OnceUponATime In Kumbh
When i was small, I loved watching random interviews on TV. That was DD zamana. While the main interview would be on a serious-ish conversation about an 'issue': price rise, weather, kehti … cast religion politics … anything ... My interest were the folks in the background, who were Not being spoken to. The Background was where the Real Action was! There were all kinds of expressions you could see there. People staring deep inside the camera lens. People smiling their best smiles. People waving. People setting their hair. People making their kids sit on their shoulders and wave for the family. Nothing could be better entertainment!
But Life, she has her own way of balancing. What gives you pleasure, gives you pain. I grew up. Went to a film school. They taught me 'How to Set the Interview Frame'. A concept called 'Eye Line'. The interview frame is fixed. The subject is in front. The interviewer is on the side of the camera. His job is to make sure that he holds the eye - the gaze - of the subject, steady. You see, the subject shouldn't look all distracted and bored … now right, now left …
I can bet that the chappies who came up with this concept were not filming in India. Ab, Indians have time. Bhut time. And they love any tamasha. A camera + the way the crew looks often presents the best live masala for the day. The whole scene becomes a story that is shared over and over again … "Aree and you know there was this Channel …"
Whenever i am filming outdoors, my camera is surrounded by at least 20-30 people hovering in the background, attempting to somehow come to the front and have their face, hand, finger, toe… anything registered by the camera. And how can any conversation be just one way in India? Arre bhaii, everybody has to talk. The freedom of speech, read gupshup, runs in our veins! The janta has its own inputs. Its own gyan. All the 30-40 folks add to the gupshup that i am trying to have with the subject. Consequently, there is off screen laughter, the subject looks not just left and right, but in all realms - aakash, patal included. I meekly request, "Please, thode der ke liye hume baat karne dijiye…" But who bothers! There is just too much excitement!
This time, 2013 CE, filming in Kumbh with over 3 crore people i gave up! I heard the hidden message. 'SURRENDER' it commanded. 'These Indians are all Gapodis No. 1! You change your technique. They won't.' Change i did. No steady camera tight interview shots, aiming to hold control the eye line or the conversation. I altered the technology: handheld, fluid, flexible. I realized, to creatively survive, nay, thrive, in India and get the best outta her, thats the only way: Utter Flexibility!