Mineral is a world away from Mumbai in every conceivable way. The 200 or so residents of the small Lewis County community wouldn’t register a blip among the more than 18 million citizens living in India’s largest city.
The two worlds collided on Saturday, when about 60 Indian cast and crew members working on an upcoming Indian movie titled “Nishabdam” — which translates to “Silence” in English — spent a day shooting scenes for a musical sequence in and around Mineral.
The feature-length thriller stars Ranganathan Madhavan, a four-time winner at the Filmfare Awards, often considered the Indian equivalent to the Academy Awards. Three-time Filmfare winners Anushka Shetty and Anjali join Madhavan in leading roles for the $10 million project backed by Indian production company Kona Film Corporation and Seattle-based People Media Factory.
American actor Michael Madsen of ‘Kill Bill’ and ‘Reservoir Dogs’ fame also plays a significant role in the film, which is largely being shot in and around Seattle using the South Indian languages of Tamil and Telugu, and is slated for release in late 2019 or early 2020.
“It’s been a good time shooting in such a beautiful place,” Madhavan said Saturday between scenes shot inside a BMW convertible. “I know I feel much more relaxed out here, much closer to nature. I feel relaxed shooting here.”
Director Hemant Madhukar said the plan was to only spend one day filming in Mineral during the two-month schedule, though some footage had previously been recorded in Ashford. Many of the lead actors, including Shetty and Madhavan, only recently flew to Seattle to begin their portions of the movie, which began filming in May.
Madhukar and producer Kona Venkat said they flew close to 30 people out to Washington from India for the movie. Most of the cast is known primarily for their work in the Southern India film circles of Kollywood — in the Tamil language — and the Telugu film industry known as Tollywood. Madhavan is considered a pan-Indian star. He has recently appeared in the Amazon Prime series “Breathe” and Netflix cooking competition show “The Final Table.”
“Most Americans hear about Indian film and think it’s just ‘Bollywood’ and nothing else,” Venkat said. “This is a big project for the South Indian film industries and there are big stars and great movies there, too.”
Dozens of additional workers of Indian lineage from Seattle and Los Angeles were hired for the movie, as well as some local extras. Madhukar said the movie represents a major partnership between film industries in India and the United States, and that it is the first Indian movie to be shot entirely in the United States.
Madhavan and others declined to speak about the individual characters or plot lines for what has been described by Indian media outlets as a crime-based or investigative thriller. Reporting by publications such as The New Indian Express indicate it will be a silent film featuring Shetty as a deaf and mute businesswoman and Madhavan as her significant other.
“It’s the first time Hollywood and Bollywood (based in Mumbai) have worked together like this,” Venkat said. “There’s lots of great talent both places. In Washington, you can film anywhere, because you don’t need permits unless you’re using firearms or blocking roads or public access points. Locals have been very helpful and cooperative. Washington is a very cooperative place. I know Atlanta is being talked about as the second Hollywood, but to me, Washington is more suitable.”
Local residents made conversation with their foreign visitors as they walked through town to check out the production equipment and find out more about the movie. A young sibling duo teamed up to sell brownies to crew members and participants in a motorcycle rally that stopped at a local tavern. Some production staffers tried to pass pans of Indian food out to inquisitive locals, while others took photos in front of the Harley Davidsons parked along the road.
Local agencies such as Washington Filmworks and the Seattle Office of Film and Music have been helpful during the production schedule, Venkat and Madhukar said, as have local government bodies such as police and fire departments. Both men said they never expected the level of cooperation they had received — authorities in India aren’t always as accommodating, they said.
Despite their praise for state officials, they said many foreign film companies are choosing to shoot in other countries, such as Canada, because the process of obtaining visas and the required permits to enter the United States feature more roadblocks and unexplained delays.
“Lots of films are coming, but a lot more want to be able to come,” Madukhar said. “I hope the government can understand the importance of the foreign film industry, because a lot of films will come here.”