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Written by N V Shoba | New Delhi |
Published:September 16, 2012 3:25 am


These days,Aravind Kaushik often finds himself at the receiving end of a bizarre request: to make a feature-length Kannada film in a week. Sipping chai from a plastic cup at his studio in a nondescript building in Seshadripuram,Bangalore,he says he has had to let producers down gently. “I would rather work with my own scripts because I have to understand and internalise the story before I begin shooting,” says the 32-year-old director who has just wrapped up a film in under two hours. Shot in a Bangalore suburb on multiple RED MX and Canon 5D digital cameras,Nam Areal Innondina (Another Day in our Area) unfolds in real time: seven guys meet up casually at a street corner,only to be caught up in events beyond their control,and a voyage of self-discovery ensues. The narrative is simple and linear,often emphasising the sense of temporality with split-screens. “Why shouldn’t we show action and reaction together,as they happen? In this movie,time is of the essence,” says Kaushik,who worked on the script for a year and rehearsed with the actors and technicians for a month before the July 3 one-take shoot under the forbidding gaze of the media.

Like Kaushik,young regional filmmakers across India now find time a precious resource,one they can save by planning and rehearsing ahead,adopting digital technology and ditching compulsive retakes. In the process,they claim to prune budgets by 20 per cent or more. “This is a good trend. We can pay our bills if we can keep it up,” says filmmaker Jagdish KR,30,who shot Story Kathe,a soon-to-be-released Kannada film about two protagonists whose destinies get interchanged,in under a month. “Where shooting once dragged on for three-to-four months,films are now being made in a matter of days. Post-production editing is very important in digital cinema,and it takes about three months. So this way,we can hope to make two movies in a year instead of one,” he says. Kaushik,for instance,is adding finishing touches to his film and already raring to direct actor Shreyas Talpade in an as-yet-untitled Hindi film with producer Anaji Nagaraj who also funded his real-time Kannada project.

Most quick flicks tread the nebulous territory between commercial and experimental cinema,have a budget of between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 2 crore,and often dispense with star power. Shorter filming schedules,whether dictated by circumstances or a tight budget,imply a deep commitment from the actors — there is little leeway for haggling over dates or fussing over makeup. Ask Shlok Sharma,assistant director with Anurag Kashyap since 2006,who spent 26 days in pre-production for his film Haraamkhor that has Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead role. “We were relying on crowd funding and had a strict budget. We had planned a schedule of a mere 18 days,but we finished work in 16 days thanks to the commitment of the crew,” he says.

It isn’t as easy as it sounds. A director could well plan for every eventuality and things could still go wrong. “Since we were to shoot in a residential area,we were worried that instead of a scooter that we were used to seeing parked at a street corner,there would one day be an autorickshaw or a truck — it would have altered the entire scene,” says Kaushik,adding that the rehearsals attracted curious glances from residents who wondered at the lack of cameras.

When Hinglish film director Srinivas Sunderrajan decided to make Greater Elephant,a dark comedy about a mahout’s metaphorical search for his elephant,he knew he had to shoot in the noisy urban outdoors. What he didn’t expect,however,was that a simple scene,to be shot in a public park,would prove a challenge. “We wanted to wrap up the entire shoot in Pune in 12-14 days. Every time we tried to shoot this particular scene in a park,people kept driving into view to park their cars. It was something we didn’t expect,” says the 28-year-old whose directorial debut,The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project,won rave reviews.

‘Patre’ Ajith,who plays the lead role in Nam Areal Innondina,says it takes stamina and dedication on the actor’s part to perfect a role in a very short time. “Memorising 60 pages of dialogue and taking the right positions for each shot keeping in mind that there wouldn’t be another take was a huge challenge. We would start rehearsals early in the morning and wrap up late in the day,all the while trying to keep in mind technicalities and camera angles,” says the 25-year-old who has starred in five films.

There is a saying in the Bhojpuri film industry that if a shoot drags on for 40 days,the film is doomed. Leading Bhojpuri actor and singer Manoj Tiwari explains that most Bhojpuri films,shot in UP,Bihar and Mumbai,now have a budget of Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crore and are cinched in less than a month in order to rake in profits. “I have starred in at least half a dozen films shot within this time frame,” he says.

The fewer the days spent shooting a film,the better the focus,adds producer Muktinath Upadhyay,whose Hindi feature film Das Capital,a satire on politics and bureaucracy in Bihar that comes close on the heels of the success of Gangs of Wasseypur,was shot in 20 days flat. “We wanted to cut costs but it also kept us focused. The film recently premiered in Patna,and met with a warm response,” he says.

Filming over shorter periods does not entail a compromise in quality,insist directors. Madhav Ramadasan,who last year shot Melvilasom (The Address),an award-winning courtroom drama in Malayalam,in just 10 days,says,“I was not willing to compromise one bit. I did not even go digital. We shot the entire film in a room at a university campus in Thiruvananthapuram and hired extra equipment and men to wrap up ,” he says. The Rs 1 crore film,adapted from a play,won critical acclaim and subsequently saw a dubbed release in Tamil.

Marathi filmmaker Gajendra Ahire,who has made over a dozen films,including the critically acclaimed Sarivar Sari and Ek Krantiveer: Vasudev Balwant Phadke,has shot all his films in under 19 days. “It started with budget constraints — it always does — but now,that is my style,” says the director. He adds that sometimes,it is the script that demands quick shoots. His film Sail (2006),about a couple who meet after 12 years on a stormy night,had to be shot over five days. “I could not allow my actors to be exposed to the fake rain for too long,” he explains. Ahire won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Marathi for Not Only Mrs Raut (2003,his debut) and Shevri (2006).

Will it be a short and sweet ride to the box office for these budget flicks? Sunderrajan and Sharma hope to find distributors for their films even as they take them to various festivals across the world. Producer Nagaraj,meanwhile,is confident that his latest investment is a sound one. “In the Kannada industry,where a much-awaited big-budget film like Shiva,starring superstar Shivarajkumar,has bombed at the box office,I believe there is scope for well-made movies by young filmmakers,” says Kaushik. “There are about a dozen medium-budget Kannada films releasing soon — they are all by young filmmakers and I expect some of them have had tight filming schedules.”

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