efforts at Navodaya Studios, Kakkanad.
The place once again became active - with creativity happening here, after 3 decades of lull.
Only Raghunath Paleri - who had earlier helped with my Malayalam story ‘Chundan’, after listening to the story once, didn’t turn up thereafter. Probably Raghu thought English is not his cup of tea or that this also is a project that won’t take off. Can’t blame him for that!
By then, veteran RK (Radhakrishnan) came to make concept illustrations.
To state the truth, we were moving on to Production Design.
Been informed of the project, Shajisar called down Maria Branco from Lisbon to help us with medieval Goa.
Here entered A. M. Nazeer and Sreelal with their contacts in Goa.
Researchers Goumathi and Jensen Zacharia were deputed for detailed research at Goa Archives and Velha Goa - the place were the story happens.
For the benefit of the team, Architect Fernando Velho facilitated informative visits to Goan archaeological sites.
Come Isabella, open the door
Come and take your pot of gold
Thus said the spider to the fly
That's how I landed in this pit.
We had such fun, we were always on the run ...
in the dead of the night, playing Queen & Slave
I decided to develop the screenplay as a teenage fantasy -
as if the story was happening within the mind of a 21st century adolescent girl - Isa, who imagines that she is the incarnation of a 18th century heiress - Isabella, daughter of Cristavo D’Gama.
The girl is constantly fighting an inner battle to escape a make-belief ghost who guards a treasure for her. More than his treasure, his companionship is what the lonely girl longs for.
This was a marked departure from the original novel.
I was urged by youngsters - Althaf Hussein, Karun Josy and AD Padmini who came in to help with the project, to deploy a modern storytelling method instead of the classic approach as in my earlier films.
From them I understood how to make a layered, multilevel progression of the story. The narrative took place on two different planes.
One - Psychological, within Isa’s mindscape.
Two - The Ghost’s point of view.
To make the second one more interesting, it was Althaf and Karun who suggested the incorporation of an animated Voodoo Doll character as a sidekick for the ghost.
Prakash Moorthy pounced on the idea, illustrated the rag doll which comes to life, developed the imp’s character, suggested quirks and quips.
(above) Maria Branco, Production Designer
(left) Nadia Rebelo, Musician. (right) Pedro Figueiredo, Poet
(below) Fernando Velho, Architect
In her ruminations, it is the aged ghost's companionship, the lonely girl longs for.
Enough of this, get lost!"
To screen-animate the doll character, Tiju called down from Bangkok good old Binc (Bradley Cadman) - the Special Effects Supervisor from the times I helped Pratap Pothen (in 2002) do Sachin Tendulkar Ads for MRF.
As I wrote on, I had long discussions and took advices from John Paul Uncle, Kalavoor Ravikumar, Rajesh Abraham and Sooraj Varma on aspects of the scripting.
At this juncture, Revathi Suresh and Maya Mohanlal had come in to give me suggestions on the attitude, attire, preferences and behaviour of character Isa, the troubled teenager.
We went into lengthy consultations with Psychiatrist C. J. John on how the duality of Isa’s deformed characteristics would manifest in a real world.
These points were later taken up by Samhita Arni while coaching Shayala McFee for the role/s.
a character study
Isa / Isabella Duality
Samhita Arni, Novelist (right) helps Shayala, performer (left) understand Isa's character.
Script Consulting Sessions
from R to L - Jijo, Nibitha, Maya and Revathy discussing
Isa's character with psychiatrist Dr. C.J. John
Isa looks to see who Barroz is whispering to.
She sees a stuffed inanimate voodoo doll sitting lifeless behind him. She picks it up...
ISA "Oh! Ho, Barroz Pappae... So you too read a lot of Calvin and Hobbs? You do imagine this doll is alive ...its your fantasy... no?"
Barroz gapes at her …
ISA (CONT'D) "You are like me ... correct ? Like me - Isa, who believes that there exists a ghost who guards a treasure for her!
To consolidate the Production Design,
5 illustrators were commissioned to storyboard the screenplay that was being developed.
Starting with our concept illustrator - RK, came in Alice Cheevel, then came Baburaj, Baburaj brought Baiju.
Finally came digital artist Sethu.
They toiled the next nine months to create close to 1500 drawings.
Since most frames involved Actual Location Stereography, Nambiathiri was advising on the lensing of the shots.
The frames were finalised with Artemis viewfinder app. and drone coverages by Althaf and his team at Goa locations.
Also, Pre-visualisation Videos were made on ‘Isa chasing the Ghost' sequence and the C.G. intense scenes in the ‘Treasure Cellar’.
Meanwhile, from abroad we also sourced potential performers for playing the roles.
<< In Madrid, posing for D’Gama Family Portrait.
At Cape Town, demonstraing Voodoo Ritual >>
The prospective cast being
(1) Ceaser Lorento as Mendoza,
(2) Rafael Garcia and his cousin Sara Trigo as D’Gama and Theresa.
(3) Lebogang Mashille for the role of Voodoo Occultist Muvesi Maria.
(I shall not divulge at this stage who our contact for the role of the aged Afrikaner Treasure Guarding Ghost was).
C A S
My nephew Appu Jose,
while at Real Madrid Graduate College,
attended a Flamenco performance of Rafael.
Here Occurred an unexpected development ... REFER Live 3D Stage Show. https://www.navodayastudio.com/stage-show
was the time a discussion of Siddique’s film Big Brother was happening near our Kakkanad Studio IT neighbourhood.
Rajeevkumar during a visit to meet Siddique, dropped in here at Navodaya Studio with Lalumon (Mohanlal) to discuss the possibility of a Live 3D Stage Show.
Rajeev, who was aware of the D’Gama’s Treasure Project taking place here, suggested out of the blue a Malayalam film on the said subject - with Lalumon playing the aged ghost.
Urging me to direct the film, Rajeev made it sound as if he was giving me (his guru Jijo) a rebirth! (Now, why should I deny it? if he felt so). Now, my apprehension was on making the Treasure Guarding Ghost into an Indian (Malayali) when the myth all along the Malabar coast for 4 centuries told about ‘Kappiri Muthappan’ - an Afrikaner protagonist. >>>
But in two days time Josy Joseph - a Malayalam scholar, Tutor in Visual Communications and now wearing the mantle of Research Director at Navodaya, made a convincing backstory on how the Malayali expatriate Barroz came from Malabar to Goa and become D’Gama’s trusted Keeper of the mansion Keys.
(It was Art Director Santhosh Raman who later visualised the symbolic keys and had it made).
Josy made it look possible for a Malayali immigrant to Goa replace ‘Kappiri Muthappan’ - the Afrikaner.
Yet in the process Josy had an altercation with Swapna.
The Lady Producer, despite the fact that as a kid she was in awe of ‘Mohanlal emoting with his eyelashes’, voiced her reservations in changing the principal character of the myth.
I remember that day in February 2019
I went to Lalumon’s Elamakkara house and first met his mother after many years, and along with her sang the song mizhiyoram.
I then privately told Lalumon that a Malayalam film with him playing D’Gama’s Treasure Guarding Ghost was possible.
I declined the offer to direct the film.
I said I never saw myself doing that, but if he would entrust it to any of his present directors, I shall gladly take care of the 3D technicalities.
I told him if I am asked to, I would rather prefer directing a biographical film on Thakiyudin Wahid. For, the history of Malayalee migration to the Arabian Gulf is a subject close to my heart.
That was when, surprising me, ‘The Complete Actor’ mentioned that he would like to direct the fantasy film himself! >>>
Listening to the conversation, Mr. Antony Perumbavoor, Producer, was walking into the room when Lalumon asked me what I thought of it?
I said it is a wonderful idea, and that I am privileged.
I had been in the job of assisting debutant directors realise their creativity much, much more than directing movies myself (infact, two films and a TV Serial - that's all I have done).
It started with assisting Fazil for Mohalal’s very first film - Manjil Virinja Pookkal (1980),
Raghunath Paleri for Onnu Mutual Poojyam Varey (1986),
Rajeevkumar for Chanakyan (1988),
Jude Attippetty for telefilm Parayaan Baakki Vechathu (2000),
Jose (my brother) for Magic, Magic 3D (2003).
Now my privilege is in assisting Mohanlal, a veteran of 350 films, debut as a director!
Things developed pretty fast after that.
Lalumon himself came up with many story elements (one such was the fireflies metaphor) for the script.
I re-wrote, re-wrote … (22 times*) polishing the script to my satisfaction and to the director’s and producer’s liking, yet standing firm on the fact that it was the girl who is the central character, and Barroz was secondary.
It went well down with everyone, since the focus was on Mohanlal the Director; not Mohanlal the Actor.
Accordingly, some changes were incorporated in the storyboard and Pre-viz Video.
This took into consideration Lalumon’s proficiency in action scenes and the designs of his Stunt Choreographer JJ (Jakrit) who came down from Pattaya.
Production prep was completed by the beginning of 2020. When the set works were about to start, in February
the first pandemic lockdown occurred, and all activities came to a complete halt.
By the end of 2020, activities resumed.
Art - costume, props and set work were completed in about 3 months.
At the peak of the activity we had 160 members working daily on the project here at Navodaya Studio.
We used the extra time to polish all Pre-Viz Videos for (1) Voodoo Doll Animation, (2) Fantasy Visual Effects and (3) Action Sequences.
Based on a script rehearsed and finalised to the very last shot (except for 3 emotional scenes which were decided to be shot extempore), Aashish Mittal wrote out a 3D Depth Script and designed the Stereography Progression from scene to scene in the film.
Similarly Sound Designer Vishnu wrote out a Sound Script for the entire film.
The first took care of the objects moving in and out of the screen into the audience’s space.
The second took care of how dialogs, effects and music would be placed in the auditorium surround sound.
This happened during the first 3 months of 2021.
In the last week of April 2021, the inauguration took place.
Of course, the audience was standing during the prayer session.
I asked the three Children of God given to me - Nadia, Shayala and Amrutham to sing hymns.
Nadia (seen here) sang in Portuguese.
Shayala in English.
Amrutham in Sanskrit.
Prodigy Lydian Nadaswaram and his guardian angel Amrutham. Lydian was Mohanlal's selection. I went to brief him for Barroz compositions with Pratap Pothen's musician daughter Keya.
* (Clarification added on 8 December 2022).
With participation from all, the rewrites were done with full enthusiasm. It was after the third or fourth draft. When sent to Lalumon, he approved it. On my insistence, he then circulated it among his children. He phoned me one day and said "പിള്ളേർക്ക് ചില അഭിപ്രായങ്ങൾ ഉണ്ട് ". I said " ആഹാ! ഇങ്ങോട്ടു അയച്ചേര് !!" So the next day , from their Elamakkara home, to our Navodaya Studio discussion venue came Suchi with the children - Pranav (with his European gf), Maya and also Revathy. Kuttappan sar, Josy Joseph, Nibitha and Althaf were present. The youngsters were indignant that an Afrikener character - Keanu, was the antagonist. "It is not politically correct" - they said. Now, this was a point raised also by NID Tutor Prakash Moorthy, creator of the voodoo doll and Bradley Cadman, the animator. I had to agree. For, that was the time poor Afrikaners were being targeted for mob-attacks in the cities of India. We shouldn't be adding to their woes. I told Lalumon and Antony that I need one month - to fix the character arc of Mendoza - as the antagonist instead. They agreed, because a wonderful script for Mohanlal to direct was the only priority then. The corrected version I sent to Suchi and children for approval. Maya & Revathy did further join the discussions to 'psycho-analyse' Isa's character.
Costume Researcher Nibitha Najeeb posing for Isabella D'Gama.
Josy Joseph, K U Mohanan, Mohanlal, Jijo and Prakash Moorthy, contemplating.
Following the Inauguration,
with a 85 strong shooting crew, we had one week of shooting in Kochi before many cast and crew members started falling sick and the second corona lockdown was announced.
All activities, once again, came to a complete halt.
The Navodaya Studio activity for the entire month of May 2021 was to help recuperate the infected cast and crew members (numbered 24) and with Airlines shutting down their operations, find ways to return the foreign cast and crew members (numbered 12) back to their homes.
The ensuing months when world-over every project in every walk of life hung in limbo, the questions for Malayalam film Barroz 3D - Guardian of D’Gama’s Treasure,
was how and when to get the cast and crew back to resume the shoot.
The major concern was
the teenage principal character playing the main role of Isa/ Isabella growing beyond her adolescent age.
If you ask me I would say Shayala was the most gifted nascent performer I have ever come across.
She was born for the role!
Lockdown started easing,
film shootings around the world started resuming, cast and crew of our film started enquiring of the next plan.
But Aashirvad Cinemas - the production company of Antony Perumbavoor - the producer of Barroz 3D, seemed to have migrated into the OTT filmmaking which had become the trend by the fall of 2021.
Four such productions of theirs were located mostly out of the state of Kerala (like Hyderabad, which had fewer corona shooting restrictions). Meant for 3D Theatrical release, our film Barroz seemed an nonviable option.
In fact, there were talks about shelving the project!
From Hyderabad (film Bro Daddy location) Mr. Antony's message was given to us to dismantle Treasure Cellar Sets at Navodaya Studio here at Kakkanad, Kochi, rather than waste time waiting.
I think it was due to Lalumon’s initiative, in the month of November 2021, after the completion and sales of Aashirwad’s OTT film projects, a sudden interest to revive project Barroz occurred. After elaborate discussions it was decided to change the story, screenplay and performers. There was no possibility then (in the month of November 2021) to get performers back from abroad, nor even going to places as near as Goa for location shoot. The Producer found that there was a 4 months window of utilizing Mohanlal’s dates before assigning his next call sheets to other projects.
Hence, after elaborate discussions,
it was decided to change the story, screenplay and performers of Malayalam film Barroz 3D.
Re-writing the script.
So quickly, in the month of December 2021, Lalumon himself took the initiative and along with Rajeevkumar re-wrote the script (scenes, characters and locales) for a viable completion of the film in and around Kochi itself - the major shootings happening within the secure premises of Navodaya Campus where the mostly indoor sets have been erected.
Personally, I feel it was a prudent move to save the project *.
Lalumon, in the process of re-writing, fashioned the screenplay and the character of Barroz much like his recent hits - Odiyan, Pulimurugan, Lucifer and Marakkar, so as to satisfy his fan base.
I could understand that with the changed sceenplay, the focus of the film was to entertain the Malayalee family film audience. Lalumon could do it with his knowledge of 350 films (as against my mere 7). In this restructuring, Rajeev took over the role from me in assisting Lalumon.
Myself, mostly in Chennai helping my brother Josmon develop a Vadakkan-paattu script during the first half of 2022, was called down by Lalaumon in the last week of April 2022 to execute the rotating-set scene where Ghost Barroz walk the walls of the Treasure Cellar.
That was my only involvement in the revised production of Barroz in Malayalam.
Back to the original plan.
Since the Original Screenplay and the Production Design made for the project have not been utilised, we the formulators of the idea of making a fantasy film in English/ Hispanic on the ‘Kappiri Ghost' who guards D’Gama’s Treasure, would resume our attempt which was started 5 years ago in the year 2017.
In December 2022, salient extracts from the Original Production Design shall be published on webpage –https://www.navodayastudio.com/film-barroz-proposed-english-version
I have detailed this here (referring to my diary notes, letters and email communications with the persons mentioned in this) so as to commit from memory events that led to the realisation of this project.
I hope to clarify points regarding authorship and IP rights if any controversy arises in the future.
Chennai, May 2022.
* (Clarification added on 8 December 2022).
Even during the 1980s, for films produced by Navodaya, when it came to the script, we respected the directors' decision as final. I had conceded to Fazil's decision in not further developing boatman Nedumudi Venu's character in Manjil Virinja Pookkal, which I insisted. I had conceded to Paleri's decision to not reduce Pratap Pothen's scenes in Onnu Muthal Poojyam Varey, as I insisted.
Hence when it comes to changes in the script, I believe it is the Producer's and Director's prerogative.