Behind The Camera:
Sharing Moments of Fim Making "MERI PEYARI BOI"
by Ravi Shekhar
I am very happy to see so much excitement for `Meri Pyaari Boi'. I have been the part of it since the very beginning of the idea of making the film. And I would love to share the story behind. My friend Mukesh Dhasmana is an actor from Dehradun.
He was doing theatre before he bagged the role of a hero in a kumauni film- `Kabi Sukh Kabi Dukh. For the post production of the film he came to Mumbai and became part of this city. People who are familiar with the cinema of Uttaranchal know him as an actor. He also acted in `Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak' with Amir Khan. In `Chor Aur Chand' he played the main villain with Pooja Bhatt, Aaditya Pancholi and Raghubir Yadav. But the post production experience of `Chor Aur Chand' gave a serious dent on his mind and he started taking much interest in the making of cinema. He has helped people to understand the language during the making of `Kabi Sukh Kabi Dukh'. His close association with Editor Harish Pathare helped him to learn the finer nuances of film making. Nobody knew that this could be the process of making of a film director.
Film is a very expensive medium and most of the films made in Uttranchali dialects hardly make any profit, hence the technical quality of the films is not at par with Hindi cinema. But time changes and with the help of new technology came the possibility of making a technically sound film in a cost effective way. Making a film is a really very easy task. I know many people in the industry, who have the ability to make a film. But to make a film one needs a person who can put his money on your faith. Jitendra joshi has come forward to help mukesh in that. He is a very close friend and relative. And a very close near and dear one only can help to take this kind of risk. Now he is the producer of the film. (You will see him in the film too.)
We were shooting a video album in the Jaunsar when Mukesh narrated the story of -`Meri Pyari Boi' to us. He was nurturing a dream of making a film in his own mother tongue. Cameraman Bimal Biswas, who fell in love with the beauty of Himalaya during the shoot, started asking mukesh about the progress of the script. But who will write the script? Mukesh had no experience in writing a script. He was searching for a person who can put his dreams on the paper. People with writing skills started coming. But when they come with a story, it was never same film, mukesh was watching in his third eye.
Mukesh is good story teller. So one day I asked him to narrate the story on camera. I wished to transcribe the spoken word to make the final story line. He narrated the story and went back to dehradun. One day I received a call from him telling me that after a long frustration of dealing with so called story and screenplay writer he has decided to pen down the screenplay himself. He has churned the film so many times that only he could write it down. And he wrote the story and screenplay of the `Meri Pyari Boi'.
Surendra Bhandari, the friend, a prominent actor and theatre person from dehradun had always been with mukesh in all his creative ventures. He took the charge of finding the real faces to play the characters. He become so much part of the process that mukesh decided to co direct the film with him. This will certainly ease the responsibilities he was to face. Noted folk playwright, director and lyricist jeet singh, a family friend penned the songs and dialogues. Santosh Khetwal agreed to give the tunes to the songs and the `Meri Pyaari Boi' started taking shape in a physical form. But much has to be done.
Ever since we talked about the film, we have always seen Nivedita Bonthiyal as the mother, the boi. Nivedita had played the mother of Mukesh years ago in the theatre. She was dhaniya of munshi pream chand's `godan'. Mukesh had played gobar. Now nivedita is also in Bombay and continue to act in television serials. She is too enthusiastic to play the mother. She heard the story and always eager to do the preparations with the script.
The trouble begins with the other artists. Mukesh wanted to take the actors, who can speak garhwali. And it was difficult. Young actors staying in dehradun are not much comfortable with the dialect. Neha Guleri, to whom Mukesh introduced in the video album - `Khawbo Main Aaye Jo' can not speak garhwali though she is. Manish Parthsarathi was too eager to play the lead role. But he too is not a garhwali. He has always been the part of the team and worked as the executive producer too. Auditions were on. We hang posters for the need of young faces in cyber cafes in dehradun. Hundreds of girls and boys came for screen test. Only problem was the dialect. And Mukesh and Surendra did not wish to work on the dialect on each artist. But they have to think back. When they took the screen test of Pinky Raout, they were too happy to find Kusum in her, only to find later that she too is not comfortable with the garhwali dilect. But she became the kusum. Her big expressive eyes bagged the role for her. Pradeep Duklan became the son Suraj. He had the same innocence directors dreamt for. But we could not find Neelam. Neelam is modern girl, born in dehradun, never went to hills. We wanted the girl who can play the both shades of the characters. And the Rachita Kukreti seems to be the only choice. The character of the `bauda' is very important. I personally wanted Surendra Bhandari to play the role. But he too can not speak garhwali. So, later a veteran artist from kotdwar was asked to play it. But the God wanted Ratan Sing raout to play it. We took the screen test of Ratan Singh on sets, while shooting in Dehradun. He just said one dialogue and mukesh has finalized him.
We were doing a lot of experiments with this film. So every one was curious, how and why? But we were doing our research and very much confident about the project. Specially the technical part of it. One can never complete the film with this kind of shoe string budget. You need very dedicated support system. As if we are not making a film but just doing a theatre. Only a very dedicated and committed theatre person can act-or -work in a film like this. Cameraman Bimal Biswas and myself went to Dehradun for the shoot of public service advertisement on female child education in august 2002, also directed by Mukesh. The songs were ready for recording. Santosh Khetwal use to come on the roof top of Abhishek tower at the Subhash road where the Srishti art and communication has its office. That's where he was working on tunes. First time I heard the songs `jhigjha putadi- jhigjha putadi- jhigjhjhi tan paith ke barata chale jhigjhi' I am not a garhwali but I also sing and hum this song. I am in the process of becoming one. Bimalda is a very innovative cameraman. He has worked with movers and shakers, Kyoki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and numerous programs of MTV and VTV. He took the challenge of doing the camera work. He was the first camera man to do feature film with digital medium in garhwali. Film makers never dare to make a film with this new technical possibility. The reason is simple. Most of the film makers are not very comfortable with computers. Only a very courageous person could think of banking on this new possibility.
We wanted to shoot in October 2003. But there were lots and lots of things to do. Mukesh has created sets in the farm house. Sanjay a theatre actor from dehradun worked hard to create the interior of the Suraj's house. And the exterior of the house was at `rauto ki beli', on the way to thatoor, more than 50 kms from the farm house. Mukesh has designed it so well that nobody could feel a shift of location on screen. This was the one of the much technical mastery; I was going to witness with him.
January 2004. We will start shooting this month. I was waiting for mukesh. Mukesh came to Bombay. He was working designing his own lighting equipments. We went to lohar chawl several times. Searching for tube lights and bulbs which can be used for the low cast lighting arrangements. Budgets are very low and we need to take much care to get the things done in the lowest possible way.
Apart from me and our camera man bimal biswas two more persons will join the team. Ajay pawar will come for the make up. I met Ajay at malad rly station. He is simple boy, never visited Himalaya earlier. He is excited about spending two months there. I told him to carry all the woolen clothes he is having. (And like most bombayite he did not listen to me and underestimated the cold weather of the mighty Himalaya. He bought jackets from paltan bazar and we often joke about it) .
Munna bhai came as dress man. He became part of the team that one can see him working as sound person or a light man too. That was the true theatre spirit we were working with.
19th Jan 2004. We reached dehradun. It was very colder for any Bombay person who never witness winter. Mukesh wanted to finish the city part of the film first. We met the artists. Soon we all become friends. Most of the artist's been very new to the camera and feel very nervous when camera comes really close.
The first shot of the film was when Neelam is taking her father to the hospital. Suraj is studying in the lobby and offers his help. Suryakant dhasmana gave the clap for the muhurat shot and every one clapped.
In the evening we shot the wedding sequence. All the guests became the participants of the wedding ceremony. In 15 days shoot we completed the city part of the film. The second part of the shoot was at paunda. Here in the farm house we have to shoot the interiors of the village. This kind of shoot is possible only when one has worked well on the script. The kitchen and bed room of the Suraj was finished in next week's time.
Rauto ki beli is on the way to thatood. It is a small village on the main road. I have come here earlier for the education department's film. But that time it was monsoon and not winter. This is winter. We can see the snow on the way and the nearby hill. Just after the sunset winds becomes very cool. Here we have to work only with the sun, so nights here like Paunda and Dehradun. We shot whole day then come back to check the days shoot on the monitor. We were working very strictly on a feature film format. This simply means lots of retakes and no compromise with the artists. This whole film is very new experience for me. I have already worked as a still photographer with Shyam Benegal in `hari bhari' and `samar', I have also done it partly with `netaji- the last hero', but this is the first time I am helping and as an additional cinematographer and direction too.
Rajneesh, this letter is becoming too long. I wanted to write a lot of tit bits about the shoot. I wished to share the experiences of the friendship and the human bondage, I felt during the shoot. I wish to share the moments of cold weather and week's of no bath stories, the difficult romantic scenes between neelam and suraj, the dance director hidden in mukesh dhasmana. The tremendous organizing talent of manish parthsarathi. Absolute dedication of dheeraj raout, who played the father of suraj. Ratan singh raout, the actor of timing and emotions.
And shanti…..nivedita baunthiayal. We use to call her mother india. If you watch nivedita in her day to day costume you could hardly believe that she can be a shanti. This is a sheer transformation. This is the one artist who was the most easy to work with. She always knew her lines. The most comfortable in front of camera.
Why some actors create magic on screen and others don't? Says Japanese film director akira kurusova. This lies in the aura of the artist. Any who can act with the aura mesmerize the audience. Some call it screen presence. And nivediata is having it. Pinky raout have it.
Pradeep working with mother is having it. This screen chemistry works wonder, when there is no star system. When everyone sits and eat on the same floor. Sings and dance together.
We completed the shoot in 60 days. Next 60 days went to the post production. Editor raj singh was surprised with the beautiful location. Every one wishes to join us in the next shoot.
Now the film has gone for the censor. This process is tedious. I dream of the day when we become really free of these censors. Many people come to watch the film. They will decide that we are not hurting anybody. That is the so called social norm. All this is ok. But the film has to go with the process.
Every body who will come to see the film will feel nostalgic about the Himalaya and their mother. But this making process gave me a chance to evolve further, as a friend, an artist, as and as a human being. Please do write to me and forward this mail to every one interested in uttaranchal, garhwal, and meri pyaari boi……
Love and regards…….
photo credit-ravi shekhar
(ravi shekhar is a freelance painter, photographer and film maker)
meri pyaari boi is a full length feature film in garhwali language.
releasing in Uttaranchal in September2004
Courtesy : Ami Kothari and uttaranchal.ws