Saturday, 2 January 2016

When we Played it the Eff Back: Playback Shoot is Done!

Playback project is called so because we are required to make a track, record it and play it back during shoot. Most people don't do it since most of us here are never going to make films with song sequences lip synced with music etc. Still, i liked the idea and decided to do it the conventional way.

After translating an article on Padayani and getting interested in the art form i had decided that the song portion in my playback project would be Padayani. So i had to record the track. First i thought of calling the artists to Kolkata. That proved to be very expensive for our budget. So i issued equipment from the sound department (once again) and broke rules (once again) to go to Kadammanitta, Kerala, to record my playback track. It was lovely recording on location. I hate studios for their A.C in the first place. The recorded track was of six minutes. I would be using only half of it, may be less. You can listen to it here.

When D Jeet and i started going on location recce and decided on a brick factory and its surroundings as our location for playback i changed the narrative to fit in a story of a worker there getting killed during work, leaving his wife and two children alone at home. I wanted a reality and surrealism mix. We were all set for it.

Working with D Jeet had become difficult. We were fighting all the time. I was getting anxious about the project. Was worried if personal tiffs would end up in bad quality of work. Nothing of the sort happened. During shoot we found our rapport back. But i will have to write about being a woman and handling your crew. The playback project was a huge revelation for me regarding sexism on set and location. It needs to be fought. More on that later.

As usual we took reference frames. I told D Jeet that the approach i wanted for this shoot was what could be called 'neat'. I wanted only 'neat shots'. He seemed to get it. I myself had changed a lot since short film project and realized that my shot breakdown had started to have more wide shots and less of  close ups. I discussed the shot breakdown with Subha and he gave suggestions. So did D Jeet. I took in what i felt was right and discarded others.

G Vijayan Achari and Renjith came from Kadammanitta to dance to my track. I witnessed all stages of Padayani from cutting of the sepal of areca nut trees (paala) to make costume till the point where head gear and breastplate were made using it. Each and every part of the costume is made using things available from nature. The colours are from cinder of coconut shells, powdered red stone. The green is from the green of sepals. White is the white of the inside. Even the brushes used are natural. It is amazing to watch. They said that one costume would last only for two days. Renjith made another costume on the third day.

Renjith cutting the sepals

Renjith making the headgear
The headgear

Playback project has been taken away from the curriculum of the newest batch. After my shoot i know that it is a foolish decision. This project is essential in preparing a student for their diploma project for many reasons. For one you get experience shooting in outdoor locations. You learn how to manage crowds. Where we shot the whole village was present and even started saying 'roll camera, rolling' etc after two days of shoot. Sometimes they were a problem especially for a person like me who has issues with human contact. When the crowd pushes you from behind you feel intimidated. Handling cattle, children, non actors, looking after lip sync, keeping the spirit of  the shoot intact for four whole days even when people have given up sleep and are on location doing various jobs. (one of my shifts was from 11 p.m-7 a.m) all this was making us aware of how serious a job we had undertaken. I had taken in four of my juniors as assistants and it proved to be a very good decision. They worked like there was no tomorrow that i myself was surprised. I am not sure if i would have done the same for any of my seniors.

I was happy with most of the shots. Two or three shots disappointed me and that remains meat between teeth. However, it was great to watch my batchmates grow in their work. I myself realized that i had grown a lot in my story telling, that i was able to make decisions better. D Jeet also seemed to have improved in his craft by leaps and bounds. It made me happy.
This is a shot of the shoot shot by one of my assistants, Kaustav. See how everything is planned and executed and there are no accidents? Every single person and thing in the frame has to be thought of. Accidents if any should only be good which is hardly the case during a shoot. 

Towards the end of the shoot i became rather emotional with D Jeet. The project was going to be our last together. We had good times together. They were really good. We had bad times which were really bad too. May be that was what cinema was all about. It just changes, may be?

Some stills from our shoot clicked by Kaustav, one of my assistants.

Some of our extras, all from the village

The father at the brick house.

The dance

The sleep
Update: After a long drawn out battle with practically everybody on campus, won my right to have another editor as replacement for Aalayam since my sexual harassment complaint against him was still under investigation.

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