Thursday, August 18, 2016

Monsoon Mumbai shoot

What are deadlines ?

When prof. Sudesh Balan spoke to me about making a video for a conference, I never thought that this was going to be one of the toughest projects that I would have to handle. The project brief was “ Themes like incredible India can be there initially. Aspects of Mumbai city, transportation system scenario followed by IIT Bombay can be included. A fitting conclusion needs to be there. “.
The powai skyline which never fails to impress

Inside the airport i had my camera switched on

You could see the settlements behind the airport

When the plane moved like a drunk dragon in the monsoon i take a silent oath never to fly again

As i landed back I knew i would fly again

Onlooker amidst traffic

Smoking in trains prohibited - Ajith

The powerpoint presentation was really helpful.

I spoke initially to prof. Vedagiri  of iit-bombay (a veteran in the area of transportation )who wanted me to have a meeting. I went ahead and booked my ticket or as I would say I asked my friend and partner (Rakhil Akkali) to book a bus ticket for me. I made a script and got a first draft of the voice over written by me and edited by Kiron Rajendran. (friend, writer).  However things didn’t go as expected. Syama (wife –friend- designer) asked me if I wanted to go and spent 10 days in Mumbai on an unconfirmed project . I decided not to do the project. Given there are difficulty of the 14 day dead line and the heavy downpour in Mumbai. My editor Rakesh was also busy with his screening at Ocenama film festival so inevitably he could not find time. Rakesh attended the meeting with professors of IIT  on my behalf. I was present on Skype. Sam Santosh (sound designer –photographer- friend) was key to getting this meeting arranged.
The project was soon commissioned and me and Ajith (writer – photographer – friend) reached Mumbai. Meanwhile I had called Akhil Sasidharan (cinematographer) and asked him if he could supply me with a set of visuals. From here things went flipside

  1. The camera rental people at Accord (from where I have rented throughout my life) said they could not give me the equipment since I didn’t have a Mumbai residential proof.
  2. The heavy rains would not give us a chance to get out and shoot.
  3. We were almost drenched and equipment got heavily soaked in rain.
  4. Me and Ajit almost survived a storm in the sea between Mumbai and Uran.
  5. There was no power when we were shooting interviews
  6. Sound recorder didn’t work at the right moment and Sam handled it nicely.
  7. I got sea-sick
  8. Rakesh got busy with his work and couldn’t  give a crisp first draft.
  9. Prof. Vedagiri  and prof. Rao could not understand our intend and we got strong feedback.
  10. Akhil's visuals didn’t come out as expected.
  11. IIT transport department couldn’t  get us permission to shoot. Even permission to shoot in campus was not received.
  12. My visuals came out of focus most of the time.
  13. Ajit was having troubles with his virtual friends and fans and couldn’t contribute creatively as much as I expected.
  14. Tripods were heavy. Very Very Heavy
  15. Music had to be rushed
  16. Client could not understand difference between first draft – line up – etc
  17. I was asked to take an aerial video of iit from you-tube video and insert it in the video by prof. Vedagiri. i asked the owner for permission he never responded. IIT said it is their right. We stole it. 
  18. Sound had to be rushed.
  19. Jishnu’s camera gave strobes in visuals
  20. Payment got a little delayed.
The video came out better than expected.  These were pointers to the video quality and how it became good. 

  1.   Rakesh did a decent job in cutting out the right  things
  2.       I bought stock footage and used them
  3.     Ajmal my music director did an exceptional job in giving a high quality music in just 24 hours
  4.      Sam had mixed the sound on the go and got a good mix
  5.     Akhils visuals looked better when color corrected.
  6.    Neelima Haridas and her voice was just one hell of a life saver.
  7.    I had fast internet so did Rakesh and we coordinated
  8.      We delivered on time even though we were two hours late. (which is kind of Ok)
The file we delivered was taken 5 hours before the professor’s boarded flight to Hong Kong for the WCTR conference.

What I learnt?

  1.     No project is easy as it sounds.
  2.     If you need clean visuals of a city in the monsoon it is impossible.
  3.    Drones don’t fly in the rain.
  4.       Your vision should be your team’s vision and if in any case they don’t match you should talk to them.
  5.   Clients  may not be able to imagine as much as you do so do not try hard to make them imagine.
  6.     Music makes a lot of difference.
  7.    Always –always have back up options
A special thanks to Sam Santosh who help me pull it off. Warm thanks to prof, Vedagiri to give control to us by the end  so that we could freeze on the edit and do the video on time. A great salute to Ajmal for being the superman he is and thanks to Jishnu for the catch up visuals. Rakesh did the job of the title graphics artist-editor-even cinematographer at times.
It was kind of an impossible task to pull such a project in ten days in the monsoon but we did a healthy job.
Would I do such a project in a a short time again?

YES … and I will do better.  We will do better.

The World Conference on Transport Research has been held every three years since 1977. The 14th World Conference will be held 10-15 July 2016 in Shanghai, China at Tongji University, which will host the Conference at its main campus. The WCTRS Young Researchers’ Conference will take place on 10 July 2016.
The aims of the conference are to offer a unique opportunity to bring together experts in all aspects of transport research, from all parts of the world and to stimulate the exchange of ideas in the broad field of transport research.

Prof Vedagiri sir and the HOD did their best to pay money on time. It was a big pleasure working for them especially the trust given to my team for successful completion.

The video is for WCTR 2019 conference to be held in IIT mumbai


Rakesh Cherumadam/Neelavelicham

Akhil Sasidharan
Rakesh Cherumadam
Jishnu T

Sound Mixing and Sync recording
Sam Santosh

Music Drection
Ajmal hasabaullah

Sarath Baby

Associate Director
Ajith Kesavan Haridas

Camera Rentals
Accord Equipments

Travel Management
Koteswar Rao

prof- vedagiri
Prof Rao
Rakesh C

prof Tom
prof Rao
prof Sudesh

Aeriel Footage Courtsey
iitb Civil
Sidharth Maurya (used under direction of iitb civil department)

Veda Sankar
Hari Patekar

Stock footage courtsey

As a part of the video I had to interview the director of IITB. After the interview he asked me what I was doing. I told him that I am an independent filmmaker. He asked me if i am working in a company. I rephrased again that i am a freelancer. "How can someone survive as a freelancer ?. How can you survive " he spoke with a laughter that had surprise and tease. When the director of IIT has such an outlook no wonder most students leave the country to earn money. :-) (just an afterthought)