Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
In an insightful discussion on Sunday morning filmmaker Meghna Gulzar; writer and editor, Pooja Ladha Surti; screenwriter, Juhi Chaturvedi; cinematographer, Modhura Palit and author and columnist, Sumedha Verma Ojha discussed the various aspects that go into filmmaking with moderator Madhureeta Mukherjee.
While all the panellists agreed that filmmaking is a process that involves several layers and needs collaboration to breathe life and vision into the story that has been originally conceived, Gulzar said that for her while making a film the most important aspect is the core of the story. “Like in the movie ‘Talvar’, you had two victims, two sets of theories, two sets of weapons, two sets of murderers; that grabbed my attention because of the duplicity,” she says. While in the film ‘Raazi’, Gulzar said that the inimitable strength of a 19-year-old girl’s decision to put her life at stake is what compelled her to do a good job on the film.
Chaturvedi who has written stories for films like ‘Vicky Donor’, ‘October’ and ‘Piku’, said that besides the core of the story, she has to find a good purpose to write the film for an audience. “What is the bigger reason for this film to be known, for people to come and hear me, and agree with a certain point of view?” she said before explaining that though the core in the film ‘October’ was about unconditional love, her script is based on her thoughts and views on the topic and that’s how the draft is prepared. “‘Piku’ is about the father-daughter relationship, but is also about the times we are living in where there are no joint families anymore; sadly one parent is no more and the daughter becomes the mother of the house,” Chaturvedi said.
Palit pointed out that while the story is built, irrespective of theme or genre, one starts to visualise the story in one’s head and that is where her job begins, “We start seeing the characters function and it comes organically, visually, and that’s when we try to sync our imaginations through visuals for people,” she said.
Writer and editor, Surti informed that she has worked on films where characters are set in grey spaces and she finds that very fascinating. However, author and columnist, Ojha said that her works as a writer and columnist are very different. “I have a passion for the past and history is my playground, so that’s where I look for my stories, besides trying to find out how history is relevant today,” she said.
Talking about how attachment is built into filmmaking, Chaturvedi said, that despite trying as a writer she becomes part of the process eventually.
Speaking about her experience as a filmmaker, Gulzar said that while making films based on true stories, it is not possible for her to put her personal views into the films, rather it would be more like a projection of ideas and thoughts to make the movie appealing. “You ultimately have to become the character if you want to find depth. And for a director the cues are sometimes very visual and physical, so you tend to adopt that body language,” she says.
For Palit, the experience of attachment and detachment is different from that of Chaturvedi’s or Gulzar’s. She said: “You cannot connect when you are in a visual process, it’s more organic when writing and directing. When I am shooting, I am like a spectator – the eyes of a story, but again it’s different when shooting a documentary,” she says, before adding: “I have to really connect with the characters and make them comfortable and become invisible to them, where they ignore my presence after becoming extremely comfortable,” she said.
Surti said understanding a character is fascinating, be it agreeing or disagreeing with the character. “There is no other way to doing your job than treating the characters with love,” she said.
Commenting on the process from a writer’s perspective, Ojha said the process is quite different and when she writes a series the characters in her head are her friends. “So sometimes, separating the personal from what the story demands has a bit of a grey area there, but there is a lot of myself in my books and the connection between the writer and characters as you don’t see them otherwise,” she said.
The panel spoke on how difficult it is to detach from their characters or work after completing a project. While Chaturvedi admitted that it is very difficult for her to detach and let go of her characters, there are certain aspects that never leave her and mould her thoughts and ideas.
On the other hand, Gulzar said that she goes through cycles of attachment and detachments through the various processes involved in filmmaking. “On the editing table I have to be objective and even say cut out that crap and not get emotional with the footage, but then again during addition of songs and sound mixing there are underlying emotions, but the final farewell is when the film goes to the audience,” she said.
Speaking about collaborations and co-working, Chatrurvedi admitted that she can’t share space in writing with anyone and needs to know the subjects clearly by herself. For Gulzar collaborative writing brings out interesting aspects and points of view. Surti was quick to add that she has always worked in a collaborative space on movies and that the learning curve still exists. “There are always a lot of ideas that come back and forth, but we always keep in mind that the film is bigger than all of us,” she said.
While Palit said that filmmaking is collaborative, as a cinematographer her work extends beyond the technicality of shooting, and she makes sure she knows what the director and writer want. “There should be a feeling for a reaction from an audience, whether positive or negative,” she said. For writer Ojha, it’s a lonely phase where she cuts herself off from everything and focuses only on writing.
The panellists agreed that when a script is not written for any particular actor, and as the character takes shape, a face of an actor does pop up, which isn’t wrong.
The panel discussed how sometimes a creative block can pose a problem and how ultimately filmmaking is not just the work of one person, but a collaborative effort that has several layers of work, creativity, technology and other aspects involved.