(Spoilers ahead) The multi-lingual superhero film Minnal Murali culminates in the ultimate confrontation between the two men, both of whom got superpowers after being struck by lightning on the same day, but put the powers to use very differently. The contest between Jaison (played by Tovino Thomas) and Shibu (played by Guru Somasundaram) takes place on what looks like an island with a church in the backdrop. The location of the battle is very critical to the plot as the bridge to the mainland is destroyed by Shibu and the villagers are stuck on the island, their lives in jeopardy.
In May of 2021, the church-like set that was erected on the banks of Periyar river in Ernakulam’s Kalady for the scene was demolished by members of the Bajrang Dal and Akhil Hindu Parishad (AHP), both right-wing organizations. Those who vandalised the set claimed that the church was erected near a Hindu temple. The production team incurred huge financial losses to the tune of Rs 50 lakhs, according to news reports and the shooting was disrupted for several days.
Subsequently, the location for the shoot of the scene was then changed to neighbouring Karnataka, and an abandoned church at Shettihalli in Hassan district was identified to shoot the scene. The Shettihalli Rosary Church, also known as the floating or submerged church, is believed to be built by French missionaries in the 1860s. Legend has it that it was built for a British family that lived close by. The church was built in Gothic style and with mortar and bricks, on the banks of the river Hemavathi, a tributary of the Cauvery river. It was a place of congregation and worship for the affluent British family and their friends and their household staff for decades after.
Almost exactly a century later, in 1960, when a dam and a reservoir were built near Shettihalli over the Hemavathi river, the land on which the church stood and its surroundings were flooded. Almost 28 of the neighbouring villages reportedly got submerged and the people living there were relocated. The church was abandoned as it would get almostcompletely submerged in the monsoon.
Over time, the roof of the church got damaged but the structure of the church still stands. Depending on which time of the year one visits it, you can see the ruins in different levels of submersion. In summer, between April and June, as water levels in the reservoir recede, the church can be seen completely, on what looks like a small island. Locals bring their coracles and ferry tourists to the island where one can walk around the ruins.
In the months thereafter, as the water levels in Gorur Reservoir increase, the church begins to get submerged. When water levels are at its highest, just the peak of the church with a cross is visible. The ruins can be accessed by a mud path that takes you close to the church. It can be seen from a bridge built on the Gorur Reservoir too, although from a distance.
The surroundings of the Shettihalli Church are calm and serene, often not bustling with too many tourists or local residents. It is off a two-lane road that connects Hassan town with Sakleshpur. The route is dotted with small lakes and farms on both sides and makes for a picturesque drive. While the area is relatively unexplored, it is gaining popularity as a quiet picnic spot with a view of the vast expanse of the river on one side, green hills beyond the river, and church ruins that look as though they are afloat on the water.
A video taken by a local, seemingly on a mobile phone, shows a makeshift, wooden bridge built by the crew of Minnal Murali. On the island, several shacks, statues, a giant wheel along with a few other game stalls can be seen in the video to give the impression of a village fair.