“Commercial shoot – Thomex.com”
It was around 1030 when my phone rang. I was in a deep stupor, courtesy my awkward working regimen. Ideally, I just reach out for the phone and put the ringer to silence. And this is done with ample dexterity by gently pressing the ‘red’ hang-up icon so as to put the ringer off but not to reject the call as the caller might get offended and offence pertaining to hurt egos are often not pardonable in the entertainment industry, especially so if it is committed by a fledgling ‘cameraman’ (general parlance for cinematographer/s). This is the extent to which my reflexes have been tutored to prevent any unwanted professional hazards.
I wonder if I was at the fag end of R.E.M. sleep or something, I chose to answer the phone. It was Darshan, the production guy. He asked me if I was free at the weekend for a commercial shoot. I said yes and was game. I went back to sleep. I woke up an hour later and I tried recollecting the conversation in my full senses. It is an ad-shoot, wonderful!
I met Kittu, the seasoned commercial director, the next day. He saw my show reel and nodded. I was on. The commercial has to be shot in Goa in the coming weekend. He mailed me a script.
Just a week prior this, I was in Goa with wife on vacation and the weather had played a great spoiler – it began to rain when we were jetskiing at Baga. Resigned to the bad weather we played water polo with friends in the hotel’s pool. I began to wonder if the bad weather would continue this weekend.
Goa, was bright and hot. We all were booked at Leoni resort near little Vagator – a quiet secluded place. The location was the little Vagator beach – surrounded by rocky hills from three sides it is a nightmare for a production unit to get all the gear to the beach. It was then I realized why I have been called to shoot this ad.
I had shot a feature a year back at palolem with bare minimum gear – just reflectors and all. Darshan was aware of this fact. Few months later he called me to shoot a very strange short film – just one cut 8 minute film, completely hand held to be shot in a moving bus. There was no scope of putting any kind of lighting as the camera panned 360 degrees. I shot with natural light – sunlight filtering through the foliage and windows. The result, except for purists who believe in zone-system, was unlikely to have found any supporters. Low key cinematography has very few takers here.
Back to the commercial shoot. I was again in the same predicament. Somehow I have gotten a moniker – Mr. No Lights. Darshan remarked with a smile – “again sir you have to do without lights”. Given an opportunity every cinematographer likes to have the right array of equipments to record good images. I asked him what I can get in terms of lights.
“Can I have a battery powered joker?” I asked out of desperation.
“Not possible” Darshan remarked with his usual smile. I had every reason to get annoyed now.
We did a reccee of the beach and then sat in the shack and discussed the shots to be taken next day over beer. The clients were also present.
Later in the evening, Kittu took us out for a nice Italian meal. While the clients and Kittu were savouring on the wine and delicious Italian cuisine, I was racking my brains over what can I do with two 4×4 tea and mud stained silk frames and two bent reflectors for a glamour commercial.
I woke up at four-thirty in the morning. At six I was at the beach with my crew. And with first light I was ready to roll. Since a tropical beach like Goa gets hot very early, say by ten thirty and remains so till four thirty in the evening and since most of the shots would be canned in this harsh light, I waited for the nice early morning light to pass to maintain continuity of light in terms of harshness!!
As the sun kicked off later we began shooting. I saw the north sky was a brilliant blue, very hot, must be around 15000k. Seems that last weeks rain has washed off everything that hangs up there and gives the cinematographer a night mare – haze! Haze is more apparent at the confluence of land and water. Today there was no such thing. Visibility extended to miles and the sky crystal clear. I slid a linear pola (no circular pola) and framed most of the medium and wide shots in North, North West Direction. In the viewfinder it looked good.
There was one more beautiful element in front of the camera that enhanced the frame’s aesthetics – kingfisher model Deepti in a bikini.\
We moved at good speed and by four we were almost done except for some stock shots and misc. cover shots. We wrapped much before sunset and quickly moved back to the hotel. Everyone was sun burnt by the intense UV rays. Clear skies are good for the negative but not for the skin!
I was dead tired so I turned down the offer to go pub hopping instead I sat at the pool side sipping old monk rum with cola.
Back in Mumbai, I was down with mild fever. The phone rang in the morning; I was in deep stupor. My reflexes turned off the ringer. 30 seconds later it rang again. I answered. It was Kittu, “you have to come and see the telecine” I wondered if something was amiss.
At four in the evening I went to the edit. Kittu was ecstatic when he played the rushes. The gamble seems to have paid off.