Saturday, December 2, 2017

Saga of the Spirited- Rants in Time

Date -20th November 2016
Today I completed another draft of "test Drive" a stoner comedy I am working on currently.
Why I am making it ?
I am making it because of an event that happened to my friend in the past and I was also involved in solving it. Its not 100 percent real. It is very dialogue based whereas I am visual person and hence there is a mismatch. I currently don't have the budget to make this but i am going ahead. I am not glorifying Marijuana but being Loyal to the genre. I read the script loud and found a lot of places where it is not working.
Cannabis pushes people to a point where they start seeing things are pointless except for the pleasure. I have seen that basic nature of human being is expanded when cannabis is added as a catalyst.
Nihilism is a philosophy that I have set my feet into. I guess it may be reflected in the fictional piece. Should I make this thing ?

Date 24th November 2016
The Modi Demonetisation has rattled my mobility. I have some money in my bank account but no money for daily chai or travel. The ATM queues force me to incorporate that into the script. I FORCEFULLY don't do it. Storyboard panels are almost done for the first sequence. Syama started working on the costume design. She will be done by the first sequence. Should I make this film ?

Date 29th November 2016
I have rented a 24mm lens and 50 mm lens. I will ask Deljo Thekkekara the co-producer for his 100mm lens to get macro shots. Syama directed to me to get leaves from a plant nearby and ground them. Ground them properly and they look like Marijuana. (Should we use real Marijuana instead ?)

Date 5th Decemeber 2016
The shoot went fine, actors were sleepy by morning - a few shot could not be taken - Rahul Rajagopal one of the best actor who has always been a rock-star forgot his dialogues. The footage looks good. Not great. Not sad. not happy. Ajith and me we couldnt sleep. We looked at each other as we sat on the balcony. Why are we not sleepy ?

Date 13th January 2017
I spoke to tamil actor Vinod Menon who it seems fits my character. The stringent budget will be squeezed to pay him. "I am not a free actor... " I liked the confidence he fits fine. Went to the vehicle showroom thanks to my school friend Abhijith who arranged it. So happy to get a location. Nitin Anand (VFX) agreed to pitch in as co-producer. That is a relief,

Date 21st january 2017
We had probably the most amazing shoot ever. Everyone came on time. We had to bribe the Bengaluru cops for shooting outside my house. Shamin's acting was quite nice. Arjun Ratnakar is perfectly understanding his character dynamics. Vinod gave the nonchalance required for the character. Files sent for special effects. DJI ronin was a blessing in some shots.

Date 3rd Feb 2017
I made a draft, film works. File sent to Rakesh to structure the film and to explore. The draft looks fine. It made me feel crippled since i was not using the possibilities of visualisation

Date 18th Feb
Been thinking of the bigger story in which test drive is just a chapter, spoke to Arjun Ratnakar and Rahul about it. Spoke to Kiron about it. Kiron always make valid suggestions. So does Arjun.

Date 28th February
Rakesh is busy with his commercial edits and he couldn't deliver on time. I am reduced to a man who waits. But i see immense possibilities in his suggestions.  I have decided not to continue.

Date April 6th
Arjun Ratan and me discuss on the written screenplay for the rest of the series. He has contributed quite a bit. The content wouldn't be the same without his suggestions. A lot of things from his contribution worked. Rakesh sends me links to the crafts in the similar lines. Treading carefully since it should not blind my vision. In the meantime Vinoth menon informed that he can't be present for dubbing because he has a workout schedule. Earlier i had told him that i would go to chennai and record his voice but our dubbing budgets crossed the limit. I insisted if he would show up becase that would save some money since i had a small deal working with Pranava. He confidently said he can't show up.
Jim John my dubbing Engineer gave me the contact of tamil dubbing artist - Prashant. Prashant could take Vinu's sound and gave more life to his character. Prashant charged money but still lesser than what I would have spent if I went to Chennai. (Lesson - no matter how big or small the actor is judge if he will be with you throughout the entire process - Vinu damodar had a small character in the next episode - Deleting those lines )

Date April 29
Rakesh has created another film and I am very happy with the episodes

Date May 5th
Gauvrav Shakya got the advance as the sound foley designer. Rakhil (executive producer) paid him.

Date May 11th
Gauvrav (sound designer folley) gave really bad work and on being asked he had outsourced to Biku lingi, Shantanu forced lingy to give a better work. Lingy gave everything in three weeks. Shantanu squeezed the best work out of Biku but did he check the files ?

Date June 3rd
Shantanu (sound designer) called up and said he will deliver everything by June end, also started working on the other episodes

Date July 23
Arjun Ratan said he won't turn up for the shoot since he is sick. I have an actress Pooja Raju Nair. She seems to be very professional in approach. I have her dates. I have also blocked camera and lenses. If Ratan doesn't turn up i will skip doing this episode. I am out of it. The energy is eaten. Syama seems not so excited. She will do her part. Waiting for Arjun Ratan to show up.


Date July 26th

A coproducer said he is willing to invest Madhav (son in law of K Madhu . i was excited we can actually make the series the way we want to.
After two co-producers walked out of the project (one with injury and the other with uncertainty)  I sat in my room depressed finding ways to somehow shoot the next episodes.

I spoke to Bimal R (mobility designer - vehicle designer - friend) about my troubles and he decided to pitch in a small amount along with his wife Deepali Karanjawarkar. Rakhil my executive producer was also ready with a small sum. I had saved up a small amount from a recent pay.

Me and Syama (costume designer -art - life partner) started working creatively around the constraints.  A good fellow filmmaker Parthan suggested me an actress "Pooja Nair'. She was too fair and beautiful for my characters but I kind of liked her acting. (There were two other actress who auditioned to whom i had to respectfully say no). Usually a casting director calls up and inform the news and in my case it was me. it is such a tough thing for a director like me. After fixing her for the character we fixed a location for the shoot. Nitin Anand (former co-producer and vfx Guru ) was grateful to give his space for shoot. (In time the favor will be repaid but this was very essential for the shoot to take place). I called up my cinematographer and shared the date with him. He was not available. i decided to shoot that part myself. I called up Arjun Ratan and asked him to book tickets for the shoot. Already all his shoots are planned on  3rd weekend of every month , the only time when he is free. Arjun Ratan claimed he was sick with fever and couldn't make it for the shoot. All the planning we did was going down the drain. It was at this moment I decided that I will cast only full timers for my future works. (This decision changed eventually) and I also decided that if Arjun doesn't show up its a good bye to "Utsaha Ithihasam. Somehow with a tiny fever Arjun landed in Bengaluru.

We did a rehersal with Pooja Nair. My associate director Vishnu Haridas ahd taken the night train to reach Bengaluru. Syama selected the costumes of the characters. She was not convinced with Arjun's selection of costumes but we got Pooja's costumes spot on. The theme color is supposedly yellow green so we brought a curtain and planned the shoot according the way the sunlight falls into the house. An Amaraon LEd light was used as key in most of the shoots. We also used an emergency lamp in some shots. A small amount of smoke was used to give depth and create character.


Arjun gave a wonderful performance and Pooja backed it up with her character. Things went fine and we were able to be with the sun and finish the shoot.

Date  July 26th
All files sent to Rakesh and still waiting for updates. Shantanu yet to update on the sound. Another meeting with a client regarding production. I have sent some templates to Ajmal for a song.Hope he delivers. His music for the last two episodes was quite extraordinary.


Date August 5
A few days back had a wonderful shoot in Kuzhipalli beach. Drove early in the morning and reached the destination and had a great shoot. Rahul and Arjun rocked in their characters. Ajith was kind of lost in his thoughts. This might just work.
How do you shoot an evening on a morning ?
Well you have to visit the site in the evening and see the play of lights. These lights and the color can be emulated in post production. The colors need to right.  The sun is setting in the opposite direction than I imagined. So we need to be at the beach by 6 (6.15 is the sunrise time). We got the shots right and in-tone and could match with the Gokarna tone.

Date Aug 6th
A final word from Shantanu has been received. He wont be able to do it . Spoke to Kiran Sasi and spoke to Sam. Madhav said that he wont invest in the project. Everyone has given up hope on Ustaha Ithihasam. I have decided not to continue. Sam delivered the files for a presentation with a distributor. The presentation went find. We have a package. The energy is restored. All thanks to Sam Santhosh. Meanwhile Ajmal's (music director) has given a wonderful song and his friend said he will write the lyrics. I am in love with the song.


Date Aug 19th
Had probably the best shoot in the last two years. Everyone knew their lines. At this stage Venu Sasidharan Lekha steps in as the DOP. This is a big relief. everything went according to plan. Renoy (friend film maker) has pitched in as a coproducer and Nitin Annad's (VFX) is used as the location. Syama and me spent quite a bit of time deciding on the art and lights. I am not letting Venu explore more since it will affect the previous look of the film. The film should stick with the actual -amateurish- indie look. Found a an actress Shweta khare who took her character too seriously. She got lost in a scene and couldn't stop crying. Surprised everyone. Shamin was a relief. He is a filmmaker at the core and can't resist pushing his ideas. I am happy with it though I am also cautious not to let stray idea strike my vision. Some of the shots were completely handled by Shyamin, Venu and Vishnu.  Arjun Ratan's trolls were fun. By this time Arjun had evolved into a good actor. He was not pushing his boundaries but nevertheless he played his part. Syama and me were looking at the footages. She liked a few. I like many.

This is the stage where Renoy had stepped in as a co-producer. This is a big relief. That is one reason this shoot went fine and have saved a bit for the gokarna shoot.


Date Aug 27th
Had a pick up shoot in Varkala. the shoot went fine and we got exactly what we needed. Rahul hosted us for the shoot. Vishnu Ranjith's father passed away the previous night and he didn't let us know because we were shooting. We ran to his house after the shoot. We had not invited Venu for the shoot since it is just a pick up shoot and didn't want Venu to bother. Vishnu had assisted us on the first two shoots.

The view of the massive beach from the cliff

associate DOP Shyamin and the rest of them

The brunch at the beach

How do I hide my grey beard

Happy and Lithe 

godbless autocapture

We met a 100 year old man on the way to gokarna, it was his birthday

DOP Venu and assistant Shyamin - shooting 

Broken Umbrella dreams an d Shweta the actress

high on Adrenalin and the rain

Happy people 

Legs, I need close up of legs

No time to build a bridge

Walking to the cliff

Director and DOP

Gokarna Dogs and us

happiness is

Brief moment with Rahul and Shweta

The DOP and my art director

Jungle paths that meet the beach

Wherever he may roam

When our actrewss didnt show up and we shot with DOP


more selfies

shot breakdown
the beach

a pic from the rehersal

rehersal once again before the take


Lost in the perture

follow focus

DOP mode _ Venu Sasidharan Lekha

Monika was the beach and the beach was monika

Me and Shweta

Venu and Me

Syama doing last minute touch up for Shweta

Date September 20th
We were on a roll. We shot in Studio6, we shot in the train to Gokarna and we shot in Gokarna. Ranjtih Thampi  a friend from college days pitched in some money, i had a few savings, Rahul pitched in from his credit card and Rakhil gave a share. We could manage the shoot. Gokarna was in rains as expected. We got the shots. We had fun. Syama did justice to the costumes. I didn't interfere in the costumes one little bit and got really fascinating colors.  Arjun Ratnakar didn't turn up for the shoot as he had an important meeting in office. (Makes me think if I need to give him important scenes in the next episode - what if he has an important meeting on the day of the shoot - just rants - already working on the scene presence and importance of another character to replace him if he becomes busy  - just rants - he is a friend nevertheless) A few shots were skipped and had to manage without him. An intersting sequence was skipped nevertheless. Shyamin was the energy of the team. I had a fun time working with Venu. Gokarna will be a memory like Malwan, like Kallara, like Marayaur.

The song which Ajmal made is beautiful and man I hope I can do justice to him with visuals. Rakesh is not much available for the edit but I need him in a few areas badly. Jim John will help with dubbing at Pranava studios and Manoj C Mathew will help with dubbing at MCM studios kochi. We will finish this stuff. Rahul has agreed to take charge of dubbing and post production. I am out of cash . It is shaping up.