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|September 19, 2001||
The last ever shots of WTC in all its glory
M D Riti
They thought they were making history of another kind.
Dr M Shyam Sundar, an NRI doctor from Hubli, Karnataka, thought his would be the first ever Kannada film made entirely in the US with a starcast of locals and amateurs.
But the unit ended up getting what were, perhaps, the last ever shots of the World Trace Centre before the terrorist attacks. "We wanted daylight shots of the World Trade Centre," recalls M D Kowsik, a Linguistics Professor at Florida University, who is also acting in the film -- Seema.
"On that fateful morning, we went early to the WTC with our actors and actresses -- Meethu, Kiran Gowda, Bhaskar Reddy, Praveen and Vivek. We got some truly memorable shots of the building in the background with the artistes enacting their scenes in front of it."
The unit was on a tight schedule and budget. They wound up soon and proceeded to Tampa, Florida, their next location.
Only Praveen, a resident of New York, stayed back -- he was not immediately required for the next schedule. Ironically, he stayed on in the WTC building, as he had some work in an office there.
Fortunately, he was far lower than the floors which were hit by the planes. He just about managed to get out of the building and, he says, "I ended up seeing the twin towers collapse, once I got out.
"It was a scene I will never forget all my life. Hundreds of people jumping out of the buildings, knowing well that they were jumping to their deaths. But they did it because staying inside would have meant sure death. Sadly, their option meant death, too."
What he saw that day was worse than the worst disaster film, he says. Quite unlike Seema, a happy-go-lucky commercial film.
"Hundreds of people were trapped under the falling debris," remembers Praveen. "Nearly 20 to 30 fire engines were also covered with debris. All routes to New York -- roads, subways, bridges -- were closed. I had to walk the 12 kilometres from Manhattan to my home at Astoria."
It is very likely that the shots taken by the film unit are the last ever record of the WTC in all its glory.
The shaken unit is still busy processing and editing them. We hope to bring them to you soon.
Seema is being produced and directed by Dr Shyam Sundar. He says, "We had already finished shooting at Clearwater beach, St Petersberg University, Universal Studios at Orlando and Coral Springs before the disaster. We even got some aerial shots of Miami beach in South Florida.
"We filmed for almost a week in New York, and even shot a song there. On the day before the terrorist attack, we actually shot the WTC from the Brooklyn Bridge. Everything was going so smoothly...."
Some parts of Seema will also be shot in India, in Karnataka villages. The producer hopes to hire some well-known Kannada actors and actresses for the parts. The lead roles are all essayed by US residents.
It might be a while before the unit, which was stranded in Tampa for a while, recovers from the shock of its proximity to the attacks and gets back to completing the film.
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