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Deviprasad Goenka Management College of Media Studies

How not to make a film - Part 2

by Prof. Mukesh Sharma

Jan 9, 2019 at 4:30 PM

During my location hunting visit in Aug 88 with Mohan Hari ( the director who left the project mid way), we had finalized a lion cub and some more wild animals for shooting at Kanpur Zoo- Allen forest . How ever, now after 5 months when we reached the locale, to our dismay we found that the lion cub was no more a cute cuddly animal. It had grown and was now not suitable for our shooting. Accordingly the same was replaced by a kid (young one of a goat).
Finally the entire ging -bang left from Mumbai to Kanpur for shooting . There were many firsts in the making of Anokha Aspatal. It was Saroj Mukherjee the story writers first film. Alok Upadhaya , FTII (chief assistant to KK Mahajan, Ace Cinematographer), was for the first time independently handling the Cinematography for a feature film. Sharang Dev, son of Pandit Jasraj, it was his maiden effort as a composer. For me it was my directorial debut. One mistake and all our careers would bite the dust even before it could take off.
That was the beginning of deviation from the script. The dialogue had to be rewritten . Fortunately being a multi tasking person, I could write the Hindi dialogues of the film on a regular basis at the location during shooting, due to the ongoing changes in the script. This was in addition to my being the production controller of the film as well as the creative director. Not to mention the fact that I was the lone representative from Childrens Film Society, India(CFSI), the rest of the production crew was on contract for the project. In fact keeping a track of the raw stock, equipments, exposed film, bank account operations etc.was suppose to be my main job assignment.
In midst of all this, the creativity was bound to take a back seat. To ensure that I do not compromise with the creative aspect of the film , I decided to rely on an old school friend of mine to look after the production matters. More soever I had to ensure that bills/receipts etc were properly collated and accounts maintained since we were dealing with public funds. This was his first assignment as a production manager (he worked for a PSU and had taken leave to help me) . He too had his shortcomings in production matters which I had to help him overcome. But getting a loyal worker and thereby ensuring that there was no misappropriation of funds was a great relief for me.
In one line, the story of the film was about an old women, who stays in the forest with his grandson and wild animals come on their own for treatment.Getting untrained animals from the zoo for shooting was a nightmare. Some how we managed to take work from them without deviating from the screenplay. But every day is not a Sunday. Once it so happened that we had to shoot with a lion cub. The cub was tranquilized by a specialist veterinary doctor. After the shot was over the lion cub was kept inside a small artificial pit and was under observation as it was still under the influence of the drug.We were required to take some more shots once the cub was fully conscious. A production boy was asked to keep a watch. But destiny had other plans.
We were on the other side of the zoo planning for another shot. Suddenly a crew member came running to us shouting that the lion cub has run out of the pit and was freely roaming in the zoo.People were running helter skelter. There was chaos and commotion all around. Some how after a lot of chase the cub was taken captive by the zoo authorities, who were quite upset at the way we mishandled the entire operation. I was summoned to meet the Zoo warden of Allen forest. I knew my Shooting Days were numbered.. He wanted us to pack and leave. But the sincerity of purpose, my commitment and work ethics, made him change his mind and I was given one more chance.
Meanwhile the script was again altered as the lion cub was no more a part of the Shooting .We continued with our work for some more days when another blow came through a telegram that Tom Alter will not be able to join us for shooting as he had grief in the family. His shooting was scheduled for the next day. Tom was suppose to play the role of a poacher in the film. That very night I drove down from Kanpur to Lucknow and went straight to my parents house, picked up overcoats, hats etc and returned by midnight to the location. Next morning I donned the grease and became Mr Smith the poacher from Rangoon , and was ready to face the camera.
My principle in life is, where I spend Money I dont spend Time and vice versa. However in the case of Anokha Aspatal I was both short of Time as well as Money. And this forced me to be Innovative , Ingenious and Imaginative. The three "I's" which continue to be with me till date and compensate me during creative emergencies/ crisis..
Around mid Feb1989, we managed to complete the35 days of shooting schedule and returned to Mumbai. I was keen to see the rushes.In those days it was not instant to see the camera results. Labs would take time to process the films.By and large the film rushes were good. I was keen to see my portion of shooting. It came as a shock to see that light was bleeding all around in our night scenes.The cameraman had no answer. Instead of finding faults I decided to promote the defected portion as a special effect in the scene.But in my heart I was keen to reshoot the scene. Will I get a chance to do? How will Mrs Jaya Bachchan react?
Mean while, upon my return Mrs Bachchan told me that she has decided to hold the premier of the film at Mauritius and the date has been fixed for 7th April1989. Another deadline . Now I had to again rework my backward planning as 7th April on the calender was smiling at me..
I started the editing of the rough cut which was ready by the end of Feb 89. It was seen by Mrs Bachchan, Pushpa Bharti (wife of Dharmvir Bharti, former editor of Dharmyug), and Vishnu Mathur (FTII graduate) along with my post production team.
What Happened when Mrs Jaya Bachchan and others saw the rough cut?
Was it a rough ride or was it a smooth sailing for me?
What were the reaction of the experts when they saw the so called Special Effect portion in the rough cut?
Let me answer all the above in my next post :- How not to make a film part 3 . Watch Out.!!!.