Sunday, May 11, 2008


11:30 pm. Hostel room.

Woke up at 10:30 am today.
There’s a sudden down feeling after almost a month of high.
I’m looking forward to going back home for some change of weather. The humid summer here is unbearable.

The Kolkata Metro, the South Park Street Cemetery, the Bantala Junkyard.

It’s a bit surprising the kind of 'unfilmable' locations we got to shoot around this time. Although it meant I had to take far more meetings to various govt. departments and really trying to convince the authorities on my work.

Never walked the streets of Kolkata this much before. Never travelled so much in a month within the city.

The Kolkata metro :
I had to make more trips to the head office than I’d like to recall.
The concerned official was an amiable sort of a person who would listen to me, but he had a collegue who I’d like to give a piece of my mind some day. To almost every request he’s immediate answer would be –‘NO’. and this in the middle of my sentence.
An overblown ‘babu’ from the past who should be given a few lessons by the general public.
He goes on give various security reasons at length for denying any shooting and then some time later promptly adds –‘otherwise you pay 3 lac rupees and shoot anywhere you want! I guess 3 lac rupees takes care of all security concerns.

It’s actually a big pleasant surprise that the police headquarters in Kolkata has a Films Section! Nice! The office coordinates with various police departments and stations in kolkata where you need prior police permissions. It really made things easier on my front. Just had to go there once to give an application for three locations, and I always got a good update whenever I called and finally even got the permissions without having to go back. It actually works. Always a shocker when that happens in a govt. department in India.

I didn’t really expect to get clearance to shoot in the old park street cemetery as it was undergoing renovations; turns out it was one of the reasons I got the permission! Talk of irony.
The Christian burial board under whom the cemetery runs had a madame whose concern seem to be most on ‘donation’
She’s adamant on her stand that we can’t film as restoration work is on full swing. Another round of convincing and smooth talking and she promises to talk to her superiors. I get back two days later and there’s a proposal.
We screen the film for the Board so that the senior bureaucrats can see the renovated work the cemetery has gone through.
I promptly say yes.

Finding location and getting permissions is one thing, finding actors in another.
Almost every small actor here has bangla looks. So searching for a non Bengali looking face is an adventure in itself. We naturally had to turn to non professionals.
I post adverts on the net and in front of college gates.
I get good responses on my mail. But opening them is one disappointment after another. Portfolios have ‘sunil shetty wannabe’ written all over them. No point serching for ‘normal’ looking actors.
I turn to my friends. It’s always through them that we get someone in the end. This time too is no different.
But the female actor hasn’t been found till the last moment. I make contacts, I call, I meet actors all over kolkata, but nothing.
At the last moment I call up my friend. She is like a lifesaver. She promptly says yes. She rescues the situation. Like my last short film when the female lead had a change of mind in the day of shoot and vanished! She was there to fill in and save the day.
I later come to know she’s bunked her work to be at my shoot.

Shoot happens on time. My crew works like they’r suppose to. Professionally. We have good locations and we make the most of it. Although it always seem the eight hour shift a day isn’t enough and whenever the production in charge reminds us that it’s pack up time, there’s always two or three shots more to take. Problems crop up at intervals n we try dealing with them as best we can.

The kolkata metro allows us to shoot on the condition that we do it at 7 am in the morning when the metro opens and the pilot train runs. For half an hour only. And no shooting with a 35mm film camera. We can take only a small digital camera. We’r fucked. This is a film camera project, not a digital one.
Meetings with the production manager. We decide to use a digital camera and screen it on the plasma tv and shoot that with the film camera.
They agree and we make preparations.
At the last moment the Metro officials again inform us that they can’t let us shoot on a weekday and we have to do it on a Sunday at noon. We already have a fixed schedule from Monday to Thursday. We’r fucked again.
I try convincing the official that we’ve fixed a schedule for Monday.
‘how can you fix anything? It’s upto us to give you time. You can’t demand anything.’
I feel like smashing the ******* daylights out of this ******.

Why not shoot on a Sunday and call a rest on Monday? The production manager agrees. Great. We call up all the locations that we were to shoot in Monday and tell them we wanna shoot on Sunday.
The Christian burial board denies us permission to shoot in Sunday.
We’r fucked all over again.
We go through out other locations and see if we can shift things around.
But all the other locations come under the police and we’ve already fixed location dates with them. Getting their permissions for a new shoot dates will take a week at least and our shoot is suppose to start the next day!
In a desperate call the production manager allows us an extra day of shoot with a digital camera.
So we go with five days of shoot instead of four.

The last day of shoot and the ‘honourable band madam’ Mamata Banerjee decides to call an impromptu band (again) after six.
We are shooting at the junkyard and have to shift base to park street exactly at six o’clock. I suddenly get desperate and call up our production manager. He calls back saying it’s a one hour band only. We can have an extra hour to shoot. Whew.
But we have to get to park street in an hour or the shop closes where we are to shoot. As we ride towards park street the rain falls and it’s the worst traffic jam ever. The IPL is being played at the stadium nearby.
I’m almost chewing my nails and thinking things couldn’t get worst when all of a sudden a crowd of Trinamool congress supporters jump on the road shouting slogans and raising flags. They further slow down the already dead traffic. I almost give up.
The shop is closing it’s shutters and is switching off it’s lights. I run to the propertier and request 10 minutes. We just get two shots inside the store and that’s it. Not good.
Shift location. Griahat overbridge. We need traffic below overbridge but by the time we arrive it's late and the traffic has begun to thin. by the time we'r ready for our first shot it's past ten at night and there's just a token traffic plying around. we go ahead anyway n try to make the best of it. Three more hour of shoot at the Gariahat pathway and we’r finally done past midnight.

I need that plane ticket home.