In late November 2006, after my return from Prague, I got a call from Hussein, a friend of mine. A friend of his wants to shoot a low budget indie and is looking for a cinematographer. He put me through to Mustafa. We spoke on the phone and met at a bustling south Mumbai coffee shop. Tall and handsome, an ex Mr. Grasim, Mustafa’s hallmark is his silence. He didn’t say much about the story-just handed me the script and asked me to go through it. I read the script and then went through it again. It was a very unusual script thematically but visually a brilliant piece. It was a challenge for me to convert those written words into images.
It is very unfortunate that many studios, sometimes, tend to overlook some brilliant writing just because it doesn’t adhere to mainstream Bollywood genre. Well, Mustafa’s script was a real script indeed – ready to shoot.
That fateful meeting led to a series of meetings spread over the lengths and breadths of Mumbai – meeting production managers, light vendors, film labs, camera rental managers, or just the two of us discussing how best we could get this film made. Within a span of two months we had a skeleton crew ready. Mustafa managed to get a good deal from Gemini lab in Chennai and camera from Anand Cine service, courtesy his South Mumbai contacts, while the rest of the film would be financed by him.
We decided to shoot the film in Jan 2007. However, there was a slight delay as Mustafa was still arranging the funds. We postponed the project by a month and a half. In between we made many trips to Chennai to finalise on the lab cost and camera rental cost. It was there we discovered our liking for Chettinad food – a very hot spicy cuisine from South India.
The shooting schedule was of 15 days filming at Palolem beach in Goa and one day shooting in Mumbai. The Mumbai shoot was indeed very eventful.
We had no permit as it was turning out to be expensive. So we decided to shoot guerrilla style. The first shot was at marine drive at sunrise. I was about to roll the camera when the BMC guys caught us. They confiscated the camera. After half an hour of pleading they let us go with a warning. Mustafa and self decided to go for the second shot at Flora Fountain. We parked all the vehicles away from the place we were to shoot. I got the camera ready to shoot hand held and before anyone could realize – I walked across the street and canned one shot. Mustafa wanted one more but it was late now – people had gathered and the local book sellers on pavement raised a stink. They even threatened to inform the BMC and police. We left to another location where there would be no problem.
The shot which was to be taken at sunrise was being taken now at 12 noon. It was hot and contrasty and I had no recourse to lights and generators. There was haze on the horizon. I was sweating at the prospect of shooting something like this with no fill light. Luckily, this place is behind radio club with a fishing village at the end and hence not much traffic. I took some time, arranged for a foam core; spot metered the beastly readings in the sea and sky like f-64, and rolled the camera. Later, I discovered that the shot with the harsh sunlight added an unsympathetic element to the protagonist which was true for the character. That shot became the opening shot of the film.
To be continued –