It was the first day of the shoot. We started with Zero bridge. An aged fragile looking bridge with the surface tar buckling between the pillars. It was closed to vehicular traffic, obviously. The bridge lay entrenched in the centre of the town besieged with cantonments around, hence the name Zero bridge.
Two platoons of C.R.P.F. were requested by the director for the morning sequence. The soldiers were punctual and the shoot commenced on time. It was a relatively stress-free shoot which finished by noon.
Once through with Zero bridge we set our course towards Hazratbal shrine. We had pre-decided to shoot hand held to capture the festive mood in journalistic style at Hazratbal after Friday prayers.
We made a small crew comprising the local line producer, the camera team, and the director. Rest of the crew was glad to be sent back early.
Hazratbal was swarming with people. We parked the cars some distance away and walked to the narrow lane which leads to the shrine. We wanted to capture the general business with the flavor of the holy month of Ramadan as the backdrop. Road side stalls did brisk business. The bakeries and sweet shops hosted more than enough customers.
I had barely kept the camera on my shoulders and rolled when people started asking the crew – who we are and where we have come from and why filming here? Our answers didn’t seem to have struck conciliatory note with them. All it took was one guy among the crowd who began to cry hoarse, shouted objections to our very presence there. His rhetoric spread like a bush fire and the crowd became vicarious. Sensing trouble, I turned back towards the main road. I could sense relief filling over not just in me but in my ACs too. The camera was simply too precious for us because there were hardly any cameras available for rentals in Mumbai during that period. Dipesh and the local line producer stayed back and engaged the crowd in a general banter, mollifying them, making clear our intention was not to malign them.
Some fifteen minutes later my cell phone rang. The crowd seems to have taken a softer line. I was back and we were taking random shots. This success filming continued till we ran into a fresh lot of people who shared the same language and expression of speech-making as the previous one. Same procedure. Self and A.C.s fled from the scene with the camera to a safe haven.
It was an eventful three hour with the shoot disrupted a couple of times. Finally we had to leave as the crowd was going just short of being riotous. Police came in with batons. We left the place respectfully. We did manage to get some decent footage. Phase-1 of Hazratbal shoot was over.