Maanaadu and Kudi Yedamaithe: Techniques used to shoot these time-loop projects

Speaking to TNM, the crew of Tamil film ‘Maanaadu’ and Telugu web series ‘Kudi Yedamaithe’ shares insights on how the pre-production and production of the time-loop projects took shape.
Maanaadu poster featuring Simbu on the left and Kudi Yedamaithe poster featuring Amala Paul and Rahul Vijay on the right.
Maanaadu poster featuring Simbu on the left and Kudi Yedamaithe poster featuring Amala Paul and Rahul Vijay on the right.
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Groundhog Day, Happy Death Day 1 and 2, Edge of Tomorrow, Russian Doll, Korean film A Day are all examples of time-loop films. But none of them explain why this happens to the hero,” says Silambarasan, who plays Abdul Khaliq in the recently released Tamil political thriller Maanaadu. The film, which tells the story of a man who tries to save the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu from getting shot at a political rally, is itself based on the concept of time-loop, a plot device in fiction whereby characters re-experience a span of time which is repeated.

Kudi Yedamaithe, a Telugu web series starring Amala Paul and Rahul Vijay in the lead that premiered on OTT platform Aha Video last year, is again based on two protagonists who track a kidnapping racket while they are stuck in a time-loop.

Movies like Jango, Churuli and 3:33, which hit the big screens last year, also employed time-loop or time-warp as plot devices. As Abdul Khaliq points out in Maanaadu, an array of international films has used the concept time and again, but it is after a long time that it has made a comeback to Indian cinema. Given that most of these time-loop projects demand intensive planning and were shot in the midst of the pandemic with lockdown restrictions in place, what techniques did the makers employ to shoot these films?

Creating a ‘loopy’ experience

Following the coronavirus outbreak, it is hard for audiences not to draw parallels between the monotonous routines they are caught in and the lives of characters on screen who are stuck in a time-loop. Despite this, filmmakers have the responsibility of ensuring that viewers travel along with the characters. 

Suresh Arumugam, who was roped in as the editor for Kudi Yedamaithe, points out that in order to jog viewers’ memories, the makers retained some shots as it is, while some of the sequences were altered. “We filmed some sequences from a different angle or the framing was different so that audiences don’t feel bored looking at the same shot. However, for important scenes, we decided to use the same shots so that viewers can still follow the story,” he says.

Whereas editing typically takes place after the shoot, the Kudi Yedamaithe team edited the sequences simultaneously while the shoot took place. “We also got a lot of surplus shots and since the editing happened right after the shooting, the process became easier for us,” says Suresh.

The team also used an in-house app to log in details from every day’s shoot. From cinematography to editing and direction, the break-up of shots from different scenes was entered into the app to keep track of the shoot. Speaking to TNM, Kudi Yedamaithe director Pawan Kumar, who is well-known for films like Lucia and U Turn, shares that the planning had to be meticulous since the film was shot during the pandemic and within 45 days. “If the series is narrated in a confusing manner, the audience might miss out on the essence. Time-loop films and series in general face the task of striking a balance between over-explaining and making it too complex for the viewers,” he shares.

Watch director Pawan explaining how an app was used to shoot Kudi Yedamaithe:

Speaking on similar lines, Maanaadu director Venkat Prabhu tells TNM that he worked with his team of Assistant Directors to know the screenplay thoroughly so that they don’t miss out on any scene. “We had a team who would roughly edit the shots to see how they have come out. But since we shot during the pandemic and had limited number of days, and we had sequences that had to be filmed with a huge crew like the maanaadu (political rally) and flight scenes, we had to map out the entire shoot, know the screenplay inside out and understand how it is going to be staged,” he says.

They even had to remove a few loops to stay in line with the core theme. “We had one loop where Simbu drops everything and goes behind Kalyani. There was another loop where Simbu pays a visit to a doctor to get his brain scanned. We had roped in actor Jai for a cameo role as the doctor, but later we decided to drop these as it might become too complicated for viewers to track,” Venkat notes.

Award-winning editor Praveen KL who worked on Maanaadu observes, “We used a different shot for each loop. Either the positions of the actors were different or the framing. We filmed the same scene from different angles in some instances. In cases of repetition, the shots were fast-paced so that viewers don’t feel bored watching the same scene many times.” He also adds that the makers decided to go with storyboards for the sequences in the political rally as well as for some of the scenes inside the flight, which helped them to picture the framing better.

Storyboards used during 'Maanaadu' shoot created by Assistant Director and story board artist
Prince Ransan Jonase

In Kudi Yedamaithe, when an intense Adi (Rahul Vijay) re-lives the same day in different iterations, audiences are expected to relate to the emotional arc of the character. So was the case with Durga (Amala), who keeps her cool and attempts to methodically solve the case in every loop but her emotional turmoil, which was portrayed in a subtle manner, also had to be conveyed to viewers.

Advaitha Gurumurthy, the cinematographer for Kudi Yedamaithe, points out how lighting was used to represent the character’s emotions, which is difficult considering the different time-loops. He explains, “There’s Parvathy’s house where we don’t see a lot of change in different loops, but there is restlessness in the shots because the camera was handheld. The police station sequences turn darker progressively to show how the margin between the protagonists finding the kidnappers is also getting razor thin.”

Screengrab from the Police station sequence in 'Kudi Yedamaithe'. Credit: YouTube/Aha Video

Watch Behind-the-Scenes video from Kudi Yedamaithe shoot here:

Not exclusively in the time-loop genre

A range of international time-loop films have incorporated other emotional components and sub-plots to add more elements to the mix. Redemption arcs, philosophical exploration and focus on the romantic lives of the protagonists have been seen in earlier films. Instead of choosing time-loop as a genre, both Venkat Prabhu and Pawan use it as one of the layers to the plot, stitching together more elements, and making them cross-genre projects. If Maanaadu has Islamophobia as its central theme, Pawan went about adding more grey areas to his suspense thriller.

With an ensemble cast known for comic delivery such as Karunakaran, Premgi Amaren, SJ Suryah and Y Gee Mahendran, among others, Maanaadu is entertaining and intense in equal parts. Notably, it is among the few films in recent times that has a Muslim protagonist. Speaking about the inspiration behind the same, Venkat shares, “The first draft of the idea which I wrote in 2018 was to tell the story of the Muslim guy. The first line itself started with the question whether the Muslim guy in the lead did what he is being accused of or not. The kind of mindset that people have towards the Muslim community, wherein they blame them without looking at their point of view, was the concept I wanted to put across through the film. Time-loop was added to the script later.” He adds the film didn’t delve deeper into the reasons behind why the characters are stuck in a time-loop because they didn’t want to shift the focus away.

As for the entertaining dialogues and scenes, Venkat laughingly says that humour has been a part of his directorial style since his debut film, Chennai 600028. “I wanted to give a complete entertainer. We added details about the Kala Bhairava temple in one of the loops so that it is more relatable to the Indian audience,” he says. He further says that unlike audiences that are used to sci-fi films and can suspend disbelief and stay invested in the film, a section of the Indian audience expects the makers to both entertain and educate them if the genre is new. “We retained these elements to appeal to the sensibilities of our audiences,” he notes.

A poster from 'Maanaadu' featuring Simbu doing Namaz (Prayers). Credit: Digital Native


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Speaking about Kudi Yedamaithe, director Pawan tells TNM that adding more grey areas to the script made it more intriguing. Throughout the series, we see shots of a banana rotting further as each loop passes by. “The banana shot is there to make the audience think about whether there is a glitch in the banana or if it is the protagonists who are stuck in the loop,” he says.

 Although parallel stories in the plot merge towards the end of the series, Kudi Yedamaithe did leave audiences with questions about CI Durga’s character and the antagonist (played by actor Ravi Prakash). "Ram Vignesh’s  script was detailed but there were few directorial calls I made to ensure that some areas are open ended, instead of giving straightforward answers,” says Pawan.  

Advaitha adds that Pawan’s experience of working on psychological thrillers helped him add such elements, while Pawan thinks that his previous experiences came in handy to bring precision to planning.

'Banana shots' from different episodes of 'Kudi Yedamaithe', showing how the banana rots further
as each loop passes by

Reception to the genre

The makers of Kudi Yedamaithe say that the response to the series has been both unprecedented and overwhelming. “We did not expect this kind of response. Many viewers also requested us to make a similar show in Kannada,” Advaitha says, while Pawan adds that he liked how many took to social media to post their own theories about the banana shot or the ending.

Advaitha shares that it is filmmakers who have underestimated the audience for long. Substantiating his point, both Pawan and Venkat state that the actors they roped in were not too hesitant to explore the concept. The latter, however, adds that it was a “big risk” for the team.

Maanaadu opened to positive responses from critics and audience alike. Scenes from the film going viral on social media and fans embarking on a mission to find the number of loops in the film are reflective of the humongous response. “We believed in the script and hoped that we could connect every part of the film. It could have gone for a toss but we took the risk. We’re hoping that the scale of Maanaadu now opens the gates for other filmmakers to be open to new scripts. Even actors want to explore new ideas,” Venkat quips.

The second installment of both Kudi Yedamaithe and Maanaadu can be expected in future, the makers say. Do the directors have other time-loop films in their kitty?

“I’d prefer exploring new genres instead of doing a time-loop film again, unless it’s Maanaadu 2,” Venkat says.

Watch the trailers of Maanaadu and Kudi Yedamaithe here: 

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