Making DO PAHAR

Sharifa Roy

Unbelievable that one can achieve whatever one dreams of became a reality for us on the shooting of Do Pahar. Working with moods which come in a package with talent, balancing budgets, sharing jokes and even recipes, the thrill of a perfect take, the production lunches which still taste consistently the same, the eye on the clock with actors always wanting to leave and so much still to be done!

Challenging and painstaking, yet so gratifying to see the film come to life, bit by bit. Hours of hanging in narrow corridors of editing rooms or perched on 6 inch wide benches of recording suites, worrying about the mounting budget and feeling you are going bankrupt, the ache that a certain shot could have been better are all memories to relive and cherish. To have a completed film is like having a baby. Love's labor gained.

Do Pahar has been a huge learning experience by trial and error. As first time film makers we had our moments of insecurity as well as those of achievement and glory. It took our breath away and more. And would we want to repeat the same experience? Yes!!

Shazia Shrivastava

Neeraj Sahay, our Director of Photography was the first to come on board. Neeraj and I first worked together on Mixed Doubles and the equation was very different then. I was a mere assistant and would think ten times before bothering him with a question. But of course once you talk to him, he is one of the most sensitive, emotionally attuned people you'll ever meet. His knowledge, intelligence, lifestyle and last but not the least, his clothes (I think he's 5'5", 45 kilos and wears 'XL' sized T-shirts), in my eyes make him the quintessential artist.

He loves to go into excruciating depth of everything he does and so he did with Do Pahar. Causing me infinite turmoil and sleepless nights.

Why Do Pahar, Shazia?

Um… because it's an interesting story? You have two people from two extremely opposite worlds…

Extreme? Nahin yaar. Bilal is not extreme. You don't know what extreme is.

Neeraj had been an activist. And I was a suburban, middle class girl with a foreign education. Of course I had no idea what extreme was. And add to our 'discussions' two to three pegs of vodka. At two in the morning. A week from shooting.

But we shot the film.

I fell in love with Rohini Hattangady when I saw Saaransh. We made Sudha, Maharashtrian just so we could shamelessly take advantage of the extremely talented, Rohini Hattangady's delicious Maharashtrian flavor. Bilal took more scouting till we finally met with Dibyendu Bhattacharya. With his rigorous theatre training and his body of work it was a more a matter of us convincing him to do our film.

Kavita Jadhav who plays the maid rang our doorbell at eight in the morning for an audition. She was up since five that morning, had cooked for her family, travelled an hour by train to audition for a role in a no-budget short and was going to travel another hour to work. Oh I don't mind it at all, she said. I really enjoy acting. This is a little something I like to indulge in. A peon in a government office, her attire of sari and sneakers was the perfect metaphor for who she was - the Indian working woman. The sari, because she her workplace probably required it and the sneakers helped her dash up and down the floors of the building. We'd already had a few unsatisfactory auditions the day before so we instructed Kavita very carefully. The maid had to be loud and uninhibited. Kavita said, don't worry. I know exactly what you're talking about. I'm like that, naturally. That's the way I've learnt to survive. She was on board. And she was effortless.

The house is one of the most important characters in the film. Never in the world would I have imagined that after spending a decade in New Zealand and the United States, I'd return to Four Bungalows, Mumbai, where I grew up, to shoot my first film. As a child, I would spy on its residents through my bathroom window. Those very residents to who I'm greatly indebted to. No Art Director would have been able to recreate the authenticity and character that Sidh Kutir naturally possessed.

Rajendra Hegde, our Sound Designer with so many years of experience, was sporting enough to work on our miniscule short film for no money and tolerant enough to endure and indulge a lethal combination of very demanding and no experience directors.

The film was shot in four days. But we needed just one more day for patchwork. And that fifth day didn't occur until four months later by which time, I was back in Los Angeles. Long distance co-writing clearly had its challenges. But long distance co-directing took it to a whole new level. Never recommended.

Possibly, the least tumultuous relationship was that with our editor, Amitava Singha. We were always on the same page till he suggested that we end on just the sound of gunshots versus our original end which has Bilal categorically dying. My mother and I are hopeless romantics and wanted Sudha's pain and yearning for Bilal to linger. Bilal was meant to be her Romeo. And there was such romance in death! But if he lived, Bilal would definitely come back to save Sudha and that would be the end of their romance.

No he wouldn't come back, Amitava unflinchingly declared. My mother and I were aghast. How could Bilal and Amitava be so heartless? Of course Bilal would come back. He promised he would! But then as the idea sunk in, I discovered the meaning of 'the truth of the moment'. And it put into perspective all those fights I'd had with my boyfriend (now husband) about why he couldn't give me a written guarantee of his undying love when he told me he'd love me forever. The truth of the moment turned into my moment of truth when we put our trust in Amitava to opt for the open ending.

When we proposed to the universe that we'd like music that would supplement the Marathi spirit in our film, a friend disposed in recommendation, Kaushal Inamdar, a champion of the Marathi language. Kaushal was so insightful and quick to grasp the subtext and the subtle nuances of the film and its characters that we completely surrendered to his musical vision.

The advantage of making a low budget film is, you can be sure that the strongest motivation for the cast and crew to do your film is your film. And the journey continues.