(first published on, Dec 15, 2008)

The last schedule of my new film is fast approaching. The office is like a fish market. I feel like the most important person on earth. The very next instant I feel small and insignificant. I am a bundle of contradictions. Production staff scurrying around with reams of paperwork. Assistant directors trying to convince production that their requirements are all part of the director’s vision. You cant meddle with vision…

Actors flocking the office. Many of whom are friends, many of whom I have worked with in the past. I try to avoid most of them as I am unable to offer them any work in my film. The casting is long over. The film is nearly complete. Yet they remain hopeful. Like me…

I sit back in my cabin isolated, oblivious and afraid. Afraid to face some awkward questions about my ‘vision’. Afraid to be reminded that this film is perhaps my last shot at glory. Afraid to face awkward questions from the producer. Afraid to face the angry accountant. Afraid to visualize the location. Afraid to think of how the actors will enact the scene. Afraid to imagine any spillovers in the already packed schedule. Afraid to think about how its all going to fall in place. Afraid to think that very soon all this is going to end. Afraid that maybe there won’t be a next time. Afraid of failure. Afraid of disappointment. Afraid of resentment. Afraid of jealousy. Afraid of anger. Afraid to face the disappointed actors. Afraid to face some quashed hopes.

A few days later…

I have been cursing myself through the entire journey to the location. Did I need to be so conscientious? Did I need to call a 6.30am shift? Am I hung-over from a drinking binge the previous night? Did I spend a sleepless night pondering over my fate? All I know is that I am sleepy and irritable.

Then, I arrive on location. 6.30am. Equipment is already unloaded. The generator is already connected. The make-up vans are operational. My lead actress had a call-time of 5.30am. Did she make it on time? Is she going to be ready for the first shot? Is the lead actor there? Is he ready for the first shot? And what is the first shot? I walk up the stairs and am greeted by almost seventy-five smiling faces. All of whom have gotten up much earlier and all of whom have slept much later than me last night. Most of whom do not have a comfortable home like I have. Most of whom cannot even dream to have the life I live. Most of whom have stopped dreaming…

Suddenly I stand there, humbled. I stand there, overawed. I stand there, amazed. I stand there, thankful. What would I have done without this life? All despair dissipates. All fear fades. I am a film-maker. This is where my life begins and this is where it must end. I pick up the script. The script assistant has marked out the pages of the scene that we will begin the day with. I decide to do the next scene first. My first assistant has the ‘I knew it’ look on his face. I am joined by the actors. We read the scene together. We read it again. We read it again. We change lines, try to make the scene conversational. I try to make the actors oblivious to the spoken word. I try to find motivations for moving my characters, for moving the camera.

We rehearse the scene once. While we rehearse again I begin marking the various camera setups with my cinematographer. We agree on camera moves. We disagree, then agree on lenses to be used for each setup. We decide on a floor plan. I look back at my first assistant. A look of disappointment is writ large on his face. Then a wry smile. He has spent the previous evening devising a floor plan and shot breakdown for this scene. The cinematographer puts his hand round the assistants’ shoulder, ‘my sympathies, mate’…

As the day progresses, all thoughts of tiredness are far removed from my mind. All negative thoughts are stashed away in my cold, comfortable cabin. As one shot germinates from another, a scene is born. As scene after scene is canned, a film is born. Cigarettes are stubbed, cups of hot, sweet ‘chai’ are downed, my throat is hoarse from screaming.

The magic words ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’. They are all I was born to utter. The illusion unfolding between these two magic words is my universe. This is the world I was born to rule. This is the kingdom I was destined to command. This is the only life I know and this is the only universe I want. These are the only friends I have and this is my true family. Finally, the dreaded call ‘It’s a wrap’. I am back in my car. Irritable, tired and mortal. In the chaos of this vast world – insignificant, insecure, unknown and uncouth.

Deep down, no one really believes they have a right to live. But this death sentence generally stays tucked away, hidden beneath the difficulty of living… – Jean Baudrillard

Author: Hansal Mehta

Rants, Recipes, Writings, Films etc...

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