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Archive for May, 2011

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May

Part 3 – Journey of Arranging Money my Honey for our 1st feature film WITH LOVE, DELHI!

So here we were, feeling victorious though being stressful for the payments we had to make to all the cast and crew of our film. We obviously didn’t have any money at that point in time, so we gave post-dated cheques to all – post dated to about 10days or so. Since we are educated middle class people with mountain sized principles, we wanted to maintain it even in this crisis period. What do I mean? I mean we gave more money than was expected of us to a few people whom we thought had worked more than we had committed them to, committed to pay more than one would get as per the industry standards and even paid to people who had requested to work just for such an experience for a boost in their lifelong film career. Trust me, howsoever minuscule the amount might be even for a wealthy producer, most don’t pay a penny for such trivial extra hours or days, sometimes not even the genuine pre-decided amount but we did. I’m sure all of them felt good and respectful and some shocked but howsoever cynical it might sound but today I feel that not all, but most of them, don’t even remember or care to be thankful that we were one of the rarest of rare businessmen who were so moralistic in money matters as well. It’s not that they do not know it’s a genuinely remarkable act proving true concern for them but it’s just that people rationalize anything and everything – “Oh I deserved it” or “Oh, what’s the big deal, that Producer also did like this and even more”, “Come on, nobody is moralistic in terms of money, there must be some ulterior motives which we’ll know” and so on and so forth! In fact, some of these guys after a few months showed shocking disrespect when we needed sometime to pay (hardly a few thousand bucks for some) them for further work. If I’m sounding cynical, let me tell you that even after this experience, I’ll still do the same, exactly the same, the only thing that will change is that I’ll not expect even a genuine good will. Chuck it, let’s move on.
We had not checked shots of even one day trusting completely the team responsible for it and not trying to be nosy. Surprisingly, in 2 days, when I thought I need to have a check, I found quite a few places which had to be shot were completely missing. To err is human, so we didn’t make a hue and cry over it and in the flow of things, we hired the entire camera unit again and under Matte’s direction shot for a couple of days, shooting about 15-16hrs each day.
We had to clear payments. Again we got on our mission of arranging, this time a huge amount but now we felt we were pro at it :)). Again, from whom Matte and Manav arranged is a story they should share. What I did and surprisingly successfully was to write a genuine mail to about 40 close friends and relatives about our situation and asking them to invest at a interest rate so that it would not be just help but help plus good returns. You won’t believe it but within 24 hours, I had got commitment of a major percentage of a crore! I remember telling Matte and Manav – “It makes you feel so blessed and at the same time so much responsible that just one mail can convince middle class people to invest so much money without any hi-fi legal contracts or so”. Trust me, it’s a great feeling and so humbling that can only be felt – try asking for just 10Lacs from middle class friends and relatives and you’ll know what I mean! I’m so obliged to:
  • Kaushal Choudhury, my senior at IIT Delhi. If I know anyone who’s a real dildaar and has a huge heart, I can bet on him. Few years back, I remember asking for Rs24,000/- bucks in my last year at IIT from him to buy the cheapest bike available. Hush hush, this is private, nobody at my home knows :)). He gave it to me and I was surprised and obliged at his immediate response – “Abe, tujhse koi junior maangega to tu bhi aise hi turant de dega”. No Sir, aapke jaisa dildaar kab ban paunga pata nahin, tussi epitome ho ismein! Even in this case, he called on my mobile just after reading the mail from a far off country and committed to invest.
  • Simanto Singh, my senior at school, and a IIT Kharagpur grad, with whom I had hardly been in touch with for ages came to the rescue and agreed to invest. He was in my Jiju-Sister’s batch in school, his large heart and their goodwill must have convinced him to do this for us. Parents didn’t keep my name Ashish (blessing) for no reason, he he he ;P
  • Shipra-Sudhendu, my youngest Didi-Jiju had just bought a huge house in Texas, US and hardly had any money to invest but still you know how sisters are, sweet, caring and ready to do anything to see you succeed. Both of them did everything they could to help us in this phase.
  • Vikas Kumar, aka Guddu Chacha, another young uncle of mine, on his own suggested that he should take personal loan to help me because he didn’t have cash – I actually had goose bumps and felt extremely emotional. Since he already had a few loans, he could hardly get a significant loan even after trying hard for it. I suggested to forget it but he was so bent down upon helping me that God knows from where, but he arranged money to put in our film and instructed me not to ask about how he did it. And for all those who say rishtedaari sab bakwaas hai aaj ke duniya mein, let me tell you that he’s son of my grandfather’s 4th brother so technically a distant relative for many but this is our family tradition that all of us are as close as two brothers can be, unbelievable but true, such families exist even now! Yes’ we’ve a huge huge family and so close knitted that you’ve to experience it to believe it.
  • Susheel Nawal, my junior at IIT, one of the highest grade holders in the entire institute, extremely sharp, unbelievably disciplined and a superb cricketer – all rounder so to say – gave me a pleasant surprise when he agreed to invest in our movie and help us move towards the path less traveled! Thanks a ton Nawal, you rock!
  • Tanuj Bansal, again my junior at IIT, a quiz master in the institute and a really nice guy, had just invested in property and you all know when a middle class guy and that too one in early twenties invests in property, how much he would be left with. He could have easily given this genuine reason and just wished us luck which also means a lot but it’s remarkable on his part to be so concerned with our dream that he did whatever he could to invest in our film. Bansi bhai, really appreciate man, God bless you!
So the 3Ms (Matte, Manav & Me) got enough money to pay all the cast and crew though it got extended by another week or so. We’re thankful that nobody made a hue and cry over a week’s delay and finally everything seemed fine. We thought we needed some more money for post-production work and we would be ready to rock in Bollywood. Well, you’ve all played video games, you cross a tough level and think you’ve reached it, but then another much more tougher level pops-up and in your mind get enveloped with this filmy dialogue – Bhagwan, aisa mere saath hi kyun!
 
Anyways, to cut short the entire story, as we did not check during shooting, we maintained it even during editing and did no interfering till the 1st rough cut of the film was prepared by a few people in the direction and editing team. When Manav and I watched the movie, we went dumb – no, not because the film was not good, the storyline did not come well or any other glitch but because the film lacked so many, hundreds to keep it less, “necessary” shots to have the flow inevitably required in viewing. Apart from these shots, there were few scenes which needed more dynamism through whatever way possible. I’m not against shooting an entire scene without any camera movement, but I’m also not against lots of camera movement – I’m against shutting your mind and creativity and blindly and conveniently following one rule whether it works or not. What works is correct – no camera movement or heavy dose of camera movements! I always say this to people and I believe it to the core – “Rules are made for a reason, always focus on the reasons and not on the rules”. Simply put, there can’t be any rule in art or human nature or subjective things like that, which works every time and in every condition, just not possible!
In spite of having the best editor on board Namrata Rao (won Best Editor Award at Filmfare Awards 2011 for Love, Sex Aur Dhokha and at Star Screen Awards 2011 for Band Baaja Baraat), we could not manage the lack of hundreds of inevitable shots and few important scenes lacking the required punch. Hence, with extreme financial and mental pressure, we decided to go for the 2nd phase of shoot. It was simply 2nd phase of shoot and by no means should be called a patch-work (patch work is said when you just need few shots here and there to cover few errors which might have crept in during shooting).
It is very important to understand that as 1st time middle class Producers and arranging money living on the edge all the time, we were the last persons to decide on a 2nd phase of shoot. Moreover, since art is primarily subjective, you can convince yourself giving logics that this is fine, it’s ok, it will work and what not. However, Producers just have to crush their ego, by that I mean, if I’m a Director, to satisfy my ego I might (not will) find reasons and justifications why the way I shot will work, if I’m an actor, to satisfy my ego I might (not will) rationalize why my acting in a debatable scene is fine but when I’m a Producer, I do not have the liberty to rationalize because my life is at stake with so much financial pressure, I have to be completely objective and sometimes also take very harsh decisions because nobody suffers even a bit compared to the producers after a flop film! With a deep breath and ready to make the film the best possible, we decided to go for the struggle again! Mind you, directly due to shoot and indirectly due the delay imposed because of the errors in 1st phase, the budget shot up by major portion of a crore! Do you think someone or a group of people came and said – “I understand due to our mistakes you guys have to go through such a terrible financial situation once again, I’m sorry to let you down for the opportunity you gave and the trust you bestowed, let me know how I can be of any help”. Hell No, I read somewhere which meant something like this – human mind has the greatest power to rationalize mistakes, even the most horrific ones, as a defense mechanism and this is good, otherwise one would lose face and self esteem and sometimes even the will to live! Instead of admitting mistakes, we definitely got bad vibes, dis-respectable behavior, childish tantrums, immoral conduct when needed help and what not, from more than one. Let’s not get into that, I know I’ve already forgotten and forgiven almost all of these and few months down the line, won’t even remember any of these too busy in my work day in and day out. Deep inside, I strongly believe, I really do, that everyone is really a good person but this bloody defense mechanism spoils the sportsmanship spirit of any team.
 
Forgot to mention that meanwhile we got a very talented music director on board, Sanjoy Chowdhury, son of the great musician Salil Chowdhury. If you check Sanjoy’s degrees in music from across the globe, you would be surprised. He has given music, especially background for over 60 films including Sarfarosh, Jab We Met, Golmaal1-2-3, Zinda, A Wednesday to name a few.
Sanjoy Chowdhury, Manav, Shaan & Me (descending order of height 😀 )
Sanjoy made 2 beautiful Hindi songs. One is an extremely peppy dance number sung by the so very talented, humble and famous Shaan and Sarika. It was such a pleasure being with Shaan whom I have heard and seen since childhood, singing in the recording studio for our film, what a feeling :)!
 
Matte, Sooraj Jagan, Me & Sanjoy Chowdhury
 
 
Another is a rock styled revenge song sung by Sooraj Jagan (of “Give me some sunshine” of 3Idiots fame and also who sang and acted for the awesome rock song Zehreele in Rock On!! – see pic above). I could recognize Sooraj in one go as I had loved Rock On!! and man, he looks like a rock star and he sings like a rock star – Matte and I remember having goose bumps in the recording studio!
 
To get on with the main track, majority of the funds in this phase was generated by Matte through friends, relatives and bank loans, hence, I’m not getting into details of from whom we removed that huge burden of another major amount. It can be imagined by even a layman that it was stressful, painful and extremely tedious for 3 of us once again.
 
A senior member suggested that we should have, as Producers, only who have to bear the financial brunt, been checking the footages on a daily basis and it would have taken at max 3 days to understand the glitch. We could have taken precautionary measures then and there. During shooting, we thought it was interfering with the direction team and showing distrust but see what happened later – we had to keep at bay many people in the team and ourselves completely take charge of each and everything from the word go in the 2nd phase of shoot. Seriously, now I realize that interfering at that time would have been better though might have put off a few people, but now because we were forced to take few harsh steps due to grave mistakes leading to serious financial issues, it left a bad taste in our mouth because as I said most do not admit their mistake, most seem to be asking only about what he should be given (rights) and forget what he should give (duties) – in the professional world the philosophy, which I believe in, is when you do not do your ‘duties’ as expected from you, you do not get ‘rights’ as expected by you.
Matte directed about one-third of WITH LOVE, DELHI! i.e. the entire 2nd phase of shoot!
Matte single handedly directed the entire 2nd phase of the shoot (which obviously also includes the couple of days shoot just after the supposedly final day pack-up about which I’ve mentioned). In fact, Matte directed almost one-third of WITH LOVE, DELHI! We’re obliged to him because he always wanted to direct a complete film and never directing only a part but you know what I said before – Producers have to crush their ego and just give completely objective answer to the question – what can you do to make the film the best possible? No hangups, no baggages, no ego, no childish selfishness, just doing what needs to be done whether you hate it or like it. Now for this 2nd phase, we never imagined that getting a couple of dates from the actors would be such a humongous task since each one of them had moved on to other projects. We’re thankful to Tom Sir, Kiran Sir, Pariva and all other actors who took out time from their hectic schedules and helped in our endeavor to make the project reach its maximum potential! I hope they also realize that it was no fun to invest so much money and time in shooting again as we were the only ones who had to bear the brunt of it for months, whereas others were already working on other projects.
In December, we completed the shoot of the film with only a song shoot remaining. We decided to shoot it asap but because of pouring all the money into the 2nd phase of shoot, we had nothing left to invest. I flew from Mumbai to get prepared for the shoot. I remember Matte, Manav and me sitting in my bedroom in Delhi and having this 1st time super-hot discussion on whether we should go ahead with arranging money for editing the entire film, doing background score, sound etc. first or shoot the song first. I was adamant about the latter and they both were about the former. I finally gave in to keep the team spirit intact although I still believe in the latter. That was a terrible discussion, a terrible low night, depressing to the core, the financial pressure was taking its toll. I remember brooding lying down in my bed, not even going to attend some important function I had to attend that day. It felt so low I can’t explain, though it objectively seemed that song has just got delayed by a couple of months till post-production got completed. Well, as always, I believe every problem has a solution and I can’t sit crying over an issue for more than a few hours or at max a couple of days. I decided not to let financial pressure play on my mind and let’s go with the decision. Matte gave a comment on the last blog (imported to Facebook) about that night’s discussion which sums it all up – “…yaad hai Lal ke ghar main ek meeting thi (Promo song se related – thoda hot ho gaya tha environment, :P), us din lal ne bola tha ki ‘ Hum ye sab dubaara nahin kar paayenge ‘ : I donno why but I can’t forget that instance…. it actually scared me. But guys, in the end I want to salute you both for the plunge you have taken ( I’m proud of myself too, :P), and I also adore you for maintaining “the rocking smile” under such circumstances….the smile which says “Sab chill hai be, ye bhi guzar jayega.” Love you Matte, muaaaaaahhhhhh!
Many people think that you shoot your film and it’s ready for release. Sorry guys, but I’ve heard that Don2’s shooting is over but it’ll release in December, hello! Post-production takes a lot of time, if you want to do it properly. How we went on to our post-production and the story forward will be in my next part after which the blogs will go [LIVE]!
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