We decided to shoot the song at Mukesh Mills, a regular shooting location in Mumbai. It’s a cluster of broken structures with wide roads in between. We needed four roads to set up as four different settings for the shoot.
- Empty street where Munna and circuit walks
- The street where the car appears
- Street which transforms into circus
- Street with marriage procession and crowd
We were planning to shoot at nights. That’s when we realized we had three consecutive days to shoot due to actors’ date issues. The art dept. can change the set up during daytime and we can shoot during night. Which meant I had to do the lighting for all the three setups at the same time. I had to be ready with all the setups before the first day of the shoot.
- Empty street lined up with few street lamps.
- The street with the car had lots of neon signs.
- The marriage procession street lined up with lots of series lights.
- The circus with arches, light beams, lions etc.
The car street would come alive with the neon signboards lighting up from the far end in the frame.
My design of circus street had a huge arch coming up from the ground and small arches swinging in to the frame from sides. A girl on a trapeze would swing into the frame from top of the camera and all artists would run in on cue.
The marriage procession had the series lights coming on and covering the frame in one movement from the far end.
The design looked pretty simple, but as I started detailing it, I realised it’s a huge task.
Raju had given me a full go ahead, so I decided to attempt it with full energy.
I discussed the plan with art department and decided to make the arch across the street on plywood. I told my assistants to measure the perimeter of the arch and calculate how many bulbs and wire bundles we would require. They came back with a rough estimate of 640 bulbs and 20 bundles of wire. The art dept was in for a shock when I passd this info to them. They told me plywood will not carry this weight and we have to fabricate the arch in iron, and it has to be fabricated then and there because it will be difficult to carry such a big arch if we fabricated it somewhere else.
We had only two days for it because we needed atleast one day to fix it.
We got a go ahead from production to make that arch.
I went ahead to discuss my other requirements with production-
“We need lots of bulbs”
“We have bulbs in our production trunk”.
“But we need more”.
“We have lots”
“We need 640”
There was silence.
The empty street and the street with neon signboards were comparatively simple to set up. As I progressed I realised the marriage procession set up is also not so simple.
That day at around two in the night on my way back home, I was passsing through Mahim Dargah where some festival was on. The entire street was decorated with series light. Raju was in a car behind me. As we were crossing the festival area Raju called me - “ isn’t this what we are planning to do for the baaraat?”
“No, these lights stay on all the time and just flicker in between. Our lights should come on from the far end as if from nowhere and and should disappear in the same fashion.”
“How will we do that?”
“I have to put separate layers on separate dimmers and gradually bring them in”
I was thinking about my scheme as I was talking to him. More than twohundred layers and putting them on dozens of dimmers, and fading in … it’s not going to be easy.
The heavy iron arch was getting ready.
But how are we going to pull this massive thing up into the frame within three song beats?
It’s damn heavy. Only solution was to pull it with steel wires. But who will pull it and from where? If they stand on the road they will be in the frame. The whole street is in frame. The only solution was to put two steel cables through a series of pullies and take them to the first floor of the structure where two motorized winders will pull them. The movement has to be in sync with the song beats and actors movement..
Action dept comes in with their gear.
It was very easy to say that the girl will swing in on a rope from above the camera.
Where are you going to put the rope from?
Again action dept comes in with a heavyduty industrial crane and the rope is put through a pully and three people controlling the rope so that the arc of the swing is perfect for the frame.
A day before my lighting day a truckload of series lights got unloaded on the set. A thin 12 yrs old skinny kid shows up as incharge.
Ramani, my assistant, looks at him and wonders “are you going to do it all alone?”
He gives a dirty look and walks away.
As Ramani, Kaku and I started working, we realised the location is very unfriendly for lighting. The old dilapidated structure has no space to rig lights. Windows on the first floor gave very limited access.
The lighting for circus required big light beams and moving heads. Those were heavy lights and needed proper platforms to set up. We decided to open up the tiled roof top of second floor and build a 35 feet rostrum through the roof.
All these layers of lighting have to be there from the very beginning. We have only three nights to shoot. I have no time to change my lighting. My team and I designed each layer seperately through different connections. All the connetions come to a DMX controll behind the camera. Two days of hard work – day and night.
Now I think I have controll over all the lights.
The skinny kid is still working over the series lights..
Thirteen layers are not coming on.
Don’t know. We are going through the connections. There are too many, Will take some time.
No.. There’s no time. Hurry up. Actors are already here.
The car is not starting.
What to do?
Three guys can push it. No make it two, I can see them from the sides. Tell them to hide behind the car.
Layers 42 to 54 of the series lights are off. Where’s that kid? Only he knows the connections.
He must be asleep somewhere. Let me find him first. We may have to replace them.
Hurry up…Hurry up…
It’s 4 am.
Cast & crew’s efficiency goes down by 50%
Three more shots
Hurry up. It’s daybreak. We have to finish it tonight.
Hurry up… Hurry up… Hurry up……
Night is over. Lights are coming down. The rostrum is being dismantled. Action crew is moving around packing their stuff with sleepy eyes. Camera car pulles away.
I sit on the road side with a glass of sugary tea.
I am unhappy.
The sparkle blast in circus got over after two takes. Remaining takes we had to do with people trowing the sparkle manually. It was very uneven. Shoddy work.
My team didn’t get enough time to rig up the car lighting because the car came just before the shoot.
The lengthy take with Munna and Circuit was not lit properly. I couldn’t figure out a scheme for the limited space.
Smoke was not enough for the light beams to be seen.
And the…. Forget it..
Nothing can be done now….Samjho ho hi gaya, and I don’t want to be unhappy.
I spoke to Biju.D, the post fx person, about my issues. We came up with the solution to add multiple layers of sparkle in post. During one of the studio shoot days, I shot deferent layers of varied density sparkles and handed it over to him. That’s all I could do for my disappointments.
Film released to packed houses.
‘Samjho Ho hi Gaya’ becomes a hit. I got lots of compliments on my work. But none seemed to notice the issues I had.
Should I be happy?
I guess, may be...
You decide, have a look…