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March 26, 2020
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March 26, 2020

Off camera, in camera

By Hubert Vaz


Quarantined Omani actor may face camera in final schedule of upcoming Malayalam film in a UNESCO site in Jordan

When Dr Talib al Balushi, a senior Omani actor, headed for Jordan last week to take part in the shooting schedule of an upcoming Malayalam film – Aadujeevitham, little did he know that he would be quarantined. The actor is currently spending time during a 14-day quarantine in the Ramada Resort Dead Sea, the only internationally managed four-star hotel in the Dead Sea, Jordan.

Balushi was to take part in the final schedule of the film which was being shot at Wadi Ramm, a famous desert in the south of Jordan and a UNESCO World Heritage Site where numerous Hollywood films, including The Martian, had been shot. Wadi Ramm is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in southern Jordan, 60 km to the east of Aqaba, the only coastal city in Jordan.

“I’m fine, Alhamdullilah! It’s just that I’m required to complete a 14-day quarantine as is the international rule being followed in Jordan for all foreign travelers,” he told TheWeek in a Whatsapp message from Jordan, adding, “I’m spending time eating, playing games on my smartphone and praying to God to help all human beings around the world and to spare them from the coronavirus.”

He further disclosed that the shooting schedule in Jordan hadlast week progressed as per plan without his presence and that scenes featuring himself would be done later, once his quarantine period is over. However, he mentioned that, considering the current situation, he was not sure if they would have to pack up and leave, if advised so.

K C Eapen, assistant producer, when contacted by TheWeek earlier this week, said, “Dr Talib has been quarantined only as a safety measure. The rest of the unit on site are safe and sound. However, as a curfew has been declared, the shooting has been suspended for few days. I hope, he will be able to join us soon.”

Asked how long the schedule in Wadi Ramm would continue, Eapen said it would depend on developments surrounding concerns related to the spread of the coronavirus. As for Dr Talib’s role in the film, he declined to divulge details, however, adding, “Dr Talib has got a very promising role.”

Aadujeevitham (which translates as  Goat Days) is a survival drama film written and directed by popular director Blessy. The story, is based on a novel of the same name penned by noted south Indian writer Benyamin. The film stars popular south Indian stars Prithviraj Sukumaran as Najeeb, an Indian immigrant worker in Saudi Arabia.

The film which has Resul Pookutty , the Oscar winning sound designer, and original score and soundtracks composed by Oscar famed Indian composer, A R Rahman, had begun shoots in March 2018 and was expected to wrap up shooting the final schedule in Middle Eastern deserts by June.

According to reports in a section of the press, Balushi’s translation assistant and another actor from UAE are also under quarantine in Jordan. Meanwhile, other members of the film, including Prithviraj, are reportedly safe.

The film unit in Jordan confirmed that the quarantine was just part of the precautionary measures. The Jordanian government has been monitoring the arrivals of all foreigners for 14 days before allowing them free movement, they assert.

Stay safe

Meanwhile, to clarify doubts among his fans, Prithviraj, the lead actor  took to his social media page to clarify that the shoot was continuing at Wadi Rammum, a protected place at Jordan.

“These are tough times. Times we need to think and act collectively. The difference this time being…acting together means staying away from each other. As the world faces one of the greatest challenges of modern times, social distancing and self hygiene is the only way we can contain this pandemic. Thank you to all who’ve messaged and expressed concern over my safety and the safety of the Aadujeevitham unit. We are currently in Wadi Ramm, Jordan, and continuing shoot. We have decided so because, given the circumstances, that seems to be our best option. There are no international flights operating in and out of Jordan at the moment, and given the fact that all of us are already here, we can either stay put in our camp in the desert which is currently accommodating only our unit, or get out and shoot at our location which is barely a few minutes outside our camp. After consulting with the authorities and undergoing medical check ups for each member of the unit, we have been given a go ahead for the shoot as the location and the process of filming Aadujeevitham is in itself very isolated. Yes, two of our actors have been put on precautionary quarantine in Amman along with all other passengers who flew in with them in the same flight. We hope to have them join us post the two-week quarantine period. Do stick to all instructions from authorities and even more importantly, please do not panic.”