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Documenting everyday India

Documenting everyday India

Sheras Fernandes | NT BUZZ
Each film has a distinctive identity which differentiates it from the lot, believes documentary film director Richie Mehta who delivered a Masterclass on documentary filmmaking on the third day of 47th IFFI. Richie spoke about his latest documentary film titled ‘India in a Day’ which was screened at IFFI 2016 on Tuesday. Unlike other films this film was made on the editing desk. October 10, 2015 was decided as the day wherein Indians could use their cameras and other audio/video recording devices to record their daily life after the team decided to do a documentary based on Indians’ routine lives. The initiative which was backed by Google provided the audience with a website platform on which videos could be uploaded. The website was overwhelmed with 16 thousand entries of raw uncut and unedited footages.
This documentary is co-produced by noted filmmaker Anurag Kashyap
Richie speaking about the length of footages received said: “A clip would range anywhere from two seconds to three hours. We asked for unedited footage although we did receive some edited clips.” After the footages were selected a team of 15 researchers were given a chunk of footage which they had to watch and rate. “They would rate the footage with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best if footages received 6 that meant the footage was very good,” said Richie. The entire process after October 10 took around three months, for the team was engaged in collecting footages from people either having problems uploading the videos or else stayed in remote area, all this was done physically using hard-disk drives to copy footage. To revise the evaluation system Richie and his team met every week and evaluated the rating system. “The evaluation was done to check if any footage was technically perfect but had nothing much in it, similarly a footage which might be awful in terms of picture quality and sound but had substantial content,” said Richie. The writing of the script and selection of films did happen simultaneously as Richie would write the script as he watched footages.
Richie said that other ‘in a day’ films are theme-less but his documentary film has showcased cultural differences prevalent in India. Speaking about the documentary film he said: “We were suggested a structure from midnight to midnight so that it was a chronological order. We started at midnight and went on till midnight showing the daily life of different Indian individuals.” The part of the day starting from what a person does when he wakes up in the morning to how he has his lunch, followed by what he does in the evening, and to conclude with how his day ends at night is shown in this film.
Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship and a synonym to clear and unambiguous communication. Richie believes that trust is very important between the audience and the filmmaker. “We want to build a trust with the audience and maintain it. When the audience realises that the filmmaker is trying to be manipulative, trust is broken. Different stories are incorporated within the film while the dramatic structure started to form by itself,” he reveals.
Richie also spoke about a film that he had created in his school days for a film festival. “After I had completed making my film I made one copy of the original tape. The original copy was sent to the film festival via mail. When I got to my PC the system crashed causing a data loss. When I went to make a copy of the tape I had the system spoiled it. The only copy left was the one mailed for the festival. I sent mails to the festival authorities asking them to send my film back whether or not it was selected but it never happened. It was only later that I learnt that the festival never existed,” he said.
Richie strongly believes that documentary film editing uses the same part of the brain used while writing the script for a feature film. He informed that there were no entries from the economically wealthy class. “Does that mean that they don’t have anything to say? For that we need to work hard so that they open up,” said Richie. He further said that there is need to stand out among a group of people unless you want to follow the crowd and not stand distinctive. “If you are making any film irrespective of the theme, topic or idea it is addressing something in the history of cinema. Likewise if you get the opportunity to speak only once among a group of people, will you speak something new and add to the discussion or repeat the same point what someone else said some time back?” he questioned. Richie further added that the independent film maker has to now evolve and it is the time to change and get better. “We have to be creative, sophisticated and there has to be a reason why you did it and why they didn’t do it,” he concluded.
The official screening of the documentary film ‘India in a Day’ was held at IFFI on Tuesday. It is available on YouTube, for free, from today onwards.

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