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Home / Entertainment / On Poila Baisakh, three film-makers talk about the opening day

On Poila Baisakh, three film-makers talk about the opening day

Discussions ranging from the surprising dynamics of the first-day shoot, scheduling tough scenes, popping antacids to release date memories
Sayantan Ghosal
Sayantan Ghosal
Sourced by The Telegraph

Arindam Chatterjee   |   Calcutta   |   Published 15.04.21, 12:54 AM

Sayantan Ghosal

Do you have a must-do thing that you have to do on the first day of shoot?

I start with an interior scene, no matter what. There is no specific reason for this, just that I feel like doing it. I have done this for all my films/ web shows till date.

How’s your mood on Day One of shoot?

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I am generally very calm on sets. I cannot operate properly otherwise. And I try to create this happy, cheerful, stress-free environment for the technicians and actors because I believe it allows them to give their best. Proper working environment is an absolute necessity for me.

What kind of a first shot do you like to take on Day One? Is it a tough or a light one?

I plan the toughest schedule on the first two-three days of shoot. The first day is generally the slowest as the crew and the actors take time to get a hang of things. A tough schedule keeps them alert and active, which aids in setting the pace for the following days.

Has it always gone the way you planned it?

A film shoot rarely happens as planned. Because there are so many things involved and so many dependencies, and we are always short on time... ‘perfect’ shoot days never really exist! Earlier I used to stress over these things, but with experience I have made peace with the fact that something or the other will surely go wrong. Now we keep at least four to five back-up plans ahead of time. During Jawker Dhan, we planned an elaborate sequence in a very picturesque and isolated location in North Bengal. It was an action sequence which involved a major explosion, and we selected the place during our recce since there were no locality nearby. On the day of the shoot, after we reached the place with the entire crew and actors, we could not recognise the place! The place had been converted into a park, with concrete flooring and a lot of shops all around! During Sagardwipey Jawker Dhan, we planned to shoot on an isolated, virgin island. But on the shoot day, due to turbulent weather, the island never came out of water! Film-making is a very very risky job, and involves quick decision-making, as we cannot afford to burn money.

What are your first instructions to the actors on Day One?

Nuances of the characters are decided in the pre-production stage, also during script-reading sessions. I hate over-directing actors. It kills spontaneity and restricts an actor. I encourage improvisations on set. What feels good on paper may not feel good on set... the set, the lighting, the style of acting of the other actors, and so on. It’s an intuitive process for me. I interrupt only if I have something very specific to tell or if something is not in sync with my overall vision.

Do you get the butterflies on Day One of shoot? How do you handle it?

Not butterflies, but ‘dinosaurs’ (laughs). I do a detailed plan of everything ahead of my shoots. So there is a pressure building inside me to execute the shoot exactly as I have planned. This reaches such a stage that I have to pop antacids in the morning to tackle the sense of nausea. But once the first shot starts rolling, things start getting back to normal.

How do you feel on the first day of release of your film/web show?

First of all, it feels a bit sad. We work on a film for six to eight months, sometimes more, and as a creator, to let go of your baby for the world to judge is difficult. Honestly, I don’t feel any pressure on release dates. I find it best to quickly channel my mind to the next film.

Did you ever go for first day first shows of films?  

For all Shah Rukh Khan films. I either watch the first show, or don’t watch it in theatres at all. This has happened since Yes Boss, and the only film I missed in theatres happens to be Fan, which I watched later on the web.

Aritra Sen

Do you have a must-do thing that you have to do on the first day of shoot?

I am not a firm believer of superstitions so I do not have a particular thing that I do. But I do need a good night’s sleep before the first day. No one wants to turn up on the first day of shoot of a new project with groggy eyes and yawns.

How’s your mood on Day One of shoot?

Usually I am very calm on the first day. This is because one cannot let panic set in among the team members at the onset of a new shoot. It is like opening the batting in a Test match. A calm start is needed so that the effect of the new ball fades. Then when it stops to swing you start playing your shots.

What kind of a first shot do you like to take on Day One? Is it a tough or a light one?

The first scene or the first day for that matter at my shoot is very light... I keep the simplest scene or schedule so that all the departments and the actors come together. If there is an issue then we iron it out with patience, so that later when the tricky situations come we gel well as a team. Film-making is a team effort. I usually use the first day at shoot to boost the team morale and bring everyone together for the project.

Has it always gone the way you planned it?

It never goes according to plan on a set. Therefore all the theory you learn and all the paperwork you do is never equivalent to real-time shooting... something or the other is bound to happen that will test your sanity. While we were shooting for Kaali we were thrown out of a critical location on the first day of shoot. The team morale was low and people found it hard to focus. I did not give this too much attention and started the next day as if nothing happened on the previous day and then we had the most smooth schedule... being the captain of the ship, as I also produce my own work, it is essential to lead by example and have your plan B sorted. One always goes back to Murphy’s law when it comes to shooting... something or the other will go wrong. We just need to deal with it.

What are your first instructions to the actors on Day One?

Usually actors are shuttling between projects. Gone are the days when people are focused on just one project. Hence I do not keep very acting-heavy scenes on the first day... I let the actors get into the skin of the characters before we go in-depth and shoot the tougher scenes... I chat a lot with actors on the first day... I try to ease them in, especially the main actors. After that they find a way... and I also take a step back and let them be.

Do you get the butterflies on Day One of shoot? How do you handle it?

Every time before the start of a new project one gets butterflies in the stomach. It is like stepping out to play a proper match or on the day of annual examinations in school. All the preparations and the hard work can go for a toss if the application is missing. Day One sets the tone for the shoot. Hence you want to have a near-perfect Day One. I try to focus on things that are in my control and execute them to the best of my ability... my team is very precious and they help me a lot on the first day. They calm my jitters. But even after hundreds of days of shoot one feels the heat on Day One of a new schedule.

How do you feel on the first day of release of your film/web show?

The first day of release is like the report card coming out. The examination is done. I am very unphased during this time as my post-production is done and usually I have locked the film to the best of my ability. So the nervous energy is spent... you cannot please everyone with a creative piece of work but one usually focuses on creating a ripple with one’s work, so that people talk about it and so that it is relevant in these times of massive content consumption. Also due to social media the critics have increased manifold. One has to take their observations with a pinch of  salt and in an open-minded way. I try to focus on the positive feeling that my work will go out to the world for people to see on the day of release. This gives me immense pleasure as we as creators are leaving behind some part of our designs as archives, which is very special to me.

Did you ever go for first day first shows of films?

I always awaited first day first show of films which had stars in it. The adrenaline of watching a star film in a single theatre is something else. The atmosphere is electric. This is something that is quite missing in the digital premieres in the confines of one’s home... the last time I rushed for the first day first show of a film was the last part of the Harry Potter series. I could not sleep the previous night because of the palpable anticipation. I also remember watching Rang De Basanti back-to-back on the first day of its release. Afternoon and evening show. We were stunned as we saw something like this for the first time on screen. The experience was soul-stirring.

Abhirup Ghosh

Do you have a must-do thing that you have to do on the first day of shoot?

Not really. But I almost always end up shooting some of the most complicated scenes on the first day of shoot. I have heard that, in case of most films/series, the norm is to shoot a light, simple scene on the first day, just to set the tone and to bring the team together. However, I have always ended up throwing my cast and crew in deep water and shot really difficult sequences on the first day itself. This has not been a planned thing, but has somehow happened in all of my works so far. Another thing I do on the first day is request the production team to have a steady supply of coffee ready throughout the entire schedule. I usually have four-five cups of coffee each day during shoot.

How’s your mood on Day One of shoot?

It depends on the project. For example, in case of Brombhodoityo, I was extremely positive and excited on the first day. The entire team comprised friends who had come together to try out something new. On the other hand, on the first day of Rohoshyo Romancho Series 2, I was nervous and unsure as the series was mounted on a huge canvas and I was working with a new team, that too, in highly turbulent circumstances. Thankfully, I found my groove after taking a couple of shots. In case of Rohoshyo Romancho Series 3, I was just super happy to be back on set after the lockdown.

What kind of a first shot do you like to take on Day One?

We usually start with a long, master shot that sets up the geography and the dynamics of a scene. We let the actors move freely and find their characters in the set. Once the characters come to life in this take, we move on to the close shots.

Has it always gone the way you planned it?

In my experience, whether things go according to plan or not depends entirely on the amount of pre-production you have done, and to some extent, the budget. If you have done adequate prep, there will be no surprises on set. However, if certain aspects have been ignored, you may get rude shocks. For example, while shooting my first film, I needed a straitjacket and a bullet-proof jacket for two different scenes. Even though the costume department had confirmed that they had these items, on the respective days of shoot, I realised that they could not supply what we needed. We had to improvise at the last moment and use inferior alternatives. On the other hand, during the shoot of Rohoshyo Romancho Series 2, we needed a car for an accident scene. The car could not be acquired till even the morning of the shoot. However, as the series had a decent budget, at the last minute, we managed to shoot the scene perfectly. We ended up buying an old car and wrecked it completely to shoot the accident practically and realistically. However, I believe that beyond all logic, preparations and budget lies a factor called movie magic. On certain days of shoot, something magical just switches on, taking some scenes to the next level. No amount of planning or budget can guarantee this. On certain rare days, a scene just comes to life and goes beyond the script in a beautiful way. For example, while shooting the gambling scenes in Rohoshyo Romancho Series 1, something magical happened and everything just worked out perfectly. The entire cast and crew could feel that something special was going on, but no one  could really explain it verbally.

What are your first instructions to the actors on Day One?

I try to have detailed discussions with actors before the shoot itself, usually during the script-reading session. I ask for their inputs and feedback and give them a lot of space and freedom to find the characters and connect with them. They often bring their own, unique perspectives to the characters. On the first day of shoot, I mostly let them interpret whatever I have written in their own way. They generally show me multiple variations of the way they want to perform. I tweak the performances a bit if needed. If I have any specific requirements, I let them know. For example, in case of RRS3, I had told Saurav Das to develop a signature laughter for his character Mora. He gave me three-four variations, out of which I opted for the one you see in the final output. However, I have a tendency of improvising a lot of lines just moments before going for a shot. Some of the best dialogues of my works have been written this way. These improvisations are usually the first instructions I give the actors on any given day.

Do you get the butterflies on Day One of shoot? How do you handle it?

Being an introvert, I get butterflies only if I am working with people I haven’t worked with before, or haven’t really developed a connection with. For example, I was a bit nervous before working with Kharaj Mukherjee on the first day of the shoot of RRS2, because I barely knew him. I handle this issue simply by being nonchalant and establishing a casual, laid-back work atmosphere where everyone can relax and do their respective jobs happily, without taking any stress.

How do you feel on the first day of release of your film/web show?

In case of the first couple of releases, I used to be highly excited and nervous. I used to be sleepless with worry about the feedback and the reviews. However, now I have become more detached about all this. I move on mentally and emotionally from a film/series, the moment my work is complete and I have seen the final, finished product. Irrespective of the outcome, I just feel a sense of calm and completion on the day of release; the way you feel at the end of a long, hard journey.

Did you ever go for first day first shows of films?

I have disastrous memories of the premiere of my first film, K. The film stopped playing after 40 minutes due to some technical issue and we had to stop the screening. It was heartbreaking and embarrassing. From then on, I have become a bit superstitious about first day first shows or premieres. Though K did not do well theatrically, it ran houseful at Nandan for three weeks, where I had the pleasure of watching the film with the audiences. In case of my second theatrical release, Zombiesthaan, I waited outside the auditorium throughout the time the film played at its special screening, constantly praying that the screening would not be stopped due to some technical issue again.



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