Conceiving Outdoor Amusement
article by Jijo
Hand written notes from the mid 80s
The Summer of 1985.
After the release of Kuttichathan/ Chotta Chetan in the Arabian Gulf, I had just landed in Trivandrum from U.A.E. Those days TVM was the only (not yet International) airport in Keralam with flights to the gulf. All through the flight I had my friend Golchin's encouraging words ringing in my ears. The U. A. E. national of Iranian origin was the father of cinema for all those in that part of the Arabian peninsula.
For the past one month, while carrying the 3D's film-cans for subtitling, when helping with scaffolding for erecting the silverscreens and when giving me company during lens installation at the projection booths, I had to keep telling a persuasive Golchin that my company is not interested in making any more 3Ds or a string of malayalam films for his Phars Distribution Company.
"I am planning for the next frontier sir ... Amusement Parks!"
Golchin the entrepreneur, a die-hard cinema-man, conceded that there was a future in entertainment centers.
"We shall put up one here in Dubai .... after you show me your first 'Malabari' one".
(He means 'Indian' ... when he says 'Malabari'. No offense ... since, despite being a Keralite, that last one year I had got used to being a 'Madrasi' in the hindi belt).
" ... ofcourse my dear sir, an amusement center also incorporates many cinema halls. This was in the concept of Walt Disney who designed themes into his Disneyland rides and attractions".
Golchin was assured that cinema still had a future role in my plans. How gratified he would have been then if he had foreseen the days of malls & multiplexes!
* * * * *
Sheker was there to receive me at the Trivandrum airport. We picked up Rajeev Kumar from his home on way to Architect Jayachandran's office at Cotton Hill, Idappazhanji.
Jayachandran, who would become an idol for many in the field of architecture, was already a reputed personality in facility designs. Having seen and appreciated his design of Chitranjali Studios at Thiruvallam, in 1982, my Pappa - Mr. Navodaya Appachan, had no hesitation in commissioning Jayachandran to design our new studio at Kakkanad. One should realise that my pappa is a veteran, who when fresh out from college in 1950, insisted that his elder brother Kunchacko convert their studio's thatched sheds into masonry shooting floors.
From that time,1982, Jayachandran had been with us in our efforts on 70mm and 3D projects. To help us with modifications needed in exhibiting our 'out of the norm' films, Jayachandran had many a time come to the projection cabins of the theaters he had designed. (see photo). Sheker and Jayachandran - both of them Trivandrum residents, had a teacher/ student relationship even before I met them. But today, as an Architect and an Art Director, both had divergent design-concepts in the areas of their expertise. It would result in arguments during daytime ... ending with a reconciliation at the pub in the evening. But that day we were just starting those arguments ...
"Yes, I spoke to Pappa (Mr. Appachan) today morning. He asked me to proceed"
said Jayachandran sar as we sat down with Murali, his associate.
"In fact, as suggested by Pappa I had met Prof. Bhagyanath, our Stage Magician. Took his opinions too about incorporating a magic pavilion in the amusement concept".
After surveying faces of Sheker, Rajeev and mine, with a characteristic caution he said
"You are filmmakers. We are Architects. But that alone is not sufficient. We need other people to realise this concept that is new for our country. Even a magician is not sufficient, I tell you ... "
Jayachandran, who usually ends his serious meetings with an attempt on humor, had started this one on a light footing.
"In ten minutes ... so and so and so and so ... would be here. The first three are my students ... now Engineers in the ISRO. The rest are from Keltron. They didn't have to be cajoled. The topic of an entertainment project fascinates them".
Thus from disciplines as varied as filmmaking, engineering, gardening, town planning, ... computer program, magic and events staging, there came together a team of young think-tanks. Interns from NID, graduates from IIT & IIM ... and so on.
We were on to new frontiers ...
"... here we go again!"
from left to right
Jayachandran, Sheker & Jijo.
What followed was a day of arguments on the subject of 'formal garden' and 'garden of surprises' between the Art Director and the Architect. It was the senior architect who finally conceded the other's point of view. I have to say that we youngsters almost always emerged victorious in our duels with Jayachandran. But eventually between ourselves we were in agreement that it is the senior who has had the last laugh. Yes, by being gracious!
Once, in the course of his drafting a note on the proposed amusement center, the senior architect suddenly realised that the person sitting before him, the Art Director, by virtue of being a journalism graduate, was better suited for the job. He put the task into those better hands.
Jayachandran couldn't pronounce 'Kishkinta' correctly. It was coined by me after that mythical south Indian monkey kingdom. Jayachandran used to pronounce it 'Kanishka'. I would react in horror
"Sir, that's an emperor of last millennium.... also, the 747 that Air India lost last month".
Jayachandran would backout immediatly ... saying that the particular area of expertise is not his. I had always a feeling that Jayachandran sar saw a 25 years old earlier self in us ... when we youngsters made scathing comments on his designs.
But Bicha sar - Imbichammad, our Project Engineer who was Jayachandran's classmate in the engineering college, would never agree on the Kishkinta concept. Bicha sar always insisted that the park should be named APPACHAN LAND.
Jayachandran once sketched out a baroque style symmetric park layout. Sheker picked up a picture of Tajmahal and stated loudly his contempt for all Mughal gardens.
"You can't expect people on either side of the central fountain to pose identical ... can you? Not, if they are paid customers at the amusement park".
Proudly displaying the Kiddies Area 1:16 scale model
based on the design drawings.
from right to left
Narayana Murthy, Babu Kunil, Sheker, Amaan, Lenny Abraham, Kaladharan & Ganesan.
Concept illustrations by RK.
Radhakrishnan, an artist with a technical background, was specially commissioned to visualise the concepts.
A veteran Art Director and publicity designer for 250 malayalam films, RK had set aside a whole month to complete 30 illustrations - one every day. He did this from imagination ... helped by gesticulation from Jayachandran, mimes by Sheker and Rajeev, after-sundown-entertainments by Suresh Kaanthan and Naveen, intimidations by Jijo.
Those were the days before Internet and WhatsApp.
No visual reference existed so as to help the artist visualise what a future desi amusement facility would look like.
Shoot The Audience
Cover Illustration for the Project Report by Sheker
At the prolific output of RK, an enthused Sheker set himself the task of doing a cover design.
Above. Photograph by M. Sureshkaanthan who procured the site from 74 individual landholders. You can see Purushothaman, surveyor from Jayachandran, Murali Associates spreads out the first layout drawing on the barren 120 acre site. Jijo and N. Balakrishnan - Water Rides designer and future CEO Kishkinta, look on towards what shall emerge. Below.
Before the advent of the computer,
there was a time of
TYPESETTING & LITHOGRAPHY,
to printout a Project Report.
<< One of the first sketches
for the Space Shuttle Ride.
Concept drawing by Sheker.
It would take five years and thousands of images -from engineering drawings on nuts & bolts to X-rays of the welding joints, before it became >>
Ajax - Pneumatic Vehicular Component Designers of Bangalore, did the design drawings.
Bhaskar Engineering - Imbichammad's colleague who do rocket booster components, did the fabrication.
Even the Chartered Accountant was involved during the conceptualisation.
Rangamani Swamy was a lion in accounting.