Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Road Movie Diary: Chapter 1

There has been a splurge of great reviews, neat trailers, festival news and loads of interesting information coming about Dev Benegal’s film “Road, Movie” and how wonderfully it tells the tale of a traveling cinema amidst the mythical Indian landscape...and more. Undoubtedly, Dev worked relentlessly on the film for many years and thus the outcome looks so impressive. I wonder how many from my generation would put in that amount of time, patient effort and dedication towards one film. A casual look at the visuals of Road, Movie and you know stuff like this cant be produced overnight. But then, we all will be hearing stories about the movie from the cast and crew on various websites, television shows, Youtube videos and The Making snippets. But as far as Bhaand Group is concerned, needless to say I would be trying to concentrate on telling my story, my journey and my first baby steps into the world of movies and how “Road, Movie” was indeed an amazing canvas to work on.

“No, no you don’t need to come for an interview or something like that. Susan is going to come on the 14th of July, so make sure you are here by then,” said Sopan over the phone call on that June morning in 2008. I was in my editing session of the final graduation film that we had made. On hearing Sopan’s voice I was elated.

“We would be giving you some stipend,” Sopan modestly added.
“Sir, thanks for the opportunity, money is not an issue” replied a beaming me.

Those were the days of campus recruitment and some television channels were surely taking keen interest in hiring the students, cheap labour we joked amongst ourselves. My story was a lil different - I was kicked out in the first round itself of a popular hindi gec channel selection, and I son enough realised, not all rejections are bad. The call from Sopan was like god sent.

The news spread that I would be joining Dev sir’s next movie. On hearing about the film, a classmate came and asked.

“So what will you be joining AS?”

I didn’t know what to say. the channels had taken students as Associate Producers, so suddenly the importance of ‘jobs’ was replaced by ‘positions one is joining at’.

“Actually I am suppose to assist the producer, lets see. I really don’t know what to term the post as...”

Hell joining a movie was important.
That evening I quickly went to the nearest cyber café and googled “Dev Benegal – Road Movie”. One of the pages mentioned that the screenplay had been shortlisted to Atelier Du Cannes in 2006. Susan B. Landau and Ross Katz would be producing it. So what followed next is obvious. Google their names.
In the next few days, I got my tickets booked for Bombay. The final viva examinations were yet to be completed. Although they were nothing short of a formality, yet one did have to come back to Delhi for that and again head back to Bombay.

On 14th of July, Sopan called and asked me to be at the Sahar airport, Andheri. Susan’s flight was expected around 9 30 pm. I really didn’t know how to go about receiving a Hollywood Producer coming for the first time to India. I thought to myself, should I go with a placard and stand there amidst all those five star hotel personnel like the guy who was standing ahead of me: “Mr Robert Peterson from London – Hyatt Regency Welcomes you. I started thinking of ideas through which I could avoid standing with a placard, but then ideas have an amazing tendency to elude you, when you require them the most. Even for a former copy writer.

Completely clueless I just stood besides all those placard holding gentlemen.
Wasn't I working on a film project? I rubbished the potentially destructive terrain of thought, I am working on a film project - all this is also the film project. Lessons learnt soon enough.

I looked around and took out an A4 sized paper from my bag and wrote with a Black sketch pen SUSAN B. LANDAU – AUGUST ENTERTAINMENT. The letters had started growing smaller with a progressive diagonal tilt by the time I reached the end of the name ...A..N..D..A..U...

I cringed, how would a Hollywood producer feel on reading this. Her first impression of Indians. Without wanting to evoke the current flavour of 'prove your indian quotient', somehow I have a tendency to place my national pride in these little details, my countries impression on people who come for the first time. Errr.

This was pre-Slumdog Millionaire era. I tore that A4 paper and came up with another, a relatively better version. I again looked around and couldn’t spot Sopan anywhere. If he would have been around I could have saved myself from ‘holding the placard’ situation... I silently thought to myself. But I couldn’t find a single recognizable face in that airport crowd. Nevertheless, as soon as the flight from New York was announced as “Arrived” I went ahead and stood with the placard. Half and hour passed and a lady on a wheel chair was brought in by the airport staff. She came in right to the placard and signaled, boy I am here. I was still looking up, until a moment later, and I realized that Susan had a severe back pain and had to take a wheel chair and come outside the airport. I folded the temporarily made placard, took her luggage aside and received her with general talk. I was praying in my hearts of hearts for Sopan to appear magically. She was very kind and she did tell me
‘Producers wont be so kind on the Movie sets! '

The airport staff who had driven the wheel chair for Susan told me:
“Wheel Chair wapas le jaane ka hai..” ( I want to take the Wheel chair back).
I felt like thrashing him:
“toh mei inko kahaan bithaau?” (Where should I make her sit?)

Susan gauged the situation; she offered that she would sit down, if the staff were in hurry to take the wheel chair. I didn’t know where to look and suddenly Sopan appeared. He's always been God sent. He had a bouquet of flowers in his hand and then I realized, if I had brought a bouquet than I could have saved myself from the A4 size placard. Maybe a name inside the bouquet or something to hold at least would have made me look a little better. Before Sopan could make a little conversation, Dev came. So there I was with the three of them. The movie was going to be executed between all three of them.

Dev came and said: “hardikji aap aa gaye...?”.
In my heart I said: “aa to gaye hain ab...dekhte hain yeh shaher kitne rang dikhata hai…”

Next moment I got the slice of Dev’s humor when Susan asked
Susan: Dev, how far is your home?
Dev: Its one-hour from here (the airport)
Susan: Is that Bombay or some other city?
Dev: It is indeed Bombay, Susan – an hour further from my home is also Bombay.
For someone like me who knew Bombay, had spent my childhood here but hadn't experienced it's recently and now ever-expanding city limits, this was indeed funny. On hearing Dev, Susan gave a unique surprised look. And Dev with his Buddha-like smile. Hardly did I know that for the next few months, these two expressions would be the most I would see.

Cut to a few days ago. 10th Feb 2010. Again Sahar airport, but this time at the Departure lounge. Sopan and Faisal were flying to Berlin for the “Road, Movie” screening. I was again there to see them off. I remembered my first day, the placard holding intern with Bombay dreams in his eyes. Felt like telling this to Sopan, but then there was a lot of commotion on the airport. And so the blog!

To my classmate or the generation who is more concerned about the position than the work place. Respect and believe in others and the world will respond to you in better ways than you would have thought.
“yaar ghaans kaato lekin achcha ghaans kaat-lo to bhi bahut hai...”

Coming up: The Road Movie diary number two: Shopping with Abhay Deol and Amba Sanyal, the Costume Designer of the film.

© Copyrights 2009 www.bhaandgroup.blogspot.com. All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta


Shailesh said...

I must admit yaar, this is my favorite blog of yours.. It was a pleasure reading your experience and I will look forward to reading more about it..

Tanuj said...


Totally agree with your idea - work is more important than a fancy designation. I am happy you didn't land up as a associate producer for a news channel - your creativity would have been doused by the mediocrity around you by now. Best wishes for your movie and career.


hardik mehta said...

thank u shailesh....:)

tanuj...have been fighting this internal battle for years now...thank u for reading...

rk said...

going well hardik...

as i hate reading... but i must admit, that you just grabbed me to read the road diary. very good!

best luck :)

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