Tag Archives: Film festival

#4 Learning from the experts – Nishtha Jain

For those of you who are not familiar with one of the prime candidates for the best documentary film makers of India, Nishtha Jain; she is a former student of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). She has directed critically acclaimed films such as At My Doorstep, Lakshmi and Me, 6 Yards to Democracy etc. Along with Smriti Nevatia, the duo runs an independent documentary film company named Raintree Films.

I had the privilege of meeting Nishtha Jain at a film screening of Gulabi Gang in Mumbai. Here are a few points I noted as she interacted with us!

Nishtha Jain with Sampat Pal (the real leader of Gulabi Gang)

1. Making a documentary is an unpredictable job. You will never get what you wished for but you will certainly be rewarded for your patience. But Nishtha Jain believes in having everything in writing. No matter what, having a blueprint of your day will help you in deciding how to lead your crew.

2. Others might think otherwise, but making a documentary rather than anything else requires time. The crew spent five months with Gulabi Gang to produce this 96 minute marvel.

3. (I strongly contradict the following point) Nishtha does not believe in giving a direction so as to conveniently reach a desired climax. She believes it is essential to be neutral and non judgmental as a documentary film maker while conceiving a documentary.

4. People in the villages were casual with the camera. Being camera conscious is more of an urban-middle-class obsession. For the villagers, it was more threatening that Sampat Pal was about to interfere in the matter. And they focused on the boom pole; stared at it aimlessly. That worked just fine for the sound.

5. Most of the flow was decided on the edit table. It will not be wrong to say that documentaries are written on the edit table. (The film is edited by Arjun Gourisaria. This amazing documentary won its well deserved recognition for Best Non-Feature Film editing at the 61st National Film Awards. Nishtha was an essential part of the actual edit team as well)

6. You need to be a rebel. Being safe all the time will not get you a good sunset shot. Having said that, nobody appreciates a dead filmmaker with a half baked documentary. So, that!

 

The screening of Gulabi Gang was followed by a screening of the film Yellow. Although I enjoy fiction more, because of the ridicule Yellow produced in me, it heightened my experience of Gulabi Gang. Overall, it was a colourful evening.

 

The film Gulabi Gang was completed (shot) in 2010, first screened in Dubai at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2012 and later in India in 2014. It is based on a women activist group in Bundelkhand, UP. It was distributed by Recyclewala Labs. The same guys who brought you Ship of Theseus which is available for a legal free download over here (at least in India).

If interested, do not miss the trailer of Gulabi Gang over here!

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#1 My Creation – Argument (December 2011) – Backstory

A Shot From The Film Argument

Before this film, I helped a friend of mine in the edit, sound design and visual effects for his short film ‘Pause’ in which I acted as well. And the film had a very warm response from the audience. We decided to make one more short film, which failed miserably. I had a really clear idea about the story of the film and the dialogues as well. But for some reason I couldn’t convey it very well. My friend slept the entire afternoon and I was demoralised.

I realized the importance of having the script in writing. Even when you are writing, directing, shooting and editing the film on your own, you are not the only mind working on it. When you direct your actors, they give their suggestions. They may be brilliant but not in sync with the demand of the script. When you have your script in your hand you can simply ask your actors to stick to the plan when it is necessary. It is very important for the director, the captain of the ship to have a command over his vessel. A hard copy of the script in your hand is your map, your compass and your wheel.

I also had a very simple shot division plan and a storyboard this time. I borrowed a camera, a Canon 550 from a friend of mine, a 50mm 1.8 lens from another friend in a different part of the city, I asked my dad and a friend of his to act and was all set to shoot.

The shoot was in the afternoon at Juhu beach and I was running around everywhere since morning. When we reached at the location it struck me that I forgot my script at home! I hadn’t explained the script to the actors by then. But we were losing light. We had to start. So again, even this time I was without a script even after writing it so precisely.

I struggled while directing but everything was alright. I had to come back on the next day to take a few inserts. The treatment changed drastically on the edit table. But I am glad we could finish this. The film was screened at Usha Pravin Gandhi College during Aahan International Short Film Festival in January and that was my first screening. The film got the second best film award and thus it all started.

The film was screened at a few more festivals in 2012. I tried sending the film to Berlin Short Film Festival but it couldn’t work out. Quite recently, all of my films were screened back to back at My Mumbai Film Festival. I couldn’t go for the screening but my mother and my younger brother did. My brother said that out of all the films, Argument received the best response. By many aspects, my work after this film was more substantial for me in terms of quality and reach as well. But I think the first step, the first boost was essential.

As I look back, when I made the film I did not know whether I was shooting at 24 fps or 25 fps. I spent at least 15 minutes in changing the lens, which doesn’t take more than 5 seconds. I almost lost my friend’s SD Card. I was turning the focus ring when it was on auto and I thought I broke it. There were so many retakes just because I kept my tripod in the frame. And many more mistakes, which taught me more than any institute would have.