Nutan – A day at the Studio
The set that I reported on was re-erected for the second time for reasons unknown to me. It was a 7 a.m. shift and I was asked to report with make-up at 8-30 a.m. Knowing the way the schedule is kept, I was ready by 9-30 a.m. and went to the set to find people hanging around. I made myself comfortable in a chair and opened the book I had brought to read.
Five minutes later the trolley planks were brought. A character-artiste who takes half an hour for make-up had still not arrived – my shot was with him.
After the trolley had been laid it was discovered from the stills that the shelves on the wall had not been fixed correctly according to the continuity. So the studio carpenter was asked to make new ones. For this, the ones already up had to be removed and the wall patched up and repainted. This done, flood-light was thrown on the wet wall for the paint to dry. (The continuity of the set was supposed to have been checked the previous night.)
I reclined more comfortably in my chair and put my feet up on a stool but could not decide which to enjoy more, the book or the goings on!
The wall, the shelves and the background lighting seemed to be ready by 11-15 a.m. but now the scene was being re-written! The dialogue writer was absent and so the assistant director was writing the dialogue. I saw the character-artiste walking towards the set with make-up at 11.45 a.m. (wise man!). It was now learnt that a junior artiste booked for the day and required for the first shot with me was not there. Excuse: the supplier failed. So another one was looked for and ultimately found. Now some small property which was required for the scene was being brought in. The director was said to have been annoyed but was found amusing himself by re-writing the script.
At 12 noon the cameraman was called to do the lighting of the artistes. Suddenly somebody shouted for a pair of glasses for the junior artiste. Ten minutes later they were on his nose and I stretched out of my chair to start my day’s work at 12-10 p.m. After the first couple of rehearsals it was decided that I add the name of the character I was talking to, at the end of a sentence – but nobody remembered what the name was! (This might sound like an exaggeration but, believe me, it isn’t.) It was spoken earlier in a previous scene taken on the last set but to go and check it from the rushes, they thought, would involve a lot of time and so it was decided that I speak the name which the assistant director seemed to feel was correct. I could see the producer keeping his fingers crossed! This shot was taken by 12-40 p.m. and another one by 1-30 p.m. We now broke up for lunch.
I was recalled at 3-15 p.m. for a close-up and found that no shot had been taken before this. The shot was O.K. and another one from an opposite angle was arranged and taken. The camera was shifted again to the position of the first shot and I discovered that that was being retaken because the cameraman forgot to provide the highlight. It was 4 p.m. now and the day’s schedule was over. We normally finish at 6-30 p.m. but this is what you call quick work.
The Dutts’ Party
‘To smarties everywhere,’ Sunil Dutt proposed a ‘toast’ at the dinner hosted by the Dutts on New Year’s Day at their home on Pali Hill. The occasion: the second anniversary of Ajanta Arts, Sunil’s production company. VIPs at the party were the employees of the company, from the humblest upwards. Director Moni Bhattacharya, writer Agha Jani Kashmiri and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, all connected with ‘Mujhe Jeene Do,’ Sunil’s first production, came, too. Everybody wore paper caps – the littlest person, Sunil’s son Sanjay, wearing the biggest one. Many of the guests peered good-naturedly about the elegant home of the hosts – where, after years of continuous labour, carpenters and decorators seemed to have finished at last – with its extensive grounds, its chic winding staircase, and its nice rooms. An off-beat feature of the dinner: the women ate first, under Nargis’ benevolent eye. The women, said some voices (male, and very prejudiced!), not only broke a time-honoured Indian tradition but ate more that their share. Later that night, there was a ‘qawali’ session on the terrace – and impromptu dancing. Sunil cut an anniversary cake. It carried chocolate figures of ‘jawans’ and an inscription – ‘Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawanon Ka.’ The country, indeed, to the brave – and the world to the smart.
Also had to share this photograph of Saira in a quirky aubergine – printed Sari! (Captured whilst on location in Kashmir for Ayee Milan Ki Bela)