From the Diary of a Debut Director – Part 4

Coming to the technical crew… I had a meeting with Mani Sharmaa sir long before my producers signed me officially. I came to know that he was a little tired of doing routine and monotonous kind of masala movies and wanted to do something unique and challenging. I loved his work in the arty but modern film ‘Morning Raaga’ in which he had done a wonderful fusion of western music and classical Karnatic music. When I approached him, I was confident that he would give T4 a music which is classy as well as commercial. He loved T4’s story and readily agreed to do it. Other than giving wonderful music, he was also a great human being who gave a positive pat on my shoulder whenever I felt drained out or lost. I am grateful to Mani Sharmaa sir for being one among the few people who never lost confidence in me.

Many people ask me if I found it tough being a woman director in a man’s world. I never focus on my gender while working. I think like a director… not a ‘woman director’… and luckily it is involuntary. So, I guess others (men) feel comfortable when I’m around and feel normal when working with me. As far as my work experience goes, I never felt a bias and never had any trouble or pressure or inferiority complex being a female director. However, I did initially encounter some stares from my crew when I acted or demonstrated certain expressions and actions to Ajmal and other male actors. I think they found it strange that a female director can effectively ‘perform’ like a man. I am sure even Ajmal would have found it a little weird trying to grasp expressions from a female face and incorporate into his performance. But all that was only temporary. Once people saw how determined, hard-working and sincere I was… they started trusting me completely.

There is a saying in tamil ‘Veetai Katti Paar, Kalyaanam Panni Paar’… meaning ‘try organizing a wedding, try building a house’… because by the time you complete these humongous tasks, you would have gone through all the high’s and low’s in life. I vote to add this line too… ‘Cinema eduththu paar’ meaning ‘try making a movie’…

We also went through many many high’s and low’s while making T4. Why… on the very first day of shoot, there was a big flood in Chennai. Our newly constructed colourful apartment set almost got destroyed and we had to postpone shoot. When we were shooting the title sequence, our set caught fire. Rupa suffered from occasional skin problems and the makeup products were making things worse. Red camera was a new technology still under development. So there was a lot of Research, Testing and Software upgrading happening amidst shoot. Since Ajmal was simultaneously shooting another film, many times our shooting dates clashed together and both the units had to reschedule. Generally it is tough to execute any project on a tightrope budget. Even though the budget is less, you cannot make the film look cheap. You have to get good actors, talented technicians, decent locations, quality cinematography, classy art direction, good-looking costumes and so on… but all in minimum costs. You have to try shooting two to three scenes in a day’s call-sheet and target the completion of shoot in 45 to 50 days. And then the baby…

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