Thursday, December 28, 2006
Monday, December 25, 2006
2. I spoke to Revathy finally. She called me a coupla days ago and told me she had been busy and hence unable to talk to me earlier.
Guess what? She liked the movie too, overall. She called it "very interesting cinema" but maintained that "it could have gone an extra mile." She was very disturbed that it did not. I asked her to tell me why she thought so. She said that she wasn't able to put a finger on it yet. She wants to watch it again.
When she heard we made it for four lakhs, she couldn't believe it. "Super," she said. "Super," still in disbelief. She, however, thought that the English we Indians speak on camera does not sound natural.
And contrary to what a lot of people have said, she thought TFLW is no exception. I would like to believe the conversation is natural because four out of six of my actors speak this way (and in English) at home.
Revathy liked the treatment, the characters and she didn't like the way Sara's character graph ended. But she also noted that different people from the audience will relate to different characters and not like some of them because of who they are.
3. I got hold of some unedited footage of the premiere shot by Times Now. Waiting for the rest of the clips. Got to hunt it down from CNN-IBN, Headlines Today, SS Music and Galatta.com. Will upload the clips soon. Watch this space.
4. We are most likely to go in for an internet release by March 2007. My concern is how secure DRM really is. STAR is coming up with a broadband portal and they've promised me a secure release. My friend from STAR also suggested that it maybe a good idea to release across platforms on the same day. We're working on that idea. The other issue over internet release is that we've made a low budget film and the poor lighting shows in a couple of scenes. When you watch a low res version, you maybe put off by the technical quality. Saptarshi who saw it on DVD and in the theatre that all the scenes he thought were lit badly looked very good on the big screen.
5. Sandhya insists that this is not her just gushing about the film. I disagree. :) Thank you Sandhya!
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Finally, I find time to blog. :D
Sorry folks, I’d been away for a bit. Was a lil busy hovering around the stratosphere, with complimentary residency at cloud number 999. Now, I know what being on top of the world feels like. The word is ecstasy.
Yeah, I’m high. Without a drop of alcohol.
It’s that top-of-the-world feeling that fairytales are made of.
In the last 72 hours, we’ve done the rounds on Radio City, CNN-IBN, Headlines Today, Times Now (none of which I got to see yet much to my luck and crazy routine) and The Hindu. The premiere of my film THAT FOUR LETTER WORD happened at the Chennai International Film Festival on December 21 at the Film Chamber and I’ve been ballooning in space ever since.
Sheer joy. Absolute bliss. Nothing else matters.
It’s that feeling that makes you grin so much that you don’t even mind your face being temporarily disfigured. (Yes, this demonstrates how much say I had over that review or photograph: Absolutely none! He he! Lucky for me, my paper hates to promote its own employees and I'm happy they buried it on Page 9 where very few would've got to see that pic!)
We’ve had such an amazing response to a small, simple slice of life movie that we made at a budget of a small car.
Suriya, went on camera and told news channels that he wished he were a part of the film and would’ve loved to help out at least behind the scenes. “I would’ve liked to produce this film,” he said. When I told him not to bull-shit to me, he said he’ll tell me all that he liked about the film if I had the time. And he did. He spoke for nearly 20 minutes recalling each and every scene and moment he loved. “We can’t do these things in Tamil cinema,” he said and asked me why I chose Madhavan for the cameo and not him. Yeah, thanks to my own newspaper, the surprise cameo is no longer a surprise but I would hate it if people went to see the movie for him because he just appears for a few seconds.
Gautham Menon was at his candid best when he said the film took a lot of time to get to the point. (Not that there was any point in the first place!) He said he was hooked somewhere halfway and it did something to him. He particularly liked the last 25 minutes of the film and we had a discussion on the single-long shot scene that lasted six minutes where all we see is four guys sit by the beach and talk about their lives. He wished I had used close-ups. And I thought close-ups would’ve killed that scene. I did shoot close-ups and we tried them out on the editing table but realised the scene had maximum impact when it had the candid camera effect. Which is also why we didn’t use a score for it.
He also said: “After the first fifteen minutes, I forgot that I was watching a digital film. So I’m sure there was something in your characters and narrative that got me engaged. I could make out that your heart was in it and that you’ve made exactly the film you wanted to make. This is not a film that could’ve happened by accident.”
Gautham was the only person who did not like the editing style in the film and wished the scenes were clipped tighter.
Filmmaker Chetan Shah loved that six-minute scene that Gautham wanted close-ups for. “It puts you in the league of Oscar winning directors,” he said (of course, in jest). “That one scene alone is enough for you to get a producer for your next film,” Chetan believes. He sent me a couple of messages that read: “You have made an original bold intelligent and cinematically fine film. Loved the natural dialogue and acting. And vivid characterisation.” “Hope the non-linear narrative will find a mass audience that will appreciate your flair and sensitivity. In admiration and support – Chetan.”
Having said that, he also had a couple of areas of concerns: the originality of the music and the picture quality. Since I had sat with music director Asif when he made the music, I can vouch for his creativity. (At worst, he’s probably inspired and recreated some tune but he has certainly not ripped it off a foreign movie soundtrack).
The picture quality in a couple of scenes is a huge area of concern for us. But we hope Real Image helps us out with its expertise and tech support. They couldn’t finish Gamma correction before the premiere and I suspect that’s the reason for the high contrast.
Director Hariharan told me that it was a “very interesting film” because he couldn’t slot it under any one genre. (If I were to slot it, I’ll call it my brand of feel-good) and he thought it had a “non-narrative structure.” “I never got the feeling I was watching a movie. It was like watching real people with real problems. The dialogue was very natural and the lead actors were very fresh,” he said.
Both Chetan and Mr.Hariharan almost used the same words. They both felt that only when they saw Zebra, the larger than life character in the film, break down, that they were reminded they were watching a movie. I’m tempted to remove the background score from that scene now because ‘Evam’ Sunill is such a fine actor and the dramatic background score in that scene seems to jar with the otherwise realistic feel of the film.
Film analyst Sreedhar Pillai, however, thought that Sunil as Zebra was the pick of the actors. He didn’t like the technical quality of the film and shared Gautham’s view that the film took its time to make a point. He also noted that they felt that way maybe because they have been corrupted by the influence of commercial cinema and the manufactured pace and exaggerated melodrama.
Revathy told my friends that it was a “good start” and “interesting attempt” which makes me believe that she probably means “It sucked big-time, dude.” I haven’t got to talk to her personally but apparently she also told people that we don’t get to see films made like this and that this was a story relevant to young people around the country. Once I get to talk to her, I promise to share with you guys all the nasty things she has to say. ☺
Lensman Venket Ram said he loved the cinematography and the amateur feel actually contributed a lot of energy to the frames.
Vijay TV’s critic and cartoonist, Mr. Madhan said that it was an auteur film that was candid and natural, with very well etched out characters. He said that the film’s problem, if any, was that it was too natural. “It could’ve done with a little exaggeration,” he said. He noted that the overall technical output was better than Mumbai Express (we used the same camera as the one Kamal Hassan used for his digital movie).
He also made a critical observation that he would’ve liked it more if each scene ended with a punchline, like a stand-alone mini-movie. When we wrote the film, we did write it that way. But at the editing table, my editor Vijay Prabakaran came up with a really inventive style to boost up the pace of the slow film. We actually ended up sacrificing a lot of humour for pace but we have absolutely no regrets.
Some of my other critic friends noted that the film did not have depth. I would agree. Because we are only telling the audience as much as they will ever find out about that colourful gang of friends they find at their coffee shop or canteen. They will know who’s seeing who, what they do, what they aspire for, what they wear, how they talk, who’s the opinion leader, who’s the clown and what they ended up as. Telling a story about four friends with different dreams at the same time was a challenging task for us as first-time scriptwriters. We didn’t want to mess up trying to get overtly sentimental. As Chetan also pointed out later, “it was emotional without being sentimental.”
Also we are used to watching cinema where characters hit the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Here in my film, the highest high is getting admission in medical school and the lowest low is not getting in. The maximum conflict and dramatic tension between friends in my film involves them saying “Screw you” to each other and then starting afresh the very next day.
Since the three important characters in the film are not the types who would sit and cry, I had to extract emotional depth from the most unlikeliest of characters: the perceived clown of the pack. As ‘Evam’ Karthik notes, Zebra only becomes “momentarily real” when he breaks down.
For the first time in the movie during that scene, we see him as human, as just one of us. We thought it was important to explore that aspect of Zebra to illustrate the only editorial point of the film: That no matter how low you feel one night, the next morning is a different day. Who knows what it has in store for you.
What Mr.Hariharan also liked about the film is that it does not take sides or preach or tell you what to do with your life. “The best part of the film is that it does not try to tell you anything. It is such a casual fun film that just breezes on, without conforming to any genre.”
A lot of my friends are proud of me, they say I can hold my head high. One of them who didn’t see the whole film because she had to leave after an hour told me she was sorry she didn’t find it exciting. Yeah, because it is not film that will excite you. It will just introduce you to people you so very well know: Yourselves. And, your friends.
‘That Four Letter Word’ won’t change your life but it will surely make you smile, every little while, as long as you are in the mood to watch without any preset notions about how cinema ought to be.
If you are looking to find faults, don’t bother coming. It’s a waste of your money. Let me tell you as it is: There are many flaws. It’s not a great film. It might be a good film if you’re in the right mood to watch some light-hearted fare. But hey, it’s not a bad film either.
One more thing. It’s NOT a comedy in the classical sense of the word. It might evoke a few chuckles here and there. But the laugh out loud variety: Nope!
Suderman rating: Five on ten.
Starting first weekend of January, we’ll have weekly community screenings at different hangouts in the city. So all of you who have wanted to watch it free, here’s your chance. Watch out for updates. We’re planning these screenings for six weeks till the film releases mid-February.
Vinod, Sandhya, Harish, Praveen and Kiruba are five bloggers I know who were at the premiere. (I'm not sure if Chandrachoodan showed up.) They all told me they've liked the movie. I'm still waiting to read what they officially have to say.
Blog about it, people, spread the word. I don't have to say: Write the good things and the bad things. Criticism is one thing I, or any of us for that matter, take only from friends and people we respect.
Want to criticise me? Earn your chance.
Finally, a word to those waiting to rip my film apart:
"Thank you very much for your opinion but I've already got the only thing I always wanted. I made my movie, no matter what!
It's taken me seven years to be able to write this but what the hell... I still made my movie.
Now, how many of you can ever say that?"
Now you know why I'm on top of the world.
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Thursday, December 14, 2006
The Film Chamber auditorium (next door to Rani Seethai Hall) has a capacity of only 230 seats.
That Four Letter Word will be screened at the Film Chamber on December 21, 2006 as part of the fourth Chennai International Film Festival. The 6.15 p.m. show is only for cast and crew, friends, VIPs and media (by invitation only).
However, the 8.15 p.m. show is for delegates of the festival. So you guys better get working on getting delegate passes soon. Here's the contact information.
All you need is a photograph and 300 bucks to choose from over 100 films from 40 countries over a span of eight days and three theatres.
Pedro Almodovar's 'Volver' is the opening film (it was also the opening film at IFFI, Goa, just three weeks ago) and your 300 bucks will be worth every rupee of it for just that one film alone. I got a chance to see it at Goa. :D
And about TFLW, like I said, the Film Chamber auditorium has only 230 seats and seating is on first come first served basis.
But don't you worry, the big films are scheduled for screening at Woodlands and Woodlands Symphony.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Yes, a seven year old dream has finally come true. I've finished the movie. Finally!
Thanks to Real Image for doing the 5.1 DTS mix, BlaaZe for doing the title rap (you can listen to the song by hitting the play button below the blog name in the box above), Vijay Prabakaran (and AgNO3) for spending countless hours on colour correction. And my sound engineer Sindhu for the foley effects and overall sound design. Well, I guess I'll postpone the overall thanksgiving for later.
This post was just to let you all know that my film is finally ready and now, it's just a matter of finding theatres equipped with digital projection systems.
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Friday, April 21, 2006
Oh, that wouldn’t be much of a problem. Or at least we hope. We’ve got a decent film with us with a decent cast. Satellite rights alone these days fetch a handsome sum that would recover entire cost of production. Besides, we intend to distribute it ourselves in a small way, one step at a time. It’s our baby, we will make it crawl first before it can walk around the country and do the rounds around the world. We will make it grow from strength to strength. We have a few plans to market the film, taking it personally from one city to another city. We hope to cover ten Indian cities before it’s ready for the world.
When do you plan to release the movie?
Ideally, during Friendship Week, the first week of August. That’s exactly the mood we want people to be in when they watch the film. This movie is about a gang of friends and best watched with your gang of friends.
There’s more to our organization Made in Madras InkOperated! than TFLW. Tell us about it.
Made in Madras was what we wanted to called our film before we came up with That Four Letter Word. But then, it would have been such a cliché with Hyderabad Blues, Bombay Boys and then Made in Madras!! So we chucked the idea but the phrase is so close to our heart because we are simple people made in this simple city and we are proud of our identity. In this globalised world, I think that’s something many of us are forgetting. What was good about us! Who we really are!! Made in Madras hopes to rekindle that spirit of simplicity. It will be a society committed to bringing independent filmmakers together. In a couple of years, we will be ready to produce independent films and make the dream of first time filmmakers come true. We are also putting together a database of professionals and resources available to help you shoot your film free of cost. It will be a not-for-profit organization, run not through money but by ink! Because great ideas just require ink. Either you write them down or print them out. But put it on paper. Paperwork is all it takes to make a film! That’s the idea behind Made in Madras inkOperated! It’s also a fun company, that’s what the pun on Incorporated signifies and the exclamation is the statement we want to make through our work. A form of eccentric expression!
We notice that you use your blog to ask for volunteers for your item dance. How useful have the blogs been? Do you plan to leverage further?
My blog is one part of my life that I’ve made public. So that’s how the film sneaked in and found itself into my regular blog (http://sudhishkamath.blogspot.com). I started my film blog (http://thatfourletterword.blogspot.com) as an attempt to chronicle the making of the film because I realized that the behind the scenes were larger than life, in fact larger than the film itself. But I've not found the time to update it as often as I would've liked. I just put up a community on Orkut to keep people posted. We have an official site which we will update in the next one month.
It’s been an amazing journey of learning, togetherness and bonding as a family. It has taught us the importance of chasing a dream and the joy of doing it together as a team. Yes, the blogs have been useful in generating moral support. I had at least two volunteers for the item dance but its an idea we dropped. I have people offering me space to shoot. I’m touched. And if this interview is going to add to the help, I will only be overwhelmed! I will be putting down chapters that went into making the film, so that it can be published as a book, for purely selfish reasons. I want to give them away as souvenirs to every person who has been part of this film. A token of thanks. A memento.
What are your future plans?
I want to continue writing because I’ve become addicted to it. I want to finish my first five films before I turn 35. I’m ready with two of the five scripts. My second film Watcha Gonna Do, a multi-genre spoof on American films, will be the first production from Made in Madras inkOperated. And, hopefully it will make enough money to fund my other projects because I know that no producer with a sane mind will agree to fund my third, fourth and fifth films because they will not make money. I know there is a chance that they might not work but these are the kind of films I think are absolutely original. My third film, Checkbox Theory, (I’ve blogged about my Checkbox theory) is about a six-year old boy in love with an eight-year old girl. The film looks at contemporary love stories from the point of view of children. It tells us how clinical we get about love. The older we grow, the more checkboxes we look at ticking, in our choice of partner. The younger we are, the more blissfully we are in love, without any specific reason. To me, that is the pure love, nothing like first love. My fourth film, Slip of Mind, is a psycho-thriller set in the near future where there is no good left in the world. It’s an evil-versus-evil tale and each character has a virtue for a name. The characters are called Hate, Evil, Beauty, Lust, Hope and so on. It is a very dark, philosophical film with a lot of gore. My fifth, Bad News, will be a critique on TV journalism and the entire film unravels through news clippings. Each scene is a news capsule from a different channel. So each TV channel is a character and each tells its own version of the same set of incidents, starting from the abduction of an aging superstar in India, which ultimately snowball to September 11. It’s a fact-meets-fiction tale that requires a year of research. I personally believe I’m not old enough to make my fourth and fifth films yet. I hope to grow up in the next four-five years and develop the right kind of sensitivity and expertise to deal with such complex films. Meanwhile, we at Made in Madras will produce simple films, backed by a panel from the film industry. Just a matter of time before we get Mani Ratnam, Kamal Hassan, Ramgopal Varma, Farhan Akhtar and an A.R.Rahman to see what we see and get them on board as directors who will screen scripts. I personally hope to do one film a year after ensuring that Watcha Gonna Do releases in every corner of the world, no matter how long that takes. High time someone showed the finger to America’s monopoly over English films. English after all is not their language, the Brits created it. And we are/were closer to the Brits than they are/were. So, fuck you Hollywood! Here we come!
Update: I, next, starting next month, want to work on a mainstream Hindi film. I'm calling it 'Parchayi,' it's a tribute film to one of my most favourite films (I'm not saying which one but by the time it comes out, I dunno how many of you will see through it). But yes, a tribute does not mean its not original. It is entirely original because I've just taken the soul of a movie I've liked and transplanted it in a different world, with different people, with a different conflict and so, it became a very different plot with very little resemblance to the movie I'm paying tribute to. I want to make it now because it is on among the most relevant contemporary issues in Bollywood. There is a huge difference between a tribute and a remake. 'Parchayi' is an ode to orginality and fresh thinking, the need to give back something to the movies that have made us and the life around us, instead of rehashing them. To bring movies to life, you need to bring life into the movies. It's my tribute to movies and people who inspire them.
Want know more? That will take you back to the beginning of the series. :D
Money. We always knew it can create, we didn’t know it can also corrupt. We had a producer in Sashi who was willing to invest about 17 lakhs in the film. That was a lot of money for us. Until one day, Levis came and said: “Take ten from me. I want to be part of this film too.” And then, we decided to exploit the potential of in-film promos. We tried more sponsors first through our own company, then gave up and tied up with Ogilvy to get sponsors. That took us a year and a half before deals got finalized. Then we shot a promo. And tried some more to get sponsors. That didn’t work, so we had to make Sashi spend all the money. We spent about 11 lakhs making the film. We shot almost 95 per cent of it. Just another five per cent was left and life began playing games with us. One of our cast members didn’t have dates because she was now an RJ and said she couldn’t spare “even half a day” because her boss was strict. Another guy broke his knee and was advised bed rest for six months. In that period, Sashi’s daughter was diagnosed with tumour and the rest of the cast got busy with their respective careers. Cary and Usha became Southern Spice VJs. Ranvir was away, first in the middle of action, thanks to the Pooja Bhat episode, and then out of action due to an accident and then busy again in life with Lakshya. Getting common dates became a hassle. Mid of last year, one and a half years after we last shot the film, we guys got finally together and decided something had to be done. Sashi said he will give us the last instalment of five lakhs to complete the film. There was no way we couldn’t shoot parts of the film replacing two of our cast members, so we decided that it was easier to shoot the whole film again. Abbas volunteered to be Executive Producer, it was a shot in the arm for the team. In the last months, we did our best to get sponsors, but it is always difficult to get people to part with their money in the last quarter of a year. So all we have now are promises from different corporates, not a penny in hand. How long can we wait? Usha had been postponing her visit to see her sister in America for the last six months, she got a visa some five months ago. She finally had booked her ticket for mid April after we assured her we will finish by March. So two weeks ago, we took the call to go ahead and finish it, no matter what. With or without money. People have been doing it. One of my one-time assistant director Pradeep had got together with his friend Vijay last November for a cup of tea. They wrote a script by November 17, auditioned people and started shooting by November 24 and finished shoot by December 17 and editing by January 7 this year!! With no money at all, sheer will-power!!!
Pradeep and Vijay, today, are my inspiration.
I did this scriptwriting workshop at SRM mid last year and at the end of it, as a part of my motivational exercise told them to write a feature length script in 30 days and if they did, I would personally ensure that the director will provide them with the camera and the editing set-up for the shoot. Early February this year, I got a call from their director. They had a film on them. A completed one. They, today, are my inspiration.
Money corrupts a project. Will-power gives it the boost. Today we don’t have any money. But we have the will, we have people, we have the spirit. What more do we need, huh?
Having said that, thank you Mom!! For letting me steal money from your account to do the movie.
With so many difficulties, many would have given up. But you *REALLY* persevere. Why?
Ah, no way. Why would we even think of giving up on something that means the world to us. That’s like quitting life. Plus, if you’ve spent five and a half years on something, you surely don’t want that much of work to go down the drain, do you? It’s just that that kept us going. This film has changed our lives. We owe it to this film and give it some life now.
Dealing with high profile stars has its own difficulties. Why don’t you use fresh faces? After all, movies like Hyderabad Blues and Kaadhal really didn’t have big stars.
Well, like I said, the film wasn’t written for stars. The film found these stars. Every artiste wants a script he/she can relate to. I guess that worked for our film. Every person involved is in the film, not because he/she is a star but because they believe in the script and they can so relate to it. And hey, it helps to have stars because I know hundreds of filmmakers in the country who have not found distributors because we have such a dim-witted system that believes in names to sell a film. I know many completed films which haven’t found buyers because they didn’t have stars. Even Hyderabad Blues had to wait for four years after it was made before it hit the screen and Kaadhal had Boys Bharat who was a name. With the clutter of so many promos, these days we only decide to watch films if we know some face behind the film. Sudhish is hardly a face, Abbas is, Cary is, Usha today is … it’s these faces you see in the promos that actually help you make up your mind if you want to see the film or not. And no, though we fought like mad dogs on the project, we never had any major problems because we always knew that each of us wanted the film to be good.
Even if Abbas isn't a part of the film now, he will always remain a part of our family, as one of those responsible for seeing the film through.
You movie is one of the first ventures to be shot fully in digital format. What difficulties do you face with it?
There were very few difficulties as such. Though it would have been easier for us had we not shot using sync sound (location sound). Sync sound is something very few have attempted… something only what a Kamal Hasan has tried before here in the South. Farhan did it too for Dil Chahta Hai. And it’s the toughest thing when you are shooting in real locations. If you shut everyone up on the set, even the most real locations look like a set. If you don’t, it turns too noisy that you can hardly hear the lines. Then there’s the sound of the blast of the AC, other ambience noise … like traffic for example, which require you to go in for more and more retakes. This time, we’d rather go in for dubbing. Other than that, video has its limitations. There is the inherent danger of the film looking like a TV serial, because all said and done, the canvas is smaller when you shoot on video. But the advantages of shooting on video really more than make up for the difficulties. If not for video, most of us wouldn’t have ever made a movie!
Does your movie have music?
Yes, we have this American rap/hiphop/fusion band called Karmacy that has recorded a title track for us. And they are giving us another two songs. Asif Ali, our music director sat with Cary and recorded about 20 scratch songs, we’ve shortlisted quite a few of them. This time around, Asif has done another ten songs, mostly instrumental. It’s about young people. There’s got to be music.
What lessons have you learnt in filmmaking?
Oh plenty. First as a scriptwriter, I learnt how much I should NOT write. As a director, I learnt how much I should NOT take from the script. A director does not just take a script and translate it to film, he adds value and character to the film. He eliminates words and replaces them with visuals. He takes 95 per cent of the text and puts it in context and uses it as subtext. I learnt that there is no limit to how much you can add to a script. A script is basically made up of a page a minute, it probably packs ten ideas a page and is probably made up of, say, a thousand ideas which tell a story. A director needs to take each of these thousand ideas and express each of these using another ten, twenty, thirty, forty, hundred or more ideas depending on the importance and the magnitude of the idea, keeping the desired impact in mind. The lessons are many. The biggest lesson is that there are many more to be learnt. And you won’t learn till you’ve made the mistakes. I’ve made a million mistakes. I’d like to believe I’ve learnt a million lessons.
Well, first TFLW was this small film we wanted to make without any money. It wasn’t a script written after we put the cast together. One day on my job, during an interview with VJs Ranvir and Purab, I learnt Ranvir wanted to be an actor. I told him ‘Every VJ wants to be an actor.’ He didn’t take that comment lightly. After we were done with the interview, he told me that it has nothing to do with a VJ. Every body in this world either wants to make a movie/be an actor or cut an album/be a singer or write a book/be a writer. “I don’t know you but I can bet you want to be a writer,” he said. I smiled back and said: “No, I’d be the movie guy.” “Oh, so you want to make a movie,” he asked. “No, I’m making my movie,” I said. He got all curious then, so though I was least interested in telling him what it was all about, I just gave him a polite two line description of what the movie was about and he immediately asked: Can I audition? Man, I couldn’t believe that! He was a VJ, someone I had great respect for. When I studied in Manipal, he had come to our campus for a shoot. He was so funny and not even in my wildest dreams did I think that HE would want to be in MY movie? For icing, there was Purab, who joined Ranvir and said: “Me too. Can I audition too?” Purab, then got busy with ‘Supari,’ so he passed on the script to Cary, who had just about quit Channel [V] after hosting the much acclaimed Virtual [V] for three years. I still remember that we didn’t have money, so the first time I ever spoke to him was through SMS. My message to him was: “Hi Cary, no STD, only SMS. This low budget film. You still interested? Welcome to the film.”
There was Cyrus Sahukar too who was once a part of the film after he expressed interest but he backed out last minute, saying he didn’t have leave. We just had another two weeks to shoot. And I could only think of Abbas, with whom I had shot a short experimental film called ‘Ellipsis’ a few months earlier. I called him, he said: Give me two minutes, I’ll check if I have dates. Two minutes later, he calls back to say we have. “When can we meet,” he asks. “Now?” “Cool,’ he says. Thirty minutes later, at 8.30 p.m., I meet him at his wife’s boutique on North Boag Road. I narrate the script and we end up talking till 2.30 in the morning. I’ve never seen anyone more excited than him. He could so relate to the character he was playing. And then, he told me something that happened four months before that. He had invited me to the premiere of his Hindi film, ‘Ansh,’ and it turned out to be quite bad. Interval break, he asks us to come out and asks us for our honest opinion. “Bad man … it’s very bad,” I say softly. But I wasn’t telling him anything new. He knew it was bad. He almost broke down: “Why does this happen to me? I make the same mistakes in choosing films,” he said with near moist eyes. “Let’s go for a drive,” I suggested because the last thing we wanted to see was him breaking down outside his own movie preview. A friend stayed next street, so we took him there and showed him the trailer we had just shot for the film, just to warm up. At that point of time, Cyrus was still part of our film and I had my whole cast. “I really wanted to ask you if I can be part of your film that day,” Abbas recalled. “I didn’t want to take advantage of our friendship. But I think it’s destiny. God wanted me to be a part of this film.”
To this moment, Abbas has displayed the same amount of unflinching commitment, passion and enthusiasm to the film. Which is why these days I never say ‘my film,’ I always refer to it as ‘our film.’
Oh, and Ranvir almost never made it to the film because he was busy with his play ‘Blue Mug’ and he asked us to postpone shoot by a month. Cary had waited a year waiting for the film to take off by then and so we told him we can’t wait any longer. Ranvir was already upset with us for an earlier goof-up. When we shot in Pune, he drove down all by himself from Bombay and couldn’t find us because he had the wrong phone number with him and we couldn’t reach him. He was left stranded there before we reached him 36 hours later. He was so angry, he swore he wouldn’t be a part of it. By now, he had cooled down but he was still upset that we couldn’t wait for him in spite of him having done so much for the film. “I was a part of the film even before Cary joined,” he reminded us. But Ranvir had a regular job, Cary did not. So we told him we had to shoot no matter what. “Well, no bad feelings then,” he said, wishing us luck.
There was no one else who could have done that role but Ranvir. And the next alternative we could think of was Cyrus Broacha. How do we get Cyrus Broacha, we wondered aloud sitting at Qwikys when a guy walked up to us and said: “I’ve been observing you guys for the past few weeks. I’ve always wanted to help with your film. I have Broacha’s number,” he said. We christened him ‘Angel.’ Ever since that day, Angel was part of our dream. He quit his job, worked with us on the film and went back to Pune to take up a low paying job saying we inspired him to chase his dreams.
Anyway, so we called Cyrus Broacha and said: “For us, sending you the script and asking you to do our film is like asking Amitabh Bachchan if he wants to work with us.” He laughed and said: “I’m not Amitabh Bachchan. Send me the script.” We did just that and he went incommunicado while we made friends with his Mom over a coupla weeks. Initially she was hostile, then seeing that we had no intention of giving up, finally became friends and tipped us on what time we can catch him at home. Cyrus first said he liked the script and wanted to change the lines a bit. We were game. Then he asked: “When are you looking at shooting this film?” Next month, we said. “Oh, I hate to sound like Amitabh Bachchan but I have two foreign tours lined up next month. One is the UNAIDS conference in Barcelona where Bill Clinton will interview me and talk about sex” (he wasn’t exaggerating too much, it was all over the papers that he was interviewing Clinton) and there was the Nickelodeon Chotta VJ hunt in the Middle East.
So he took off, became incommunicado again. We got so desperate we tried calling five star hotels in Spain through the internet phone at Iway to reach him. No luck, people who picked up the phone didn’t even understand English.
So we scheduled his scenes for the last four days and started shoot. Ten days into the shoot, we reach him … this is two nights before we have scheduled his scenes. And he now tells us his boss Natasha didn’t want him to shoot a movie. We then call Natasha who tells us that she didn’t have a problem, in fact, she didn’t even know about the film. “Maybe he doesn’t want to do it,” she said.
So that’s how Broacha pulled a Bakra on us.
And we were all so pissed off that we cancelled shoot that evening and went for ‘Bend it like Beckham.’ In the interval, Cary asked: “Why don’t you ask Ranvir what he’s doing day after tomorrow?” “He will kill me,” I said. “That’s not too bad. But what if he agrees … we have everything to gain,” he said.
Thank you Cary, for suggesting that.
Because the phone conversation, went like this:
“Hi Ranvir, this is an SOS. We need you to bail us out.”
“Why, what happened?”
“Broacha was supposed to do your role and he backed out last minute. We know we are being really selfish but we didn’t know who else to ask.”
“What dates do you need?”
“Four days from day after tomorrow.”
“Okay, I’m free on these days. Because I just quit Channel [V] yesterday. But I’ll come only for four days. And you were going to pay me 5K a day, now make it 10K. Send me the ticket and keep the cheque ready, I’m coming.”
Ranvir, we would have paid you a lakh a day if we had the money! We jumped at his offer. Done!
So Ranvir was in again and we got our Zebra back.
That was the last time around.
This time, it was a rollercoaster because we had to change our cast halfway and resume shoot in 48 hours. And all that we did for years to get our actors, we fit into the most tense 48 hours of my life. That is something I will save for the book I'm writing on the movie.
You are a full time reporter in The Hindu. How do you manage to juggle between your full time job and the movie.
Well, the movie has been part of me for these seven years. I go to sleep with it, wake up with it, have breakfast with it, take it with me to office, make it wait while I meet different people and key in my story and then come back home with it. A movie happens in your head. It didn’t really take time away from what my work required of me, except for the 20 days when we had to do the shooting. Or let’s just say that my job isn’t really a job. It’s like life. Everyday, I meet different people, get to know them and write them in my diary using a little journalese and hey, you read it in the papers. Most of my stories are conversational, they talk to people. I didn’t find a style in it, it was what came naturally to me. And I’m glad it worked. I don’t see myself as a journalist or even a writer, nor do I even claim to be.
I dream and films are just about living out that dream … you share it with a few people, shoot it for the camera and share it with more people. It is really that simple, leave the jargon and the work out of it.
Finding the money to shoot that dream is what is 90 per cent of the “work,” the rest of it is what we love to do anyway.
We're nearly done dubbing for the movie, but for a little patchwork here and there. We should be done by the middle of the next month. Unless things go wrong drastically again!
Till then, here's an interview Kiruba did with me one year ago. I've edited it all over again because we went through a few cast changes after that.
The movie and my life has changed quite a bit.
Sudhish, you practically live, breathe and dream TFLW. Take us to the birth of the film.
Interesting choice of words there, Kiruba. Live, breathe and dream. Hmmm… EXACTLY the words that the film tries to explore. Yes, TFLW is about living, breathing and chasing your dream. Which is why it has to do with each one of us. Which is why it is a story of every gang of friends. Which is why it is a universally relevant theme. Which is why I found the idea interesting enough to pursue in the first place. But yes, the film was conceived when my best friend Murugan and me caught up with life, during one of his annual trips to India. While discussing our lives, we found a common thread that has to do with everybody’s life. Actually, I started a blog to record the birth of the film. So you can find the details there. (http://thatfourletterword.blogspot.com). But briefly, here’s how it started. It occurred to us that everybody in our age group had the same things to worry about: What next? What are we going to do with the rest of our lives? What determines our dreams, goals and the means to reach them? What is the price we need to pay? These are things we wanted to explore through two diametrically different attitudes in life. One way to live is to go by your heart, it has to do with living the moment, going with the flow… Carpe Diem. And the other way to live is to use your head: you plan, stick to it and know where you are going with total focus. But most of us are somewhere caught between the heart and the mind … confused about which one is right. I, for one, didn’t like Science in school, did Commerce in College, and then Masters in Science, ironically in Communications, always wanted to do advertising, but took up a job in journalism to start working on a film, just to tell someone who much I liked her. How confused can one get? TFLW is about these people … these people we know so well. Ourselves.
Did you learn filmmaking formally?
I did, we had a whole semester dedicated to it when I did my Masters, but it didn’t help much. Because, one thing about filmmaking and sex… till you have actually done it, you really don’t know how know how it REALLY feels like. Man, I sound like Siddhu, don’t I? He he! But yeah, I learnt filmmaking through the grind, on the job, while making TFLW. TFLW taught me filmmaking. I didn’t make TFLW. TFLW made me!
Who are the main people behind this venture?
Now, I don’t know where to start. Okay, first Murugan, because he wrote it with me. He was in it from Day one, or night one rather and still continues to be. That was seven years ago. And we wrote the movie over email and it took us a year and a half to develop the script. My family, my Mom and Day especially, and then, Sashi Chimala, my producer and my guide all the way. If there’s one man who has his heart in the right place, that’s him. His little daughter has been bravely fighting brain tumour for two years now and our prayers are with him. And she needs yours too, so pray for her. Though he’s not actively involved in the project now, he will always remain a part of it. Next, my cast … every single one of them. The sacrifices and the emotional investment they have made probably outweigh what me, Murugan and Sashi together have, over the years.
Abbas, who's not a part of the film anymore, but who we are indebted to forever, for being there, without being paid, supporting us for two years of his life. Unfortunately, the only way we can sort out our differences is when I finish my film and show him what I envisioned.
Cary stayed without a job for a year, waiting for TFLW, before we shot something. Similarly, Usha too, completed her second round of six months waiting for TFLW, before she shot and got another job that paid.
I have the most amazing cast, Aashil Nair, who risked losing his job at IBM to step in for Abbas in 48 hours, Paloma Rao and Praveen Bharadwaj who almost let us take them for granted unconditionally, always showing up on time, Sunil from 'Evam', for giving me the most amazing Zebra, a role I thought no body could do after Ranvir Shorey. Thank you for proving me wrong. I guarantee people will love you, whether they like the movie or not.
Archana, my production manager and angel incarnate, she was like the Atlas, carrying the weight of the production department, just by herself. Well, I could go on… my inspiration and film editor, my 'nanban' Vijay Prabakaran, who made his own film in less than two months, with no money at all, my associate director and bundle of energy Swathi Raghuraman for working round the clock, my art directors Anuradha and Preethi, for the unconditional support, all those hours of toil and believing in the film more than I have (which might tempt me to forgive them for giving The Last Samurai, my old bike, a coat or orange and blue), my music director Asif Bhai for staying on patiently giving us 30 plus tracks when we needed only half a dozen, thank you Sindhu, my really sound engineer, Preethi Narayanan, my art director from the first film, for the super professional work you churned out even before your NID experience, my soul-brother and assistant director Abhishek who has believed it is his film more than mine (lol!), my script reviewer for four years Ghirijah Jeyaraj, Ranvir who pledged his unconditional support from the moment he heard about the plot, Pradyumna Singh Chauhan who did this just to support a friend's dream despite his broken knee that took away one year of his life, Shanky Mahendra, who did the camerawork on the previous, our cinematographer Jai for stepping in at short notice … oh, there are just too many to mention. My professor Rakesh Katarey and filmmaker Hariharan, who I consider my guru.
I’ve had like ten assistant directors till date... Thank you Deesh Mariwala teaching me basics of production, Sravan and Bharani for being super resourceful, Rohit Rueben for working harder than everyone else the first time around, Krishna Ramkumar, Pradeep Kalipurayath (who came a full circle in the last five years, he started as an AD and returned to the movie as a cinematographer), Shalini Venugopal, Kumkum Jagadeesh, Avinash, Livingston, Shyam Balasubramaniam! And please remind me if I left anyone out, better late than never. And yes, I'm gonna suck at Oscar acceptance speeches... He he!
Sunday, March 26, 2006
This is the promo of the movie which we shot three years ago, shelved and reshot.
As a build-up to the launch of the trailer of the new version and the preview coming up in a few weeks, I will be going down the memory lane and maybe use the chance to thank all the people who have been responsible for giving shape to a very old dream.
The promos will feature one new video on the movie and the making of it every week and will end with the release of the trailer of the new movie and the dates of preview. We've been stuck at the post production level for quite a long while now because of technical difficulties. But we believe this too shall pass and we will have a movie on our hands soon.
Spread the word. This August, we hope we will give you a chance to celebrate life and friendship. Sign up for the preview to be held in a few weeks by leaving a comment with your email address.
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Saturday, January 21, 2006
It marked the end of a journey that's taken over six years. I would like to believe I'm done shooting for That Four Letter Word.
Yes, yesterday was the last day of shoot. Now I think I have every bit of footage I need (of course given the constraints of budget) to finish the movie.
I wanted to post a long, elaborate thanksgiving note but I guess I'll save that for later. Too tired and maybe a little too early considering that we still need to finish the final cut of the edit and wrap up dubbing by the end of the month. Looks like I'll have a movie on my hands by mid-February. And once its done, I might have to write a bible if I were to mention every single person who has contributed to get us here. I hope to do that too post premiere.
For now, I got to get back to work on the movie.
Just wanted to share my relief and happiness at having completed the entire shoot, including patch work this time.
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