Pragabhal Das on his six-year journey with ‘Muddy’

Debutant director Pragabhal Das discusses the challenges that were involved in the making of ‘Muddy’, billed as India’s first film on off-road racing

Pragabhal Das has been carrying the weight of Muddy on his shoulders for close to six years now. Sometime in 2015, Pragabhal got the germ of an idea, off-road racing, based on the conversations he had with friends who are professional racers.

With no prior experience in films, Pragabhal wanted his début to be unique. He developed the script against the backdrop of mud racing, with revenge worked in the spine. “I have always been interested in all-terrain vehicles, although I have never participated in races,” says Pragabhal, over phone from Palakkad. “When I spoke to real-time racers, it triggered a spark.”

The pre-production work alone took three years to complete, as it involved complex action sequences. Billed as India’s first film on off-road racing, Pragabhal says he wanted to shoot the racing portions in a realistic fashion without any compromise, which explains the longer pre-production time. He had the storyboard ready when he met the producer, who, he says, was supportive of his idea. “The location hunt alone took us a year,” he says, adding that they went into filming in 2019. The film was shot in the Kerala-Tamil border and places like Idukki and Kattappana.

Pragabhal Das | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

They had shot 30 hours of footage employing over 14 cameras to capture the mood. Pragabhal says the post-production, too, was time-consuming, given that Muddy is a “technical film”. He worked closely with his editor San Lokesh (of Raatchasan fame) to bring the final runtime down to 130 minutes. “As it is an adventurous action film, I wanted a solid technical team. We were even careful that the sound design did not affect the background score.”

Pragabhal tried pitching the script to stars, but he could not get the desired support as he was a newcomer. He went ahead with new faces and real racers. For a film that does not boast of big names, the reception for the teaser (16 million views in under a month) reaffirmed Pragabhal’s confidence in Muddy, which is gearing up for a theatrical release in May. At one point during the filming, Pragabhal thought about the universality of his subject and began to explore the option of making it into a pan-Indian film.

“It is a sports film and I want all audiences to watch it. Even if you don’t speak the language, you can probably enjoy the visuals,” he says.

Pragabhal shot the talkie portions in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada; Muddy is also getting a dubbed release in Hindi. Every stage of production threw up new challenges, agrees Pragabhal. The biggest lesson he learnt in his six-year journey was: “Not to look back and keep going without losing confidence.”

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