R (EVOLUTION) – 2
After the action-packed day shoot in Mumbai, I left for Chennai with the exposed cans. I gave the negatives for processing in the morning at Gemini and was back in the afternoon after a sumptuous meal at Sarvana Bhavan to see the results. I gave the lab the stock list with a 15% margin for change/replacements in lieu. The stock would come with the camera team from Anand Cine Service, a sister concern.
Once through with the lab I headed for Anand Cine Service. Though everything was tied up and agreed upon I still had a feeling that I must go and double-check regarding the camera package. It was the Hawke anamorphics I was worried about. Suresh had mentioned on the phone, a bit casually, a day before, if I would be okay with Kowa lens instead of Hawkes. His proposition kept ringing in my ears – there was a possibility of the lenses being interchanged.
The meeting at ACS went off well. I would be supplied everything that I have asked for. The camera team would arrive a day before the shooting schedule.
I left for the airport with my gaffer – Murthy, with a nice feeling. Everything was hunky dory. At Dabolim our production manager was there to receive us. We drove 40km south towards karwar to reach our location – Palolem. Almost the entire crew was present barring the light and grips trucks which were en-route.
Our base was Darcy’s shack at the far end or should I say the beginning of the 2 mile long crescent beach. The beach has a rather unique disposition – at the southernmost end, where we were located the beach overlooks west-north-west and at the northernmost end where it meets the rocky uninhabited island the beach overlooks south!
I headed for the beachfront and met Mustafa’s father. There were spot boys milling around, chairs were called, and coffee was ordered. The sun was barely at the horizon, about to dip and even in the month of Feb I could feel the reminiscent heat of a tropical day. We were pretty excited about the production and how the film will shape up. It was relaxing talking on the beachfront after what we had gone through in Mumbai and months of running around trying to get the film to this stage. Finally the day seems to have come and we were ready to shoot our film.
The whole crew from producer down to the spot boys was put up at the shacks behind Darcy’s beachfront café. I was given a room in Hotel Cleopatra few hundred yards away from the beach. It was situated at a junction where the road leading to the beachfront joined other roads connecting the highway. All the negatives and exposed stock would be kept in my room under lock and key.
Well we had two days to go so everyone was at the beach the whole day swimming, playing water polo; some went boating to see dolphins, some walked till the other end of the beach or you could simply lounge at the café with your shades on and watch women of all sizes in bikini. The place was slowly turning out to be a unique experience as nobody was complaining. There was no reason to!
The bad news came in the evening, from Chennai. It was Suresh who called and informed that his one set of Hawke lenses are at a shoot and the new lot are at customs at Chennai airport. It will be a few days by the time they can get custody of the lens. A huge amount of duty is to be paid. I was quite pissed. If we want to commence shoot as per schedule I will have to go for the substitute Kowa lenses or else wait for a couple of days. The whole evening was spent discussing what could be the best solution out for us. I rooted for Hawkes. Later in the night the power supply tripped plunging the whole Palolem in darkness. I was sitting at the beach having drinks. A few seconds later as the eye got accustomed to the darkness I saw something inconceivable – a sight so beautiful and not photographable. Apparently, the full moon was at its zenith that night and bathed the whole beach in white. The water which would otherwise look black had a gentle shimmer. There were candles hundreds of them lit as people enjoyed their music and dinner. It was a sight one would never forget.
A day later, our schedule began and there was no news for the camera crew. We waited the whole day making frantic calls. Finally, some arrangement was done in Chennai and a camera was sent from Mumbai as a temporary relief. The camera crew drove down from Mumbai and reached around one in the night. I had already lit the location. I could make out they were tired after a twelve hour journey and the last thing you would say to them would be to get the camera ready. Sensing discomfort I took them aside after they had their meals and explained them my predicament – it is my first feature. Some thirty minutes later I was on the crane with my focus puller, camera in place, doing rehearsals. There was a slight chill in the night which I had recklessly not anticipated. We shot three or four set ups till four in the morning. We wanted to get over with an actress’s shots as she was available only for 36 hours.
Next day we began shooting at ten in the morning. Everyone was tired and had sleep hanging from their eyes. We shot till twelve thirty in the night. Woke up at six in the morning began shooting from seven by the beach side. We wound up around one in the afternoon after taking some shots in the market. The actress rushed to the airport while we returned to Darcy’s for an extended lunch session. The later half of the day was rather easy for the crew as we shot cut-aways, transition shots, and a small reccee to select a spot for the passing shots of a bus.
I was faced with a strange problem in the days to come. As per the script the events in the film would happen over a period of one day. Here no two days had the same kind of sky and the light. Since most of the film was shot on a beach, sky was an integral element of the frame. One day the northern sky would be brilliant blue, the next day there would be haze all over! Of all the stocks I tested, considering the harsh sunlight conditions on the beach, I chose not to go for slow speed stocks. Instead, I opted for the versatile Kodak 5205 which has a nice sublime look. It does hold the highlights well and looks deep in the shadows. I knew I had to shoot fast and finish it in 13 days (as we lost two days trying to figure out where the camera would be coming from). It would not be possible to shift generators and light gears as we moved to different parts of the beach. So 5205 was handy, I could pull in a shot with some fill from silk.
To be continued –