After VIVA Films released the official trailer of Ulan on Friday, 8th of February, the outpouring of support from netizens was instantaneous. #UlanTrailer hit the no.1 spot in the country’s trending topics, followed closely by Maya, Nadine Lustre, Carlo Aquino, and Direk Ayrin – all major players in what already appears to be a much-awaited film this summer.
Tagged as a romantic drama, Ulan tells the story of Maya who was raised by her grandmother. As a child, Maya became aware of the mythical creature called “Tikbalang” (half-horse, half-human) and the superstition that rain pours in the middle of a sunny day when two of these creatures are being wed. According to her grandmother, it means that heaven is not in favour of this union.
As a young woman, Maya is a hopeless romantic. She works in a publishing company as an editorial assistant. She has fallen in love and has been heartbroken twice. And then she meets Peter who is kind, thoughtful, helpful, and every bit a boyfriend material. But Maya realizes that each time she’s onto something good, rain falls all of a sudden. Must she now take it as a bad omen? Is it heaven’s way of telling her that she’s about to face a bitter fate?
Breathing life to the character of Maya is Multimedia Princess Nadine Lustre. She was personally chosen by writer-director Irene Emma Villamor who describes her as “a modern Filipina and really has that depth to understand concepts like this. And brave enough to plunge in to a role of Maya.”
From the very start, Nadine showed dedication to immerse herself in the role and to connect with her director. Direk Irene further shares, “Nadine and I sat on the first day of shoot and we talked for almost an hour, naka-costume na siya nun, ready for blocking na. But I had to pause and we just sat away from the crowd and talked about the bigger things in life. About what this movie means to me and to her. About our nervousness. And I said to her this is going to be our journey together, because Maya has been there with me since I was young.”
It was for a Film class way back in 1999 when Direk Irene created a 5-minute narrative about a girl named Maya. “Her dream was to climb a tree in their backyard,” she elaborates, “but her mother would always catch her and reprimand her.” Until one day, she finally climbed it, “and saw what a fantastic view it was – roofs of different corrugated, rusty metals, top of other trees, some birds. And she was wishing her mother could also see it.”
“That was really the germ of the character Maya, and she never left me since,” declares this director who brought us the certified blockbuster movies “Camp Sawi”, “Meet Me in St. Gallen”, and “Sid & Aya: Not a Love Story.”
“She evolved into a short story when I was already a script continuity supervisor under Direk Joyce (2004-2005). By this time, I was reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Allende stories – all those fantastic stories with magic realism elements. So I wrote about Maya seeing tikbalangs, and the mother became the Lola. And I love the rain so nagsama-sama na siya sa utak ko.”
“Direk Joyce caught me writing and read what I wrote and said to turn it into a screenplay so I did,” Direk Irene concludes. Ulan is her first screenplay. Bb. Joyce Bernal serves as this movie’s Creative Producer.
Getting Carlo Aquino to play Peter was a breeze. “We had breakfast just to talk about the role, and he said nakwento ko na sa kanya dati yung concept so of course he’ll do it. Wala nang pitch pitch!” Direk Irene enthuses.
She commends the award-winning actor for being “so good in understanding the character and finding connections with the role. He makes my job so much easier because I don’t explain a lot when I talk to him. There’s a click that happens and there he is, right there being Peter.”
Ulan also features Marco Gumabao and AJ Muhlach, the most promising actors of their generation, as Maya’s ex-lovers.
Young Maya is played by Ella Ilano, while the grandmother is played by Ms. Perla Bautista.
The biggest challenges of this film were creating the rain effect which happened almost every day and deciding on how the tikbalang would look like. “Our tikbalang took 3 (look) tests just to decide on what is best,” reveals Direk Irene.
They asked themselves, “Sino ba ang nakakita na ng tunay na tikbalang? Di ba si batang Maya? So ano itsura no’n?” In the end, the inspiration came from the paper mache works of the artisans they encountered while filming in Pila, Laguna. She says, “We decided on that look (for the tikbalang), and acknowledge the crudeness and the innocence of it all.”
Direk Irene is grateful and proud to be able to bring this kind of film to mainstream. “Hindi biro ang sugal ng VIVA (for producing) and N2 (for line producing)…We were doing something different…I have all these people in the production na kakapit-kamay at laging susubok at hindi takot magkamali – my staff and cast,” says the director who is admired by many.
Ulan is a product of hard work and passion. Part of the team is the award-winning cinematographer Neil Daza.
Rivermaya’s ‘90s classic song “Ulan” is turned into a much subdued ballad by OST Princess Janine Teñoso, making it the film’s official theme song. “Heto na Naman” by Rice Lucido is part of the soundtrack.
For Nadine Lustre, who was hailed for her performance in her last movie “Never Not Love You”, this is a new opportunity to shine outside a love team. “I’m really, really excited kasi maganda talaga ‘yung story; it’s more about self-love,” she said in an interview.
How Maya cultivates self-love as the plot unravels is something to look forward to.
Catch Ulan in cinemas nationwide beginning March 13, 2019.