Thursday, June 21, 2007


I bought a digital camera last December, which fulfilled my long desire to click photos after photos without any guilt. Since then, it came very handy to cover many moments of celebration in the group treats that followed my getting a job. During one of the treats we had in Kolkata, we exploited the video capturing facility of the camera enormously. Later while going through the collection, we were very pleased by the video results that captured many priceless moments. So naturally, when Vivek proposed that we make a movie on ourselves, we were all very excited.

It was decided that the movie would be based on myself, Suman, Vivek, Aditya, Atanu and Vishal. The first phase of planning started in the last week of February this year. It was decided that we would make a musical documentary (based on a song) rather than a narrative of our lives. After going through a number of songs, we finally agreed on nostalgic tune of "Yaaron, Dosti, badi hi haseen hai..." by Kay Kay. The next part was to develop a screenplay for the song. We had two options in front of us. First was to develop a script independent of the lyrics, and the other was to create a screenplay based on the lyrics itself. Naturally following the lyrics was very difficult, more so considering the fact that the musical had many lines of romantic lyrics; and although some of us had girlfriends, we wanted to restrict the video to ourselves. After spending another couple of hours over the issue, we decided to make a video based on the lyrics itself, keeping the Plan B lest we fail to do it the way we planned. But whatever the case, we decided that we won't spend a penny on making a video.

First we listened to the song carefully, then again, and then another time to have a feel of the way the script goes. The next task was to decide the timeline of shots. We first started with the
first scene. My idea of introducing the characters as criminals sentenced to Hijli Detention Camp having their mugshot taken was readily accepted by the group. Vivek suggested that for the second shot (when the lyrics actually started), we can show a gear rolling in front of our faces; something that would bring a nostalgic look to the story as well as be in tune with our department. The idea was good, but had many problems. Firstly, gears (with teeth all over them) are not very keen to roll on flat surfaces. Even if we were to acquire a gear with 50+ teeth, it would hardly roll for a metre, and still would jerk all the way. The alternative to make it roll again and again for everyone did not find many takers as it would make the video look odd. Finally we decided to do it with a ball bearing. Procuring one was an issue, but considering our good reputation as students, the professor we approached readily gave us a brand new ball bearing.

We thought that our quest for that perfect shot ended there, but it was hardly the case. Getting the ball bearing to roll per our plans was no sitter. Sometimes the speed of rolling won't match what we desired, sometimes the bearing would deviate from the path we desired it to follow. Adding to our woes was the fact that synchronizing the camera movement, face positioning and eye gaze were all mission-critical tasks. Eventually, a satisfactory take was achieved after nineteen retakes.

The "action" part wasn't the only problem we faced. In fact one of the shooting sessions we had in Gyan Ghosh Stadium was nearly wasted since it was very difficult for us to do it seriously. One of us would falter and it would lead to a contagious laughter, killing precious minutes before the sunset would make the shooting difficult. The familiar faces among the evening joggers also did little to the cause of speeding up the movie making process. It was way too dark when we began shooting for the final shot of the musical. I personally wanted a retake to be done later, but some others found the effect created by darkness suitable for the shot.

Over the course of next three weeks, we shot at a number of different locations including the department, hostel room, roads, parks and central library, among other places. At one point of time, we thought that we had completed the shooting, only to realize that the interlude was so long that we didn't have enough fillers for it. Also, since most part of the screenplay was well planned, we even had a taste of what directors have traditionally faced for centruries: Actors not having dates free! Finally when the shooting was concluded, we had nearly sixty separate sequences.

Editing video was also a nightmare. When I sat to make the video on Windows Movie Maker, little I knew of the problems faced by editors when the shot is just not of the right size as compared to the words it is to be overlaid on. On certain occasions, just to compensate for a second-long mismatch, I spend nearly an hour to rip off the trailing and leading shots to perfection. The final video had nearly forty different sequences and although not perfect, it still gives me immense satisfaction even though I have watched it nearly a hundred times now.

See for yourself...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Rajdhani Express

After completing my studies, I always have to undertake and onward journey because there are no direct trains between Kharagpur and Bhopal. Usually I prefer to change trains from Nagpur (the junction where the north-south and east-west routes intersect), but since I was a bit late for booking tickets due to late change of plan I had to take a break at Bilaspur. I traveled from Kharagpur to Bilaspur in Howrah Kurla Express, and for the latter part of the journey till Bhopal was in Rajdhani Express. While the journey till Bilaspur was eventless, the travel in Rajdhani Express isn't something I would be forgetting for some time to come.

We boarded the train at 8 am in the morning. The train had a very slow start, but we discounted it to the fact that there was a mega-block in the Bilaspur-Durg route. The services had an impressive beginning. The breakfast arrived within minutes of the train's departure and the public announcement system buzzed with the details of the stations en-route and the time of journey. But our happiness was short lived. The bread served with the breakfast was stale, conspicuous by its foul smell. The omelet was also unpalatable. After the breakfast was over, we learned that there is no water in one side of the coach, leading to rush on the other side. This fault was, to my surprise, never rectified. The service by IRCTC caters was also sub-standard. They kept bugging us to take back the used plates starting the 3rd minutes we were served breakfast. The caterer that served us didn't utter a single word, that passed of as very rude. By his third or fourth visit, I actually thought that he might be a dumb person. My pity for him ended by his tenth visit when he uttered his first words. The AC setting of the coach was set to such a cold one that for the whole journey, we had to use woolens. The lunch was slightly better than breakfast but still below average as compared to the service of other trains I have been to. The snacks served comprised of Samosas, sweets, mango drink, and namkeen. Unfortunately even the branded items were of sub-standard quality. We decided to not order dinner at all. It was undoubtedly the most inconvenient journey I ever undertook on a superfast express.