July 27, 2013

Titlee :)

I have been on a feature film shoot for the last two months. Away from my small documentary world, I found myself lost in this magnanimously crazy space which demanded 16 hours (or more) of work on set with not just you but a hundred more people running helter skelter in all directions. Obviously, these running people are not big film stars. These are small stars who stand outside the frame of the camera. Never seen. Gun dada, Dress dada, Setting, Makeup, Action Master, Spot, Genny Guy, Focus Puller, Vanity Van Driver... the list goes on and on and on. You don't know their names. So you call them dada because most of them are men. Women are not called dadi or tai, they are called by their department name. People scream out these known-unknown names on set all the time. Settttinnngggg! Spottt! Makeupppp! GET OUT OF THE FRAME!!!!

They stand on the edges of the frame, behind the camera, next to the rostrum, holding the boom mike, lighting fires and bombs and simultaneously delivering water and chai and odomos. Everyone waits for the director to say CUT. They wait for the shot to get over so that they can enter the forbidden frame and fix that prop from the continuity of the last scene or dab the sweat off the actor's made up face or change the shot number on the clap board.

The set is a circus. And we're all jokers.

The assistant directors are bang in the centre and are constantly blamed for creating this chaos. They are a team. One takes care of actors, one takes care of props, another of junior artists, one for script and one for something else - for there is always something that needs to be taken care of. They all speak on numbered walkie talkies and try to coordinate the chaos they are blamed for. The world of walkie talkies is a strange world. It has channels assigned to different departments who constantly fight with each other. Sometimes walkie talkies talk during a shot and get abused by the sound guy. Sometimes they play host to long antakshari sessions conducted by bored contestants.

You have all the reasons to hate this space. Bad work environment, delayed payments, neglected safety measures, zombied hours of work, abuse and insult and a complete invasion of any personal or social life you possibly thought of having. People sit inside your room and talk about work and scripts and films and dreams. Sometimes they sit inside your minds too. Leaving you with no reminiscence of the normality of life you once had. You make friends with colleagues. Like the friends you made at a theatre workshop in college once. Like friends with lots of laughter and gossip. Filmy friends. Friends who share stories about the previous films they worked on, friends who talk about struggles on the streets of Bombay, who tell you how warm or snobbish a particular film star is, who share a dream about the script they have written, a dialogue they will definitely use, the award they'd win and the people they will never forget when they become big. Filmy people, who miss Bombay on outdoor shoots, belong to a world so different! It is so different than the one in concrete air conditioned buildings!

At this shoot that killed me and my health in the last two months, I found some of these friends who I will probably never forget. Maybe because they have all put together the experience of my first feature film. The Art department named me 'Titlee'. The name was given to me in the very first week of shoot and it still smells of all the love they showered on me till the last day. I love them all. We have shared whispers during a shot where weren't allowed to speak. We have exchanged glances and smirks when the director lost his cool in the burgeoning madness of setting up of the next shot. We have cribbed and whined and abused and cried on days we couldn't take it any longer (there were soo many days where it was just impossible to get out of bed and work for the 16 hours that lay ahead of us.) With tacit wishes for rain and thunder (that could potentially cancel the shoot) we have traveled through the most exquisite tea gardens planted against sun dipped red skies and traveled back with dead bodies which came alive to witness the magic of the blinking fireflies partying late in the night. We have stuck our heads out of the speeding cars and felt the wind in our faces. Again and Again. We have even danced to Buppy Lehri.

You have all the reasons to absolutely love this space.

It is timeless, I say. Sleeplessness and timelessness walk hand in hand here and tired, sweaty, sun burnt bodies work really really hard. Day and Night. And then sometime, when you're lost in the hurly burly clamor and commotion, wondering what the hell you're doing here, almost teary for dearly missing something you've left behind, someone turns to you and says, 'Ey Titlee, zara hass ke dikha na' and you burst out laughing for you know that this is life and this is real and these are people with magic who can create these moments. And it is because of all this and a little more that you continue laughing - probably its going to start raining very soon.


July 15, 2013

Monsoon romance

Two umbrellas
held conversations below
and a sea full of water above

Two pairs of footsteps
splashed dew drops
on passing cars
and drenched
smiling faces
with laughter.
Tooth full faces
with laughter
that radiate
a zillion colours
into the universe

Two lips moved
and caught conversations
under hanging arms
as battling crowds
rat raced
to empty seats
in crowded trains

Two pairs of eyes
smiled and spoke
from the window afar
raindrops stuck their noses
against the glass
and stared at faces
comfortably fallen asleep
on tired arms

Two stations
in between
slapshed wind
and water
drawn from colourful balloon fights
and soaked two almost lovers
into the roller coaster
of monsoon romance

Monsoon romance
under mobile umbrellas

conversations below
and a sea full of water above

Only fools fancy finding love over the summer!

July 04, 2013


It took me a while to realize the handsome standing outside my gate was Gurjeet, the driver designated to take me on shoot everyday. Looking at his fake driver's license I figured he was as old as my younger brother. People born in the 90s are so young! Every evening Gurjeet gives me a call when he's on his way from Nehru Place to my place. He is usually late. I am usually late too and somehow we have figured a way of being on time for each other even though it is late according to Call time. I look forward to meeting Gurjeet. He have a a little chat before we reach Kehar Palace to pick up the AD team. The background to our conversations has layers of regional punjabi music [lyrics of which I can't decipher], the full blast of the AC and a distant cacophony of cars, horns and people stuck for their lives in traffic [all blocked to our ears by rolled up windows]. Gurjeet and I usually gossip about the crew, bitch about work and calculate the hours of sleep we got the previous day. We talk about the panchayat elections in his village and local kabaddi and cricket tournaments. We examine transportation rates in the market and the money we can make out of it. Sometimes, we talk about the film world and film people because we are surrounded by them all the time! We have even identified our special route to the location in Gurgaon which has my favorite patch of a long roads and wide greens on either sides. I know he indulges me a little even though its a 2 km detour for him. Needless to say, I love my drives with Gurjeet. Somehow, we never fall out of conversation. Somehow, we always manage to laugh with each other. And somehow, I think, we have become friends :)
So here it is - a photograph of Gurjeete who had almost refused to pose for my camera :)