Archive for the ‘Making’ Category

QALANDAR

Qalandar* – A 35 year old man from a village in Punjab (India) has to learn riding a Bicycle to get closer to his fleeting dream. A dabbler by nature. Music, cinema and books interest him, and thus, make him a complete misfit in his village and family.

His age and intellect becomes his biggest roadblock in learning cycling and such a trivial pursuit becomes the chase of his life.

To live up to his name, he has to find his way or his way would find him.

(*Qalandars are wandering ascetic Sufi dervishes)

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What does it takes to shoot a Short Film? A device, which is in your hand most of the times. In my case, it is my first independent film, (Director/Producer) so its pure courage. And sometimes, courage is more important than talent.

The thought of Qalandar has been living inside me for quite a few years. There’s a whole charm of riding a bicycle and why it seems like magic, when you balance a bicycle. You are actually defeating gravity in a way. I myself learnt it quite late in my life. I remember my Uncle reacted to this story idea by quoting Albert Einstein. “Life is just like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

The whole genesis of this film originated from a thought of someone not being able to do something very basic and is too old to even attempt that. Something, which can define your existence and masculinity. For the milieu, it was always a friend’s, (Kulwinder Harshaai)  home in Punjab, which came to my mind. I wanted to treat it like a feature film or my first step towards making a feature length film. One thing I was sure about that it has to be in the countryside, or it was my own aversion to cityscape which was also responsible for my location choice.

My friend Kulwinder Harshai, Creative Producer, apart from being my link to this village named Guruharsahai (in Ferozepur District of Punjab) is also the one on whom the protagonist of my story is based.  This film wouldn’t have been possible without him. He just opened the doors of his home and heart, and let us all in! From locations, sets, actors, accommodation, food & country made liquor to music, vocals and the dialogues of the film.

Though an independent film but I approached every department from the feature’s perspective. I was lucky the first technician who I shared the script with, came on board as the cinematographer, and Mihir Desai also ended up becoming my Co-Producer. This has been the best casting of the film!

Now our main objective was how we are going to tell the story on screen. I wanted to explore Punjab beyond the clichés of pop culture like mustard fields, hospitality, handsome men, bhangra, food & flamboyance. The Punjab etched up in my mind did have all this but primarily it had a serene and placid feel to it, which I’ve attempted to capture in the visual narrative.

I myself a product of pop-culture but my biggest grouse with it is that it never exercises its power to propagate the hidden gems of any culture; and is only interested in ‘selling’ culture as commodity. The land of five rivers, including the part in Pakistan, has given us poets like Shiv Kumar Batalavi, Paash, Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhanvi to name a few. And, if we delve deeper into the history Baba Farid, Bulleh Shah and Guru Nanak. I’ve seen Batalwi & Paash’s books being sold at popular places like bus stations in Punjab but the pop-culture chooses not to mention it at all!

Film making is a collaborative art, I knew and had seen it in the best of professional set ups in Bombay. And it’s ‘magic’ too, I saw this happening every day. The way one by one whole village came together to make sure Qalandar moves! Dev Verma, my associate, ushered them all from our side incredibly – from recording sync sound to making sure we cover everything on time.

The villagers never said ‘no’! The most beautiful example of this collaboration is the scene, when Qalandar is pushing the bicycle uphill. This hill, which we all called “Dali’s Hill” was made accessible by villagers. I guess the ‘Spirit’ scored over logistics or it was simply Punjabiyat, as we all say back home!

Since the story idea was based on Kulwinder’s life I had decided to cast him only as Qalandar…But as I got into the pre-production I realized, thankfully, I could either burden his gentle shoulders as an actor or a creative producer, not both, and I chose the latter.

Siddharth Sen, a professional actor based in Bombay, came on board as Qalandar. Siddharth transformed into Qalandar effortlessly and his quiet charm warmed up all of Kulwinder’s family, who were part of the film’s main cast. Siddharth, a keen observer just absorbed everything around him and that reflects in the subtler nuances of the film. The reason for casting Kulwinder’s family was essentially budget and equally the fact that raw actors bring certain truth to their performances which technically correct ones may not be able to!

Working with all of them was absolute pleasure. I just had to share the gist of moment with them and often capture the magic, or was it truth? This film is a combination of good accidents also. Qalandar’s Chacha, who works in the fields as a supervisor is an 80 year old man. He was one actor who improvised and was cracking jokes off camera! A real Qalandar!

Somi, who plays Qalandar’s nephew and confidante in the film is a trained Physiotherapist in Faridkot, Punjab. His love for Alia Bhatt and social media has become a part of my narrative as well. How Somi came up with his own lines, which became dialogues of the film is also memorable!

We finally managed to finish Qalandar’s shoot in five days. The film was edited on my personal laptop “Macbook Pro” with the help of my editor, John Joseph, and it took me six months of post-production to finish the film, since, I was working on Aamir Khan’s Secret Superstar simultaneously as a Script Supervisor. Indirectly it was my assignment with Aamir Khan Productions, which made Qalandar see light of the day!

We had a 35 minute long first cut, which was brought to 26 minutes. Now we decided to abandon editing the film and finalizing it. Mandar Kamalapurkar (Sound Designer) brought a certain kind of finesse and texture to the film. Mandar’s expertise took the film to another level! He was patient and professional at the same time.

Finally there are few names, which still helped this film but I cannot define their role. Pallavi Pethkar (Poster Design), Collin D’cunha (Talent Sourcing), Mohit Sharma (Ambal Productions), Shipan Vyas (Vfx), Mahak Gupta (DI), Priyarth Mukherjee, Kedar Sonar and Kasbah Digital. My apologies to those who are in my heart but my brain fails to recall!

To live up to his name he has to find his way or his way would find him: We too are on our way, it seems!

– Rohit Sharma

Qalandar premieres for the world on 3rd May, 2017 at the New York Indian Film Festival, New York. So if you are in NY, do catch it.

Screening info:
3rd May 6:15pm
Village East Cinema, New York, New York.

(Qalandar was also Shortlisted in MAMI Film Festival, 2016 (Mumbai) under Large Shorts Category. Winner of Best Screenplay- Jury in Indian World Film Festival, 2017 (Hyderabad, India), Official Selection, New York Indian Film Festival 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear friends, supporters and well-wishers,

Sincere thanks from the bottom of my heart for thousands of amazing congratulatory messages that we have received in the last few days. We are simply overwhelmed! Many of you have asked us to pen down the experience of discovering, writing and creating the inspiring story of ‘Poorna’ for the screen. It’s difficult to summarise two year long journey in a single post. But here’s a modest attempt to capture that frustrating but exciting journey.

Discovering Poorna

It all started in August 2014 when Shreya (my wife and co-writer) first heard about this incredible story of Malavath Poorna on NDTV. I also noticed that the story had tremendous potential. I had been working on a mountaineering film which wasn’t progressing at the expected pace, so I was not very sure about taking this up. Instead I was looking to go back being a writer for hire. I was both financially broke and unsure of taking another spec script adventure.

However, the symbolism and the potential messaging in the story was too strong to resist! The idea of a thirteen year old overcoming our societal attitudes towards girl child, hopeless education systems, and the almost insurmountable social challenges of being born a Tribal Girl, it overtook all my professional inertia. We took the first baby step towards the film by trying to summarize what this story symbolized, by spending several nights of furious notes making.

I had a “writerly” conviction when I wrote a treatment note and sent an e mail proposal to the Telengana Government. I was almost sure that no one will reply and this will be forgotten.

But the government responded, and soon Dr. R S Praveen Kumar spoke to us on phone. On 25th August 2014, we boarded a flight to Hyderabad to meet Dr. Praveen Kumar. By this time I had an entire file on Poorna, creation of Telangana and RS Praveen Kumar life.

The film looked like a strong polemic which worried Shreya, but it satiated my unconsciousness deeply because I wanted a film which has a practical use. My brother used to mention that John Le Carre’s “The Constant Gardner” is shown to all Oxfam staff in programs in Africa. I wanted to create that kind of film.

Dr. Praveen Kumar met us and understood why we wanted to make a movie on this. He was also quite impressed with our ideas about the film but he kept asking us “are you sure…Prasahanthji…!! Are you sure?” I told him even if the film doesn’t happen, I was just very happy to meet him. So he, in a split second, agreed to do a chai pe charcha next day outside his office.

It was Sunday. We had tea in the “shadow of guns” at the Andra Pradesh Police Officers Mess lawns. I understood that even though Dr. Praveen Kumar works in social welfare department; he is a decorated IPS officer whose life is valuable to the state. I can’t say more.

Dr. Praveen Kumar is a man of immense vision, and has razor sharp understanding of conflict and human emotions. Poorna is an extension of his belief, and our access to the subject matter of the film.

So in the meeting Dr. Kumar took our thought systems like a storm, in half an hour I formed the structure of the film in my head.

I also had a giant déjà vu moment. Interestingly, Dr. Praveen Kumar had already featured in a movie called Rakta Charitam – a film written by me, in which Kannada Superstar Sudeep played his role as a cop who took on the mighty faction leader Paritala Ravi, played by Vivek Oberoi.

I love kiccha Sudeep and I took that as a divine signal. That very day, Shreya and me wrote a one liner sitting in a corner in his office and carried edits in our hotel.

It was all spec and since I’ve been a writer for hire for large-hearted producers, this film brought in a very tough transition. All expenses…outstation travel, local stay, local travel, expensive print out at hotels…were going to be on our own expense. Nobody was funding or managing the usual 5-star-all-expenses-paid writing extravaganza. So we had to be very careful because it seemed it would take time for this film to be made, much like all films do.

Then we met Poorna and Anand (climbed the Mount Everest with her), and had a free-wheeling chat about their life aspirations, over lots of ice cream and cold drinks. I noticed Poorna looked like an old soul. Not much in terms of plot points but I got a fair idea about the abstractions which would be used in adapting her life for reel.

We spent rest of time reading up Social welfare school books and getting acquainted with facts; because we were dealing with a story involving a government sponsored program.

A lot of plot also comes from our own observations. On a road trip to Kashid, we had seen poor students sweeping the school in Maharashtra while the rich ones kept sauntering here and there. We decided to put that in our film.

Creating The Script

It was clear that the film will have to be dramatized heavily as compressing events within the cinematic time would be big challenge. Then there is a huge North Indian bias which prevails in Bollywood. Why would they care about a village called Pakala in a town called Nizamabad?

That overwhelmed us completely. The problems presented themselves often. It paralyzed the entire writing.

So we put deep thinking aside and made marketing pitches, and started to write to almost all indie producers, from Kerela to Mumbai. My experiences with studios weren’t very good earlier, so I avoided them for fear of further disappointment.

Almost all showed very less interest despite the fact that Telangana Government had given us an impressive list of freebies like free locations and subsidized stay and local travel for the film crew.

Many producers kept squeezing us and often offered other projects to direct or write.

Another idea was to approach a “big” director like Neeraj Pandey, who could make this possible. But I realized making a movie is easier here than to get Neeraj Pandey or Adi Chopra’s phone number. The people in between don’t let that happen.

We thought it was happening because we had not put enough work on the script. So this time around Shreya came up with a character of a cousin sister for Poorna called Priya. Suddenly it opened up lot of pain in the narrative and gave us tragic dimensions of Poorna’s character- same arc played out as a tragedy – two sisters – the happy go lucky breaks out while the other talented and ambitious one is thrown into darkness of early marriage destroying all her hopes . Thus it became a film about a girl who Dr. Praveen Kumar, despite his best efforts, wont be able to save. That gave Dr. Praveen Kumars’ character a certain hurry and pace in this game of numbers – girls inside the school and girls outside the school.

The script was rewritten with this central idea and results showed up immediately. When Ashok Purang (Producer of Filmistan) heard it, he reconnected me to my friend Tanisha (actor) who I had worked with in Sarkar Raj. In the first narration, Tanuja ji (Actor/Tanisha’s mother) got very emotional. They had not yet set up their production house but offered all logistical support if I was to make this soon.

Back To Hyderabad

I met a star producer called Dilraju, who loved the subject but wasn’t sure about the film’s box office pull. Unless a star got involved to play the mentor and a Bombay based distribution tie-up. I was like a grazing goat looking to chew on Akshay Kumar’s Bollywood grass but intermediaries in between kept us out.

We then applied for NFDC co-production market. We were certain that it would be picked but when it didn’t make the cut, we were crestfallen. I never felt such a rage in my life.

Flight To Delhi

Given the story’s close relevance to Government’s much well-intentioned and praised ‘Beti Padhao Beti Bachao’ mission, a source in Hyderabad told us to chase Prakash Javdekar (I & B minister), who could route the film through CFSI. It sounded quite like a plan. We landed in Delhi.

Our  source mysteriously disappeared just as we were about to reach Shashtri Bhawan. Air tickets + Hotel expenses – everything went for a toss. Later, when the minister came to know about our plight, he apologized and called us to Pune.

The Bus To Pune

Few hours after he accepted our file, we learnt that he had been transferred to the Forest ministry. An expensive handmade poster which I designed and got made to impress the Hon. Minister is still lying in my study! The title of the film in that poster was ‘’Power Girl Poorna’’!

The Final Push

One year passed as we kept doing breakdowns, storyboards, posters, drafts and more drafts of the script. But still we had no producer.

Actor Sonu Sood loved the script immensely but offered me another film he was about to produce.

So despite our best intentions, we were back to square one. Then my brother Nishant introduced me to actor Rahul Bose who decided to come on board as a producer. Rahul set up meetings. I narrated the script to Amit Patni who later funded the film. I passed the producers baton to them happily and made the Telangana Government meet the production for work to begin.

I very much feel this film is my baby as a writer and co-director, and I feel very proud of the mark it’s making. “Poorna” represents the aspirations of millions of children in rural India, and the power they possess to realise these aspirations. As the dialogue goes in the film- “Joote nahi hai toh kya hua, pair toh hai.

Prashant Pandey

Salman Rushdie recently wrote a column championing the film, Lion. If you haven’t read it, click here. As the Oscar buzz builds up for the film, we asked its India Casting Director Tess Joseph to write about her experience working on the film.

(click on any pic to start the slide show)

Since that afternoon in early June 2014 when we began casting for Garth Davis’ Lion to February 22nd, 2017, today, standing here at the at the Academy Awards Nominees dinner, it has been an unbelievable journey.

It began with a story, the unbelievable yet true journey of Saroo Brierley who found his mother after being lost for 25 years. The task was not easy, we had to find a Little Saroo, possibly 5-6 years with talent, stillness, depth and innocence. We also needed to find his teenaged brother Guddu, a nurturer and who would evolve into a beacon through the story, and a host of other characters. The casting processes were happening simultaneously: Kirsty Mc Gregor (Casting Director) and her team looking for the older Saroo while we searched for the younger one.

One thing was clear, this casting was not going to happen out of the hub of all things films in Mumbai – the suburb Versova or any audition room across the city. We needed to go back to our basics at India Casting Call, something we had done for Life of Pi and SOLD, we had to go back to school. We also needed the children to travel to Australia as part of the shoot so paperwork to support a passport application was imperative. Kirsty McGregor and I were on the same page from the moment we began: if my task of meeting and conducting workshops with classrooms full of children in India was daunting, Kirsty had to review each and every single audition in a language she didn’t understand. We did this together with almost choreographed synchronicity.

I had a team that was a force to reckon with – Karishma Mathur, an actress and drama teacher helmed the project alongside me. Her love and patience for working with children can beat anyone hands down. My young casting associates Aishwarya Amin and Bhawan Jha were invaluable. Then there was Vaibhav Gupta, who would go on to becoming Sunny Pawar’s acting coach on set and an integral of the film and production. We also had colleagues in Pune and Delhi helping us extend our search for the perfect Little Saroo. I will say, pick your team wisely, each one must balance the other and contribute something unique and valuable to the process.

Always, we tried out all the scenes as a team. Sometimes, I see audition tapes where Karishma is curled up like Little Saroo or Bhawan is desperately searching for Guddu. When your team has experienced the characters and the scenes, they understand on which moments the scenes pivot, they understand what it takes; they are always aware and looking for that during the auditions.

For this film we were working through schools with classrooms full of children. We used storytelling and games to observe the reactions of the kids. Each team member would pick potential candidates. We never shared who we thought might be right because that creates bias. With children the only way to unleash something special is patience and being completely non-judgmental. Don’t dismiss someone because you think they are not “right,” give them a chance and who knows they might surprise you.

Abhishek Bharate, who plays Guddu in the film auditioned with us on 7 June 2014 – if you have a good filing system it’s never hard to find anyone who has auditioned for you. Looking back at the tapes from that day I noticed something very special. Abhishek who lives between Pune and Mumbai had come in early that morning. He finished his audition quickly and he was on the top of our list from the start. But the thing that shines from that day was that Abhishek stayed for almost the whole day playing Guddu to so many younger boys who had come in. At one point when I asked him, “Don’t you have other things to do?” he replied, “No Didi, this is good. I get to do the scenes in different ways… I like it.” It’s that spirit that even Garth mentions about Abhishek, his generosity as an actor and to Sunny. A glimpse of that generosity was seen way before, even when he came for the audition. It is rare to see any actor offer what Abhishek did and I guess that is what made him the one actor I was willing to fight for if it came down to him and another actor. As a Casting Director, I feel you get to pick one actor who is worth fighting for on every film, someone you will come in with more than one reason to support because they bring more than just talent to the film.

Casting Saroo’s mom, also, was a moment of serendipity. We had many significant and amazing actors audition for the role but, even now, when I play back Priyanka Bose’s tape, there is magic. Garth and Kirsty did not know of her but when they saw her audition they felt it too – magic. Maybe, it was Priyanka’s own experiences as a mom that brought truth to the scenes, maybe it was her sheer determination, maybe we will never know what exactly she brought into the room that day but with it she ensured that no one else would play Kamla.

The entire India cast — be it Nawazuddin Siddique, Deepti Naval or Tannishtha Chatterjee— all came on board after reading and believing that there was something special about this story. They all had short yet pivotal roles and Tannishtha’s role evolved from a rewrite.

We were not only looking for a lot of young talent for Lion, my team was also pretty young. Aishwarya was all of 20 years and without her we would have never found Sunny. He was discovered in her school in Kalina from hundreds of students who auditioned. Sunny came to us after we had screened about 2,000 children from across three cities. We had shortlists and hopefuls, and Sunny was one among them. Kirsty, Karishma and I loved his face. He had soulful eyes, a certain stillness and husky voice. It was not until the September workshops did Sunny come alive as Little Saroo with help from acting coach Miranda Harcourt, who was assisted by Vaibhav and Karishma. I remember Garth’s face when we were looking at pictures of Sunny with Abhishek. Garth was in love. The team was heading next to Pune and Delhi for final workshops and callbacks but we knew we already had one solid choice for Little Saroo – Sunny Pawar.

I find it strange sometimes that we pick out “preparation for a film” as an exception to the rule. We rave about an actor making physical changes or building his body. Preparation is key to any film and it’s the little things that count, like requesting a school to allow Sunny or Abhishek to not cut their hair or reminding them to be careful about what they eat. These are things that every actor must do.

Similarly, the casting process demands time, a method and a great team. When you do have all three, you find Lion cubs with roaring performances like Sunny’s, Abhishek’s, Keshav’s and the many amazing children who are part of the film.

And in my case, I also find myself mulling over this whole process with a smile pasted silly on my face at the Academy Awards Nominee’s dinner, dressed in the fancy red and gold Sabyasachi ensemble, staring at the text message from my friend back home informing me that I am the first Indian casting director nominated for Casting Society of America’s Artios Awards for Best Casting and also one of the first (Indian casting director again) to be invited to the Academy Awards Nominee’s Dinner for extraordinary contribution to a Best Picture Nominee. I am not too sure about that heavy accolade but it definitely feels magical to be appreciated in La La La.

I started stopping everyone I know (and didn’t know) to make them listen to Coke Studio Pakistan about six years ago. One of the many things that stands out is the excellent house-band that the studio has.

This post is just a small thank you from someone who admires Coke Studio Pakistan’s magicians. I hardly see ‘filmwalas or musicians’ discuss about Coke Studio Pakistan but that can never negate the fact that Coke Studio Pakistan is undoubtedly the biggest music brand to come out of the subcontinent in as far as I can remember. Melody, continuously. So let us  quickly say thank you to those who stood out this season.

Tanveer Tafu:tanveer-tafu

  • Be it his jaw dropping guitar in Sakal bann.
  • Be it his mandolin play in Rung Jindri (Where he affords himself a sway and rockstar swag as a bonus!)
  • Be it his Banjio in Umran lagiyaan (Yes it is called Banjio! I didn’t know it)
  • Be it his mandolin play that elevates Khari neem higher than the empire state building
  • Be it his Turkish Saaz play in Ajj din vehre which is brief yet quite soothing.
  • Be it Khalis Makhan in which his Rhubab was jumping and making moves like a kid negotiating stairs playfully
  • Be it Tajdar-e-haram in which the Rhubab lent depth to the song that pauses everything else in your mind.
  • Be it the nostalgia inducing Rhuaab in Hare hare baans.

No Matter what Tafu sahab holds, it starts playing and playing rather well!

 

Sajid AliSajid-Ali

  • He touched a chord with his splendid participation in Phool banro, which to my mind remains the song of the season in the 7th Season of Coke Studio.
  • be it in Khalis Makhan where the flute was accompanying Bakshi brothers all throughout and taking us back to those childhood days when life was a bit more than ‘likes’, ‘selfies’, ‘lol’. XboX etc.
  • Or take his example in the fabulous Umraan laggyan. Towards the end, song reaches crescendo thanks to the lovely flute that makes you visualize a lover (who was waiting forever on her toes) running towards the door where her lover is approaching. Someone said flute is next to voice, I think they can use examples like this song to further their point.
  • Or be it the fabulous ‘Ve Baneya‘ in which not only the flute furthers the song and stays largely in the background otherwise and sings along Mulazim especially when he goes ‘Haye Jaau Kahan
  • Or be it the heartbreaking and beautiful ‘Ajj din vehre‘ in which Sajid along with the brilliant Arsalan give the song the right feel.
  • I could go on and on about his participation in the Khari neem because of which the song sounds breezier, or I could remind us of rockstar, in which the flute added to the swag of the song, and you can almost picture a narcissistic  rockstar making a slow entry to the scene. But i won’t.

 

Arsalan Ali Arsalan-Ali

The magician on Harmonium! It was his groove that started the season and he pretty much rocked throughout. Be it Aankharli Pharookai, Tajdar-e-haram, or the ‘lahori’ touch he adds when the harmonium plays along with Ali Zafar in rockstar, and lest we forget, its quiet accompaniment throughout but especially during ‘Umraan lagiyaan paban pa’ in the fabulous Umran lagiyan. It is safe to conclude that with Arsalan’s Harmonium, the sound of the studio gets an earthy touch.

Coke-Studio-Season-4-House-Band-Jaffer-Zaidi-6Jaffer Ali Zaidi

Do we remember the subtle beginning of Rang jindri where the calm keyboards set up the stage for something as simple as ektaaaara to give you goosebumps with a simple riff? Sheer beauty! Even towards the end, the lasting notes on keyboard welcome the descending fading notes of Chimtaaa which make it surreal. Jaffer is always there, like Oxygen. It doesn’t matter if we notice him or not, but his keyboard play is always necessary. Listen to sohini dharti again and catch the keyboard play again, you will know what I mean.

19Aahad Nayani

I remember getting all angry with his excessive antics in Season 7. Of course we weren’t used to seeing excessive display of any emotion by drummers in the Studio (Give me Gumby any day!). That aside, Aahad really acted like a metronome to almost all the songs where he was present. His perfect outing in Sakal bann, Khari neem, rockstar just added so much to these songs, not to mention that delightful acknowledgement and pointer towards Nabeel at the end of ‘Bewajah

Babar Ali KhannaBabar-Ali-Khanna-Laili-Jaan-1

  • Though subtle, Babar was superb in rung jindri especially where his dholak brings in antras.
  • To me, Babar was top of his game in Fizza Javed’s parts of ‘Ve baneya‘. There is just so much emotion in both the Antaras of hers, and dholak’s variation just amplifies that emotion. Rare for a dholak to have so much airtime and boy did it work!
  • Of course we can never forget the way Babar’s tabla in sakal bann (especially during ‘bhaant bhaant ke phool mangaye) and Piya dekhan ko. Both these songs can make wonderful Indian dance songs with a lot of ‘bhaav‘, largely thanks to Babar.
  • And the way babar added a desi touch in rockstar and umran lagiyaan when the tempo of the song changes, speaks volumes of his talent and the faith producers have in him.

 

Omran-ShafiqueOmran Shafique

Smiling as usual and swaying to music (with a pout or two) was brilliant but I missed seeing an out and out Sunn ve balori like song where he soared like no other and stole the show from a very very able Meesha Shafi, or for that matter the powerful rendition in the ever so strong Jawad Ahmad’s Mitti da pahalwan.

Kamran ‘Mannu’ Zafar

My first favorite musician from CokeStudio Pakistan. His brilliance is that you will hardly see any emotion but the bass line that every song enjoys in the studio, is his doing. You will love the way he started ‘rockstar’, you might even like the depth he lends when Jaffer ali zaidi says ‘nyun‘ for the first time in Nyun la leya ve. This blogpost would run out of space If I try to enumerate his contribution over the years. Thank you, Kamran

kamran

Strings section

Javed Iqbal sahab, Islamuddin meer Sahab, Saeed Ahmed Sahab and Mansoor Ahmed Sahab were there, quietly running the riot of colors on all of us as we sat, bewildered and smitten at the same time.

String section

  • How can we ever forget the transformation of an old classic which was largely due to the extremely hot and sensual strings section? Yes, I am referring to the superb ‘Khari neem‘. Mai Bhagi sang the song first  and I am sure wherever she is, she would have smiled and probably given a bit of shoulder dance on this version and the string section is to be applauded for a large part of that.
  • Don’t forget the superb flow of the string section in Rung jindri. Strings are quite prominent anyway but watch out especially in the second line of mukhda, and second part of antra, the way strings flow, they are nothing short of melodious miracle hidden in a song and it hits you when you least expect.
  • Not to forget the radical change in the string pattern in the first stanza of Rabba ho which to me is the highlight of the song.
  • Not only from this season, but Javed Iqbal sahab has mesmerized everyone in countless songs…be it Husn-e-haqiqi where the violin was continuously giving Arieb Azhar good company, or Senraa bayaria where your violin pierced the soul at 4:08 minutes, or for that matter, the powerful beginning you gave in Neray aah and Na raindee hai. I could go on and on, Sir, but I would summarize it with a big Thank you!

Back up vocals

Be it the hamnawas in Tajdar-e-haram or the magnificent boys aiding the house backups in Rang jindri, I cannot write enough praises for the backups in the season. They were subtle and stuck to the brief, which, to an outsider like me, looks like was, “it’s the music and not heroics stupid!” A special mention of the house-band’s back ups excellent strategy of enforcing ‘saa’ ‘tarse’ part of ‘Piya dekhan ko’. Ustad Hamid clearly didn’t have a clear pronunciation of ‘tarse,’ and that could have made the sound a bit dated. Very smart! It starts from 1:33 min on wards in the song, do hear it to know what I mean. Of course, it was just phenomenal to see them getting a significant part in Rockstar in which they complimented Ali all throughout, adding the required charm and craziness of ‘fans’

Other partners in crime

The strength of Coke Studio Pakistan is their brilliant house-band without a doubt. They have all been splendid all throughout and may be because it is fresh in the memory, but I absolutely relished the way Imran Akhoond, Haider Ali and Kamran played around in the mid section of ‘Armaan’ song.

Sikandar Mufti

Coke-Studio-Season-4-House-Band-Sikandar-Mufti-4

Last but certainly not the least. There is always at least one guy in a group who is a friend of everyone and is always seen smiling. Sikandar Mufti reminds me of that guy. One more thing – Sikandar rules the percussion! Apart from his incomparable talent, it is hard to not smile every time the camera pans on to him. It looks like he is the happiest when an experiment goes well in the studio. You can see him gesticulating (remember the start of Zu sta pa sha?)  and not being loud at that…all this with a smile! Thank you, Sikandar. And not just for this season, for all the seasons of which you have been a fabulous part of!

Every single one of you have given us all a benchmark to measure the various aspects of Coke Studio Pakistan. There is a some movement on this side of the border as well, and you guys are the textbook reference for those who want to know how it’s done.

So, here’s a toast to everyone for making the experience breathtaking, heartbreaking, melodious, sensual, insightful, reflective, and all good things that come to our mind when we play ‘my-favorite-wala-song-from-Coke-Studio-Pakistan’

Love from India.

Rohwit

You can find more about all artists here

So Jahan Singh Bakshi gets to design his first film poster. And that too for a well know filmmaker – Jahnu Barua. His film Baandhon is getting a multi-city release this friday. Do watch the film if you can. And over to Jahan on “making of the poster”. Or should we say when Jahan met Jahnu 🙂 Anyway, go ahead and read this very interesting post.

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Jahnu Barua’s Baandhon (Waves of Silence) will be releasing in select theaters across the nation this week, and thanks to Shiladitya Bora I had the great opportunity to design a poster for the film. I haven’t seen any of Jahnu Da’s work apart from his only (released) feature in Hindi- Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Maara- which is something I hope to change soon. But I happened to meet the soft-spoken filmmaker once before during college in Calcutta and then recently in Bombay before getting to work on the poster and it was a pleasure on both occasions- even though he speaks so gently that one often has to strain to even hear what he is saying! Moreover, I spent much of my growing years in Assam and it is an honour to have an Assamese film from one of the most esteemed filmmakers from the region as my feature poster debut, especially since this is a first-of-its-kind Pan-India release for an Assamese film.

Anyway, back to the poster. Baandhon is a disarmingly sweet film  which beautifully shows the relationship between an old couple superbly played by Bishnu Kharghoria and Bina Patangia. The first half of the film plays out like a genteel comedy, with the old man and woman constantly bickering and then making up. It reminded me of so many old couples including my grandparents- they can’t live with or without each other. The second half of the film, where their grandson goes missing during the 26/11 attacks in Bombay is a comment on how it is the common man who bears the impact of the large scale politics and terror.

For me, one dialogue from the film pretty much summed it all up:

“We are common people. The world is too big for us. We have no choice but to trust in it.” 

Two simple people who live in their own small world oblivious to the harshness and the cruelty that lies outside.

Since the film’s look is pretty simple and basic, I wanted to reinterpret the film a little differently while maintaining this essence. I saw the film in two halves. When I am making a poster the first thing I look out for is an image from the film that stays with me. In the first half I would say this was the image that defined the film for me.

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The first thought was to use this image with the two on the rickshaw with the two holding hands in between. I loved the charming and hilarious first half of the film- I have to admit that I wished that the terror angle never came into the picture; I could watch these two quarrel endlessly!) However, I realized that the comment on terror and violence is an important part of the film and the Jahnu Da’s intent behind making it.

After watching the second half, I found what is easily one of the most haunting and defining visuals from the film:

Baandhon cover

So this was it. The old couple on a bench with the alien city of Bombay in the backdrop which could perhaps have a hint of violence or destruction. I deliberated on how I would depict Bombay in the backdrop and suggest violence without it becoming  loud or overwhelming. Ultimately I zeroed in on Victoria Terminus (you’ll see why when you watch the film).

The shot in question is from behind the bench, and Deepshikha Mondal (who did the title design and was to initially do the artwork) asked why can’t we use the exact shot from the film as seen above. It is a powerful visual, no doubt. But I insisted on sticking to a front-on view. Movie Posters are after all, commercial art and it always helps to have a face on a poster, especially when a lot of the audience know nothing about the film or its characters, and especially since we were going to have only one poster, it’s essential to make that connect. And it needs to stand out.

Besides, I have a soft spot for what I like to call the ‘dollhouse’ aesthetic, with a flat symmetrical design- reminiscent as many have pointed out- of Wes Anderson films. I wouldn’t say it is inspired by him- in fact my love for this kind of frame is what drew me to Wes Anderson’s films in the first place- but yeah, they do serve as a great reference point. Also I was keen to have a caricature style for the character design- to lend the poster freshness as well as capture the innocence and droll humour of the film.

Clients, as any designer will tell you, can be a nightmare to work with. At the very least, you need to show them exactly what you have in mind for the final design, or they can’t visualize it. (And I can tell you that even after they are executed completely, the best designs often lie unused and unseen.) And I have to really hand it to Shiladitya for not even asking a single question regarding what the poster would really look like. This is the sketch I first sent him, to give him a basic idea- and it really  is BASIC in the truest sense.

Baandhon

Sketch by Deepshikha Mondal

Anyway, I don’t know whether he really got the idea or just trusted me highly, but I really have to thank him for giving me a go ahead on the basis of this. It’s a big risk to take on someone who has done almost no independent posters before. Now the next step was to make the title logo and flesh out the character design and drawing style.

TITLE DESIGN

For the title design, Deepshikha suggested we create/use a font that is a fusion of the Roman and Assamese script and I was totally on board with the idea. Shiladitya didn’t like the initial title design (seen in the second image from top)- and I agreed that readablility could be an issue. However I was a bit stubborn here and managed to convince him that with bolder glyphs and minus some lines and curves it would be perfectly readable. I wanted this particularly because I wanted an Assamese touch to the poster, in the title, even if not in the image.

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Final Title Logo by Deepshikha Mondal

ILLUSTRATION/CHARACTER DESIGN:

We had already decided on a clean, caricature style for the characters- droll, but still serious. I wanted the feeling of two simpletons sitting on a bench a la Forrest Gump, looking straight ahead at the audience. Deepshikha made the first sketch- which didn’t quite turn out as I imagined it. We tried to rework the design as Deepshikha had seen the film and I thought she could give a nice, North-East Indian aesthetic to it. Unfortunately, she was piled with other work and we were way past deadline and running out of time.

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First illustration by Deepshikha Mondal

That’s when Mrinal Roy came into the picture. I love Mrinal’s illustration work and I was working with him on another poster that should be out soon. I couldn’t give him a copy of Baandhon, which is why I didn’t approach him for this poster. However, now being short on time I got in touch with him and he agreed to do it at incredibly short notice. Mrinal is one of those guys who- unlike me- doesn’t speak a lot- so I never really know whether he’s getting my vision. Anyway, I sent him as many stills and promos off the net that I could find online along with references.

When I saw the first line-drawing, I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. He had got it down pat  and pretty much nailed it perfectly.. I remember telling him that he could place the ‘kalash’ anywhere he wanted- in the center or the side (even though I preferred it  in the center). He sent me this, saying: ‘I put the kalash in the center because it belongs to both of them.’ That made me smile.

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First cut- Character line-art by Mrinal Roy

The man’s face looked a little too angry, and the woman was a little too roly-poly and North-Indian. So the man’s eyes were to be made softer and sadder and the lady was to be put on a bit of a diet. That was fixed. Then came the background. I hadn’t asked Mrinal to put a lot of detail in the background- there was very little time and it wasn’t necessary. However, he absolutely floored me with the detailing he put into the Victoria Terminus sketch and the poster is all the better for it. My idea was to have a busy background and a clean foreground with gentle waves ending the picture. I think he got that right. The last thing to do was to add the smoke rising from the building which was my little contribution to the artwork.

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The Final Poster

There are a few things I would have liked to change, if I had more time. Mainly the colours and the textures. Maybe a little more detail to say, the lady’s saree, etc. But I’m largely satisfied with the result and this was a great learning experience. Most of the credit for this however goes to Mrinal. Like I said before (the night I was sent the artwork):Screen shot 2013-07-04 at 12.05.06 PM

A thank you to a few more people:

Malvika Asher who suggested the font for the poster- Bariol was just the kind of clean, slightly rounded typeface I was looking for (it’s been used in the trailer too). Sidharth who painstakingly put it all together on Illustrator. Shiladitya and Jahnu Da for the opportunity. for And to everyone who has had kind and encouraging words to say about the poster .

Do watch the film, it releases in cinemas this Friday.

PS: Confession. I purposely didn’t send Shiladitya the line drawing and the in-progress pictures from the poster. Wanted him to see it in entirety before making any suggestions or changes. Thankfully, there were none. 🙂

If you have not seen the “making of” Udaan, you have missed the best “making of” (film) made in recent years. Quickly go here and here and watch it. It’s as good as Udaan and is a film in itself.

Cut to

Lootera.

Again. Hope no controversies this time 🙂

Lootera making

Since they started teasing about it, we have been keenly waiting for Lootera making. Good news is it’s out. Bad news is it’s just 5 minutes. But it looks good – unlike others it gives a real sense of “making a film”. We hope they soon release the full making of the film.

The first part of the “Satya” series was posted here. And now the second one. Written by its editor Apurva Asrani.

Satya

–> Disclaimer: There is a term called ‘The Rashomon Effect’; in which observers of an event produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of ‘the truth’.

So it is possible, that my truth, may differ from yours…

1997.

Sequences from Satya were getting a fabulous response from those that previewed it. We were editing alongside the filming. Ramu was a very instinctive director and was confident enough to alter characters & screenplay as he went along. His vision was broadening before our eyes. Saurabh Shukla was on set playing Kallu Mama as well as collaborating as a writer. Anurag Kashyap too was writing on location, other times he wrote in the evenings at Ramu’s large but modest Four Bungalows apartment.

It was a vodka/whisky darbar and young non-drinkers (or beer-drinkers like me) spent evenings like this without a glass. I can be corny and say that we were intoxicated in the air of a brilliant collaboration! The fit and pretty Urmila Matondkar hung out with us too, she was warm and charming, a complete departure from her cold & reserved self on set.

Along with the other assistants like Barnali Ray (now Shukla), Pradnya Lokhande (now Sharma), Feroze and Dev, I too pondered about the plausibility of the Ramu-Urmila affair as was reported. We looked for clues in those casual evenings, and convened later on to exchange notes. My close friends would often ask for gossip and I would try to look for evidence. If you’re eager to know, I never did find it; nothing conclusive at least.

First day of shooting. 12th of August 1997.

The location was a stinky stable in the suburb of Jogeshwari where Manoj Pahwa’s character introduces Satya to his new home. I wasn’t sure about Chakri’s dialogue delivery, but there was comfort in the talk that it might be dubbed later. A few hours into the shoot, Ramu received a phone-call. I saw before my eyes the blood drain from his face. His friend, media baron Gulshan Kumar had been murdered, riddled indiscriminately with bullets.

Ramu became very disturbed. We stopped work and followed him around for more news, he was among the few with a mobile-phone. It dawned upon me for the first time, how close to the truth our film was. Ramu was taking a great risk by making a film on the extortion enterprise while gangsters still ruled Bombay. I didn’t know then, that much of the film’s story-flow would be altered post this incident.

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Chakri & Manjo

I liked Chakri (Chakravarti). He came from an acting background that I was familiar with. My mother is a Telugu girl and I had seen many Telugu film’s while growing up. I empathized with Chakri’s discomfort with Hindi and we spent a lot of time together, discussing his plans for the character. I was also privy to Chakri’s soft-spot for another crew member and I often dispensed to him the wisdom of a 19 yr old.

Manoj Bajpai also became a close friend. I called him ‘Manjo’. Manoj often hitched a ride with me on my rickety-old Kinetic Honda, came out clubbing with me and my friends, and even had a few drinks with my father. Manoj had the utmost awe for the work I was doing, and encouraged me to follow my style. One day Manoj signed an agreement with me stating that he would act in my 1st film for 2 rupees. Even though it was written on a paper napkin, I was sure that it would stand the test of time. Manoj was a talent like we had never seen before, and I remember feeling like I had hit the jackpot.

I learned much later that ‘editors are an actors best friend’. So when I bonded recently with the talented Rajkumar Yadav during the making of Shahid, we added a line to this pearl of wisdom…‘till the film is complete.’ 😉

Chakri and Manoj were another ‘hit-duo’ from Satya, who’s celluloid chemistry didn’t exactly come from admiration for the other. Their rivalry was less subdued than the other’s, and it worked wonders for the film. It was the battle of the North Indian vs the South Indian, of the NSD actor vs the commercial actor. I thought that both vied to be Ramu’s pet actor. But then everyone was in awe of Mr Varma, he commanded it effortlessly.

I had mentioned in my previous blog, the tension between Anurag & Saurabh, and I think from Anurag’s reactions to my blog, that he took my claim very seriously. I didn’t mean to say that their friction over credit on the promo caused any bad blood. It seemed quite innocent, and was obviously channeled correctly, which is why they wrote a cracker of a film. Besides the ones mentioned above, there were a couple of other ‘teams’ that struggled for their inpidual place in the sun.

Two’s company

Let me pose a few questions, and see if there is a one-word/one name answer that comes to mind.

‘To whom would you attribute the cinematography of Satya?’ Would you say it was the American veteran DP Gerhard Hooper or the realistic documentary cameraman, Mazhar Kamran? Both were eventually credited.

‘Whose words were Satya really based on?’ Were they Saurabh Shukla’s–who was basking from his association with the semantic Bandit Queen & Is Raat Ki Subah Nahi or were they Anurag Kashyap’s–who was this wonder-kid that everyone was talking about and had just written Jayate (Hansal Mehta’s first tryst with the courtroom). Both were credited.

‘Who’s music will Satya be remembered for?‘ Vishal Bharadwaj’s?–The man who infused emotion into the film with songs like the dreamy Badalon se kaat kaat ke or Sandeep Chowta–who’s stark and intense themes reverberated in a shattering new system called DTS. Both were credited.

‘Who actually edited Satya?’ Apurva Asrani, the urban kid who had made promos for Sanjay Bhansali’s Khamoshi and Ramu’s Daud or was it Bhanodaya-the Telugu editor who had earlier edited Ramu’s Ana Ganaga Oku Roju & Daud? Both were credited.

While Manoj-Chakri, Saurabh-Anurag, Gerry-Mazhar, Vishal-Sandeep will be best suited to answer how they felt about sharing credit at the time, they will also be able to tell you why why none of them ever teamed up again. I can only tell you how I felt. I got asked for years, ‘who edited Satya?’ and that question used to make me angry. I guess, the simplest thing for me would have been to say ‘we both did’. But to me, that would have been a diplomatic answer, not necessarily an honest one.

Jump Cut to: Bhanodaya

If I remember right, Satya was the first Hindi film to be cut on avid. We were choosing a work-flow that required us to make a print from the negative, transfer the print to tape, digitize the tapes onto the hard disk and then start editing. The process was fascinating and I think we used Avid to its fullest potential to maintain a fresh & compelling rhythm, now synonymous with the film. But it is when the film was edited, and the technical process had to be reversed, that Ramu began to get angsty. He was nervous about matching the negative to an Avid produced cut-list. He was worried that something may go wrong with the negative. He began to feel that his judgment would work best if he saw a print before locking the film. So Ramu brought in his Daud editor Bhanodaya, specifically to match the print to the list.

What I didn’t see coming, was that I would have to share credit with Bhanodaya. This came as a bolt from the blue. I first heard about it from Ramu’s cousin, Satya’s Executive Producer, Som Shekhar. I felt somewhat cheated by Ramu and began to find it impossible make-up lies about how Bhanodaya had co-edited the film. Jitesh Pillai, then the bright kid at Filmfare had interviewed me for his magazine, and had asked me about Bhano. I remember saying, ‘I don’t know Bhano, I never met him during the editing of the film’. It was the truth, but my lack of diplomacy and patience brought out the arrogance in me.

What made things worse were the rumors going around. I would hear that Ramu had gone about telling people that I had only cut the promos of the film, and that Bhano was the editor. Now whether the rumors were true or whether people were fanning my anger, I was too naïve to know.

Filmfare Awards, February 1998

I remember the night of the Filmfare awards when the award for ‘Best Editing’ was announced. I was sitting among my loved ones who became very emotional and pushed me towards the stage to collect the award. As I walked, from the corner of my eye, I looked at a familiar man, wearing a black shirt, who also began walking towards the podium. I remember thinking ‘I hardly know that man, have not had a single creative exchange with him, but he is sharing my award.’ Bhanodaya was being celebrated for my work, and it just didn’t make sense.

There was only one award statuette. So I buckled my speed. Bhanodaya also walked faster. He had the advantage of being two rows ahead – with Ramu. I was like an energizer bunny, high from the industry’s acknowledgment of my skills, but somewhat wounded by the sudden U-turn of my mentor. I somehow got to Jeetendra and Poonam Dhillon first, and they handed me the statuette. Bhanodaya followed behind me and shook hands with them after I did. As I held up the coveted statuette in the air, a much shorter Bhanoday reached for it, touched it, and smiled.

If only I had known then, that I would get opportunities to prove myself again; to be part of some meaningful cinematic attempts. If I had know then that I would see other awards and some rewards that are far greater than trophies, I would have shared that award gracefully with Bhanodaya. After all, his efforts touched the final product too.

So my dear colleague Bhanodaya, I guess it isn’t too late to say ‘Congratulations….! for our Filmfare award for Satya!’

– Apurva Asrani

( You can follow Apurva Asrani on Twitter here and his blog is here)

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