From the Diary of a Debut Director – Part 3

Real Image already had plans to make a full-length feature film on RED ONE digital camera, which shoots in 4K resolution. They were also planning to make it an end-to-end digital film… meaning that it will be shot in digital, edited, colour-corrected and processed completely in digital format and screened in digital projectors like Qube. When I narrated T4, they got excited that such a movie will be apt for this experiment and roped in Sathyam Cinemas to co-produce the project.

But still, this was their debut in the field of ‘film production’ and they wanted to be a little careful about making the right decisions. They asked if I was willing to shoot a few scenes from T4 and show it to them. They said if they liked my work, they will start production. I readily took up the challenge and shot some scenes. They liked my work and finally gave the green signal…

The next step was to find the right cast and crew who would understand our limitations and still put in their best of efforts to make this film. I wanted to cast newcomers for the main male and female lead roles because I felt that the audience should see the ‘characters’ and not ‘celebrities’ on screen. As it was a small budget film, the producers also approved. We auditioned many young aspiring actors and models during the following months. Rupa Manjari was the first girl I auditioned and she was looking fresh and different… with natural expressions, beautiful eyes, curly hair and a lovely smile. I immediately felt that she would suit the role of Archana, a pretty, nagging, obsessive clean-freak and perfectionist. After testing many other new girls, we ended up selecting Rupa. Although she didn’t have any solid experience in acting, she had the ability to learn quickly.

Finding the male lead wasn’t easy. There were many interesting guys who were talented, good-looking and promising… but something was missing. One day my associate told me that there is an actor called Ajmal who has done an important role in Anjaadhey. I went to see that film and really liked his work. But I was reluctant to cast him immediately because the Arjun character in T4 is a boyish, charming, witty, peppy guy with a twinkle in the eye… and the rough and tough Kripa didn’t fit the bill. But when Ajmal came to meet me in our office, he looked completely different. He was exactly the chocolate hero I was looking for. He said that amidst all the action and dramatic roles coming his way, a romantic comedy would be a fresh change. He wanted to do diverse roles and willingly entrusted me to bring out the best in him. This is how I found my Arjun and Archana.

I imagined Mouli sir while creating the character of the forgetful Srinivasan. It was a tailor-made role just for him and I knew that no one other than him could do justice to it. Fortunately, he loved the role when I narrated and immediately agreed to do it. At that time, I had written the rough dialogues for T4 but was a little unsure about them and was considering the option of asking someone else to re-write. Mouli sir was the first person to compliment and encourage my writing. When he said he found them natural, honest and refreshing, I felt like I won another gold medal.

How we found the baby is an interesting story by itself. Just like in the movie T4 where Arjun and Archana desperately hunt for a baby, we too were searching desperately EVERYWHERE for a cute little eight-month-old baby who suited the requirements of our official sponsor. In T4 we had more than 30 days of work for the baby who had to be physically present in almost 75% of the scenes. Generally parents are extremely caring and fussy about their children and convincing them to give their baby for shoot was a herculean task. So we couldn’t finalize and fix a baby even on the first day of shoot… but the shooting had to start.

I told my assistants to temporarily bring ‘some’ baby so that I could shoot the important scenes without showing the baby’s face … My assistants hurriedly brought in a baby called Dharshan. He was so cute and bubbly and the whole crew became very excited when we saw him. His family consisted of small-time actors who were used to cinema life and who understood the practicalities. Dharshan’s mother was an extremely understanding lady who helped us a lot with the baby. Also luckily, Dharshu (we all fell in love and started calling him like that) was a born actor who gave funny and cute expressions on his own and we didn’t have to use any animation to manipulate his smile or frown or anything… Whatever you see on screen was his original performance.

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