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.



Varun said...

Very well written! :)

Tilpu said...

thanks Varun and welcome to the blog ;p

sp said...

what a lovely post tipply
(buppy lehri makes everything shinier and better)

Tilpu said...

Isn't he absolutely fabulous! we have done upper body dancing in moving cars after long days work into the night and buppy was with us all along.

Tilpu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sp said...

buppy is also a much better way to spell his name. he should change to this version.

yesterday i met someone in geneva who was a huge daler mehendi fan. we sang tunak tunak tun ta ra ra.

Tilpu said...

daler mehendi has the biggest collection of funky turbans. I wonder if he will reappear someday.

sp said...

i thought he had resurfaced recently as a smuggler of persons out of the country and into the uk.

oof ya! said...

love love love :D buppy and jhappi to you. :)

Mohit Madan said...

Awesome post. .now i have to follow ur blog to get smile on my face