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Always 16

Always 16

As a child, I remember, I would take  rose petals from the flower bed in school, lie down on the Merry-Go-Round and rub it between my fingers for hours on end –  feeling the texture and smelling them while the sunlight played hide and seek with my face, peeping through the leaves of the trees above as the Merry- Go-Round went round and round endlessly.   The smell would linger between my fingertips for hours after that. Each time I would smell my fingertips, I would be taken back to my world where the warmth of the sun caressed my face and the breeze ran it’s fingers through my hair and I would suddenly feel that everything would be alright.

Even if it was a life threatening problem like my mother shouting at me for not having done my homework!

As a child, you marvel, you get fascinated, you are curious and you daydream. You daydream about things in your immediate realm like riding your father’s bike or using all the money in your mother’s purse to eat all the ice cream you want but you also dream about impossible things. Things like getting your hands on the Communicator which Captain Kirk flips open so stylishly and says,”Beam me up, Scotty!” or actually becoming Captain Kirk and commanding your own spaceship or even Ingrid Bergman falling in love with you!

Your heart is pure, it is innocent and it truly believes that anything is possible. You discover new music, you discover new voices, you discover new sensations and you discover love.  Each new sensation that you experience just seems to fill your heart.

Do you even remember what you were like at 16?

During my pre-board exam parent teacher meeting three of my teachers told my father, “He will do well… but he could do better if he did not daydream so much.” Once outside, my father asked me, “What do you dream about?” I said, “I don’t know!”

And then life happens.

Slowly but surely the noose of practicality and reality starts getting tighter around your neck and subtly, very gently, without you even knowing it it gets tighter and tighter. Everyone around you tries to define what you should expect, hope to achieve and how to conduct yourself. You either conform or you are branded a rebel.And then there is the fear. The fear of being laughed at.

When I was in Class VI and a new teacher had joined our school. On her first day with us, she asked each student to state their name and what they wanted to be when they grew up. My turn came and after proudly stating my name, I said, “I want to be a director when I grow up.” I will perhaps never forget the laughter that followed. It was completely unexpected and my eyes welled up with tears as I looked around at the familiar faces of my classmates and friends, all of them laughing at me.

Two things could have happened that day. An 11 year old could have decided that it was indeed a stupid thing that he had dreamt of and become a conformist or continued to dream as he did earlier. I am glad I took the second path but I promised myself never to be caught unaware like this, ever again. That is why, 5 years later when my father asked me, “What do you dream about?” I said, “I don’t know!”

I have figured out that there is no need to wear your dreams on your sleeve for everyone to see but don’t let them die. Be 16 inside.  Most of us give up too soon. I know it is tough because the noose of practicality is forever looming, forever threatening to choke the 16 year old that you were once. Hold on to what you always dreamt of becoming, hold on to what you always wanted to do and most importantly, hold on to the kind of love you always wanted.

From time to time I wonder if that 16 year old in me is still alive and it is one of my greatest fears that one day I will wake up and not find him there.

A few weeks back, after many, many years, someone gave me rose. As I smelt it, I felt the familiar warmth of the sun caressing my face and the breeze running it’s fingers through my hair… and I knew that everything would be alright. 

Always 16

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Falling in love

Arjun

There are many ways of creating stories and characters. Sometimes you are lucky enough and someone comes along  with a story and characters that you empathise with and you make it your own. Why empathy? I feel feel that in order to tell a story well or for other people to identify with it – there should be a level of understanding  and connect with the characters.

Keeping this in mind, each time I create something new,  I try to give something unique to each of the characters from my own life and I strongly feel that the closer it is – the more real the character becomes. Not just me but a lot of people do it or should do it if they don’t. Therefore each journey of creation becomes a journey within oneself to try and pry out something that is deep and hidden inside. This journey can actually leave you crushed or ecstatic  – depending on what you discover. Deliberately reliving your joys and pains over and over again can be quite an experience and every time you do it – you discover something new about yourself. I read somewhere that the moment you don’t have anything to draw from inside your “well”, your journey as an artist comes to an end and I think that most artists are insecure of dipping a bucket inside and find it coming up empty.

The solution (if I may call it that) is to embrace all that comes your way. Enjoy all the experiences that life shells out – joy, pain and most of all – falling in love. I really do think that we don’t  fall in love often enough.

Arjun falling in love was a very special sequence spread over four mini sequences and I wanted it to be special – as falling in love should be! To show a contrast between the Arjun that we saw in the series, all hardened and ravaged by his past and the Arjun that was – lovestruck and blinded by Roshni was a challenge. We managed to shoot only two of the mini-sequences that have been strung together in a loose edit below.

By now, quite a few of you are trying to draw a possible  connect between my life and Arjun’s but I will leave it up to your imagination. After all, I have to see that some bits remain in my “well” for my autobiography!!!

Take a look at Arjun falling in love and let me know whether you think we would have managed to pull this off.  The sequence too – like a lot of love stories – is incomplete!

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Arjun – The beginning

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 2.30.49 AM

This post is meant for people who watch Arjun – so if you don’t watch this show, you might as well stop reading now. But before you go let me tell you – you are missing out on a great show! For those of you who have been wondering about my silence on various social media fronts – I have been slightly unwell. I hope the problems will get sorted out in the coming week.

So, the main characters of Arjun had got finalised and I wanted to see how they looked together and so did the channel. I also wanted to see how the new camera that we were planning to use would perform in the dark. So we set up a look test on the set of Humse Hai Liife,which has now been modified to be the ETF office. The corridor was lit up in a dark, contrasty fashion to try and emulate the lighting in a warehouse or something. Contrary to what the plate says, the camera was manned by Tribhuvan Babu. What you see below is a result of that sequence.

Now it was time to handle one of the two most tricky scenes of the first episode – Riya’s earring (which later became a hair clip) to get caught in Arjun’s shirt in the middle of a serious discussion about the kidnapper. I had spent sleepless nights over this scene. It required extremely fine balance in the execution because just being an inch overboard would have made the discussion frivolous and the characters seem petty to be distracted by the earring! The scene also sets the chemistry between the two characters  – the first time Riya would try to stand up to Arjun and he would shoot her down rudely. I do not remember how many times I had played the scene in my head as this was one of the two scenes that I was really, really worried about. The other scene which gave sleepless nights was where Riya and Arjun meet first, get into fist-fight and she ends up tightly locked in his arms – but that is another story! I had deliberately chosen this scene to be apart of the look test because I wanted the chance to rehearse and shoot it properly before we hit the floor and I am glad I did! What I remember  most from shooting this scene is how many questions Shaleen and Sana asked me that day and at this point I can admit that I did not have a lot of answers ready but providing an answer to them also answered a lot of questions that I had myself. Rathore had not been cast – so I decided to use one of the crew to stand-in with his back to camera. At this point, I was more worried about the content rather than blocking.

When I finished shooting the scene, it was huge load off my shoulders. Both the actors had got the essence of the scene right and it had turned out better than I had expected. I knew that shooting this scene during actual production would be a cakewalk for all of us.

It was now time to head outdoors and as the sun was setting, I quickly decided to write an improvised scene which would show the difference between Riya and Arjun’s characters. I had an inkling that we would be doing some form of honour killing in the coming episodes and as time was short and the sun was setting fast, I chose to write a few lines that would get over in just one shot. In the actual series, the killing is done by the mother and Riya goes and confronts the killer herself – but this is how I had imagined the end to be.

– Gorky M

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Gulzar – Pukaaro mujhe naam lekar pukaaro

Gulzar

My  parents never woke us up for school by calling out to us or shaking us awake. My father would turn on the record player on high volume and let the song do it’s job. More often than not, the song would be “Mora Gora Ang Lai Le” from Bandini. Though I did not know it then, it was my first introduction to Gulzar. As I grew up I hummed and sang many of his songs without realising that they belonged to him. It was not until 1988 when I actually heard his voice on TV for the opening of the series “Mirza Ghalib” that I became aware of his existence and how! It was because of the desire to understand what the man was saying that I started reading Ghalib and was drawn into the world of Urdu poetry. And thus began the love affair with Gulzar.

Last week, my friend Riya, who loves me enough to write an entire blog post on me and is a hot-shot with Radio Mirchi(Something-Something Vice President) came down to Bombay to interview Gulzar for his birthday, which is of course, today – 18th of August. I decided to tag along for which she got permission but she very categorically told me that as far as taking pictures was concerned, I was on my own. So I took the smallest camera I own, slapped on the smallest lens and generally practiced looking small in the mirror and reached Gulzar Saab’s place hoping that he would not notice me and my camera. But I think, my name gave me away and his eyes lit up with recognition and he recalled having met me some 11 years back when I landed up at his place to pick up the same friend, Riya, directly from a hair cutting salon. My appearance would have probably left a lot to be desired because the first thing he had done then was to hand me a brand new t-shirt after greeting me. I had sure made an impression!

Quickly deciding to put an end to my own misery, I blurted out my intention of taking pictures of him while he was giving the interview, half-expecting to be handed a pair of trousers this time and thrown out of the house.  “He takes wonderful pictures,” Riya chimed in at the most appropriate moment proving that 20 years of friendship had not been in vain. He smiled and graciously agreed on the condition that I mail him the pictures. Really? Shoot his pictures and get his email id as well?! Sure.

Gulzar_Gorky

 

So the interview began in earnest and in the space between the questions and answers I started shooting. Coffee and biscuits were served as Gulzaar Saab talked about the influences in his life and I hung on to every word.

Gulzar BW

Could it get any better? Apparently it could. Somewhere along the interview and me taking pictures, happily munching biscuits and sipping coffee –  he decided to crack a joke and mention me by name.

I sat there stunned because I had least expected it. It’s just one of those things that you never think will happen in a million years. The very voice that had introduced me to Mirza Ghalib, Jagjit Singh and RD Burman, the very voice that had set me off on such a wonderful journey of music and poetry as a child, the very voice which is perhaps responsible to a large extent for the trajectory my life has taken so far  –  had suddenly, out of the blue,  just called out my name. Happy birthday Gulzar Saab and thank you for the wonderful,wonderful gift!

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Look what I found!

Barun Sobti

Holy moly… Look what I found! I remember shooting this when Barun came home for the interview with Gul but with all the controversy at that point of time I did not post it and then – forgot about it.

I found it today while trying to free up some disk space and was in two minds about posting it but then I thought “bashers will be bashers”… at least there will be some who will appreciate it.

Barun Sobti

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Behind the scenes

On the set of Qubool Hai.

When people ask me what is it that I love about my work, my usual reply is that no two days are ever the same. It is such a blessing to be a part of a film or TV crew. It is a greater blessing to be a part of a crew with a camera and an “all-access” pass! Having a camera with you is a great way of documenting your journey and I always have one (or two or three) with me. Not only does it allow me to remember where all I have been but it also helps me to connect with people and places that I otherwise would not. It also allows me to see what I otherwise would not.

Of course, it all starts with going to different locations as a part of location scouting. Whether you end up shooting there or not is another thing altogether. For those of you who are interested,  I usually mount an all purpose lens on my camera, mostly the  Nikon 28-300 lens and my  Nikon 50mm stays in my bag too, just in case I need to take some low light shots of locations at night. During this time my mind is working more like a director rather than a photographer and the pictures taken here have a very definite purpose – that of being able to recall what is seen from each angle so that I can share it with my team. These photographs are so important that quite a few times I have been hired by foreign productions to scout locations for them and take pictures but if during the process a beautiful photograph crops up  – I don’t let it go!

 

It was love at first sight when I saw this location while scouting and I knew I had to shoot there.

It was love at first sight when I saw this location while scouting and I knew I had to shoot there.

 One thing that I do quite often is to actually “block” a shot and take a photograph to see if it works the way I see it in my head. This way I have something to show my cameraman as a reference and there is nothing worse than having an army of people walk into a location, setup a shot and realise that it does not work.

Actually taking a photograph to see if the shot works.

Actually taking a photograph to see if the shot works.

When I am not directing is usually when the photographer in me awakens but I have to be careful not to get in the way of actual shooting. I also have to judge if people around me are uncomfortable having a camera in close proximity and going “click-click” when they are trying to concentrate. To shoot the candids, there is usually a time window of a few seconds between the time the director shouts “roll camera” and says “action”. After the shot starts, you really don’t want to be shooting because it breaks everyone’s concentration and there is also the technical issue of the shutter sound being captured by the microphones and ruining the shot. That having been said, I like to go in really close to the people who are comfortable with it. I mostly use a Nikon 17-35mm for this purpose.

Vaibhav Singh

The frown and the concentration on the face of the director is clearly visible. Every shot has the director’s mind thinking whether it will be an “ok” shot or not!

Arjun Saakshi

What you saw!

What I saw!

What I saw!

In between the shots is the time when it is free for all. Lights being moved, props being shifted, refreshments being served and everyone just concentrating on setting up the next shot. Nobody notices the photographer and depending upon how well you camouflage yourself, you can get pretty close to the hotbed of action. I have a set of clothes made of cardboard for this purpose and just pretend to be a cardboard box at times like these! Sometimes I also disguise myself as a table.

The director Vaibhav briefs Mrunal on what he expects from her in the shot.

The director Vaibhav briefs Mrunal on what he expects from her in the shot.

Just before a shot - Sachin Verma rehearses his lines and actions while Shaleen Malhotra puts his hair in place.

Just before a shot – Sachin Verma rehearses his lines and actions while Shaleen Malhotra puts his hair in place.

If you look away from the actors and director, there are plenty of other images that can be shot which complete the overall experience of being a part of a shooting crew. It really is amazing to see so many different people contributing to create the environment and the shot and this is where the true magic (for me) lies. So many people from different walks of life, with different skills contribute to that one vision that someone has – and that is what we see on screen.

When there is too much activity on the set and you are apprehensive that you might land yourself in trouble is when the big zooms come out. Sit quietly in a corner and just observe and wait!!! All pictures below shot with the Nikon 70-200.

Qubool Hai - Behind the scenes

A spot boy burns “lobaan” (Benzoin resin) in coal fire to produce smoke. A little smoke on the set adds to the characteristics of light.

 

An assistant director throws flower petals in the foreground of the shot

An assistant director throws flower petals in the foreground of the shot

Karan Singh Grover in Qubool Hai

The bigger the light source – the softer the light. Light is reflected back on the face of Karan Singh Grover.

 And of course, if you are very lucky, once in a while, you will spot a photograph that will remind you that in spite of all the madness, the joy and the celebration – we are all human. We dance, we laugh, we cry  for the sake of entertainment and somewhere our troubles are forgotten – if only fleetingly.

On the set of Qubool Hai.

One of my favourites – Amidst all the chaos and noise on the set, an artist is lost in thought!

 

That’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed these photographs. Until next time…

 

 

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CinemaScope

Mrunaal Thakur as Saakshi in Arjun

Where does a photograph belong? Apart from what you can see in a photograph, I believe, there are numerous other factors – both seen and unseen which give you an impression as to where the photo belongs and what it is trying to convey. Of course, there is what you can actually see in the background or part of the environment where the picture was taken and then there is colour and tone which conveys the mood. Lately, I have been trying to create photos which seem that they have been grabbed from films.

Anamorphoc Arjun

I realised that apart from using focal lengths which are primarily used in film making and toning the photograph (the equivalent of DI or Digital Intermediate in films) there is one very important factor that has an effect on how we perceive a photograph and that is aspect ratio. Most of the films that we see are shot on an aspect ratio of 1:1.85 or 1:2.35 or 1:2.40  and over the  years we come to associate these aspect ratios with being “cinematic”.

Mrunaal Thakur as Saakshi in Arjun

Each of these photographs have been inspired from a film, at least in my head – whether or not it comes across, I leave it you to tell me. Do these remind you of any particular film that you have seen or do you think that they could have easily belonged to a particular film? Please let me know.

Shaleen as Arjun

More on aspect ratios when we meet next. Until then, take care.

— By Gorky M

 

 

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Cricket

Tony Greig

I don’t watch cricket at all. I have worked as crew while covering cricket matches but never enjoyed watching it. Cricket terminology means nothing to me and usually it evokes strange imagery in my head. “Leg bye” conjures up the visual of a man trying to wave goodbye using his legs and trust me, you don’t  want to know what “mid on” reminds me of!

While working on the ICC Champions Trophy  2002 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the producer took pity on my miserable existence and I was promoted from being Talent Co-ordinator to being allowed to do pitch reports – the condition being that I had to do both! I was more than happy as that meant an all-access pass!

As usual, I always had a camera with me. In all my bloody ignorance, I think I was going for the crazy colour of the sky rather than the legend standing before me.

Tony Greig

Tony Greig and Sanjay Manjerekar

Of course, the lesser said about my framing and timing skills at that point of time, the better it is -as the photograph below demonstrates. Hopefully, I have improved somewhat since then in both departments. Whenever I look at this picture I kick myself for spoiling what could have been an otherwise good photograph. And to think I was allowed anywhere near these guys with a camera is a bloody miracle in itself.

Allan Donald

Allan Donald

These photographs remind me of the two most important things that I love about photography. One – that a fleeting moment might seem very ordinary when you are in it but once you have captured it in your camera it’s value might become something that you never imagined. Two, there is no greater reminder of a mistake than a badly clicked photograph. It stares at you, reminding you never to make that mistake again and somewhere, hopefully that attitude trickles down to your personality.

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Colour

Neon lit Arjun set

I hate rains.  There… I said it! Sue me! Everybody I know and their cousins love the rains and this makes me feel like the odd man out. Even if I don’t take into account the facts that traffic slows down to a crawl and everyone thinks it is completely alright to act like an idiot (zig-zagging their bikes while driving and roaming shirtless on Marine Drive) I still don’t like the rains for two primary reasons. I am afraid of screwing up my equipment even if it is safely tucked in my cabinet due to the appearance of mould and fungus and more importantly – rains just suck the colour out of everything.

Exhibit A – the photograph below was taken at 2PM in the afternoon. Do you see how dull and drab it is?

Afternoon during Mumbai monsoon

Afternoon during Mumbai monsoon

I am fascinated by colour and I keep shooting random images of colour as it appears in our everyday lives. Enter Exhibits B,C,D,E,Fand G.

Random fuzzies shot from a moving car

Random fuzzies shot from a moving car

BEST bus Mumbai

BEST bus

Coloured truck

Coloured truck

Colour pencils

Colour pencils

Yellow school bus

Yellow school bus

Maroon car bonnet

Maroon car bonnet

While shooting for TV I think we tend to get a bit scared while using colour. We get so taken up by the technical definition of white light and tungsten light that we forget the abundance of colour around us and that is exactly why I shoot these images –  to remind myself that bright and random colours do exist around us in all shapes, forms and objects. Colour also affects our mood and while I have been trying to implement this in my photography (with varied success) for a while, I have just recently become bolder with respect to using colour while directing stuff. I now control more of the lighting aspect of the scenes that I shoot or even better – some scenes that I don’t shoot myself.  Enter Exhibit H.

Neon lit Arjun set

Neon lit Arjun set

People who follow my TV series Arjun will get to see more of this bold colour approach over the coming weeks. So while the rains might suck out colour from things around me – on the set, it is a different matter entirely.

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Surbhi Jyoti

Surbhi Jyoti
Surbhi Jyoti

Surbhi Jyoti

Shot this a long time back. As usually is the case with me – contemplated, contemplated and then contemplated some more. Today seemed to be a good day to post it!

 

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Photographs

Mrunal Thakur in Arjun
Mrunal Thakur in Arjun

Mrunal Thakur in Arjun

Ketan Karande

Ketan Karande

Arjun - The Psychiatrist

Arjun – The Psychiatrist

Arjun - The Haunted Mansion

Arjun – The Haunted Mansion

Ketan Karande

Ketan Karande

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Stolen camera

Gul-Khan

I had my camera bag stolen from my car about two weeks back. It had quite a bit of equipment in it. Please don’t ask me the details – I will probably punch you in the face.  As a result,I have started carrying very little equipment on a daily basis because I am scared. I feel that I might have my equipment stolen again. Now there are two schools of thought as far as that is concerned. One, which consists mostly of my friends, says – lightning never strikes the same place twice. The other school(or rather an institution), which is my head has the  following theory: “The thief has my car marked and has my number noted down… he followed me that day and has been keeping an eye on me ever since.He is waiting for a chance to strike again!!!” Result? The second school of thought is winning hands down.

The bottom line is – I have kind of slowed down. What has happened is that it has made me turn minimalist(I like the sound of that word!) and re-examine the kind of equipment I use and how I use it. The mantra – “don’t take a picture… make a picture!” has been resonating in my head. The following pictures are a result of trying to follow that mantra. The first two are that of my wife, Gul and the third photograph features Behzaad Khan, who plays an extremely important part in my show Arjun. And yeah, the awesome selfie that I posted a few days back on my Facebook page is also a result of the same.

Gul Khan

Gul Khan

Behzaad Khan

There is also an emerging third school of thought which says whatever happens, happens for the best. So the thief who took my camera has actually done me a favour and forced me to come close to what I have been trying to achieve and I should actually be happy that I had my camera stolen. All the people who belonged to the third school are no longer on my friend list. One of them also woke up to discover that the windscreen of his car had mysteriously cracked during the night.

Needless to say that at the moment, I am not a heavy believer in karma and it gives me immense joy to think about the person who stole my camera in a head to head with a heavy-ish kind of vehicle.

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