Thursday, February 25, 2010

Candid camera

I entered my usual café and walked straight into a Tamil film crew in the middle of shooting a series of scenes, including the quintessential Indian film close-up of the hero lowering his sunglasses in awe to get a good look at the girl.

Apart from the main players – the director, cameraman, still photographer, crew, actors, hair-and-make-up, actors’ keepers, two production people and the unfortunate soul who was “continuity” – there were about fifty others who didn’t seem to have prescribed roles. Some of them seemed to be just roadies. Others hovered with the watchful tension of vultures above a kill. One of these suddenly won himself a place in the inner circle – a light went out and he was on the terrace correcting it at the source even before the director had finished hurling abuse. He won what seemed to be the signal honour of wielding the clapboard. And lost it after two takes by not paying attention.

From the little bit I saw being shot over and over again, the hero, having coffee with a friend on the verandah, spots a girl through the window and asks a waiter to pass on a message. I initially thought there was no heroine present, and that the follow-up would happen elsewhere. But then she suddenly turned up, so maybe was being kept in a covered basket till then. Tamil heroines seem to have shrunk alarmingly; this one was more size zero than Dravidian goddess. Also noticed that the hero was rather vain about his hair and the director was a pleasant person, infinitely patient with the extras. He needed to be, since it was an unrehearsed performance. Surely they’d cut down on a lot of shooting time (and wear and tear on the director) if they invested a few days in rehearsals? Those of us watching take after take, unconsciously assuming the roles of so many assistant directors, saw it when they had the take and sat back with a sense of achievement when the director called it a wrap.

I watched with some nostalgia (made sweeter by the knowledge that I’d never have to do it again) for the days of shooting humble 30-second commercials with people who were anything but. It was nice to note that certain things had not changed. Film crew trailers are recognizable from a distance. The clapboard is still the same old one. There is no vernacular equivalent for “Roll camera”. And the correct response to this is still “rolling”, no matter that all other conversation is in Tamil.

The director had the uncomplicated confidence of established genius and he was being borderline respectful to the actor so I’m guessing they were both famous. Unfortunately, my waiter did not know their names, him being Bengali (his reason, not mine).

It’s amazing how the regular patrons refused to be discouraged by the considerable inconvenience – they perched on ledges and borders of flower beds, moved good-naturedly whenever requested to get out of the frame, shared tables with strangers, or – as in my case – willingly sat at an orphan table surrounded by cables and lighting paraphernalia. And the waiters never forgot me perched up on the precarious platform. That’s why I love this place.

Since I was well situated to talk to the light boys, I did eventually find out the names of director, actors and movie, but won’t mention them in case there are implications of some sort.


Tys on Ice said...

being in the sandcity, one does see the inevitable hindi stars doing the odd dance number under the scorching sun...thats when i fall in love with my job. ( probably the only time)...

Tys on Ice said...

oh by the way, i might take u up seriously on that editing part...did u mean it?..if u did i can send the whole lot to ur mail and then pray that u have a real bad month so that it will be read everyday.

the real nick said...

Where is my window into life in Bangalore? New post, please!

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