A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature
A Potpourri of Vestiges recently caught up with filmmaker and corporate trainer Ajay Govind who is the line producer for Onir’s upcoming Film Shab. An English Literature Graduate from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, Ajay has engaged with a range of projects and different clients in over 22 states across India. In 2014, Ajay’s debut feature film as a writer-director After the Third Bell released in theatres across 8 cities. He subsequently line produced My Birthday Song, directed by actor Samir Soni. He also wrote lyrics for three songs in the movie. He has also directed 4 music videos for independent artists. Ajay is currently working on the screenplay of his second feature film Ek Na Ek Din..
You come across as a person with multifaceted talents. How did you get associated with Shab as a line producer?
Well, I have been writing and directing films for a little over 10 years now. I had made a feature film which released in 2014 and during the making of this film I happened to interact with Sanjay Suri in the Goa Film Bazaar. Both Onir and Sanjay were instrumental to the release film my film. Then I directed a music video for Sanjay’s production in 2014. Sanjay then told me about Shab and asked me to line produce it. It was a challenging project that involved four different shooting schedules spread across four different seasons. Also, it was an exciting script and involved good people and that’s really how Shab happened.
Shabhas been shot in Delhi across four different seasons. Tell us about the challenges of shooting in Delhi.
The biggest challenge was to not make it look typical. The locations that you usually associate with films shot in Delhi feature in this film and so the challenge was to find something that represents Delhi but not in a stereotypical manner. Onir had a very clear vision and a very clear idea about the kind of houses… about the kind of places we needed… such as the farmhouse we shot at or the cafes, etc. Since we mostly shot at the night handling the crowd wasn’t a major issue. By far the biggest challenge was to find the places for the shoot that Onir had in mind. Shooting across different season meant we required the same house at different times of the year. So it was my job to convince the people to make the house available across the year. And each time we had to set it up from the scratch matching the earlier look. And with houses, cafes, etc. things tend to change. So this was a major challenge.
Could you please explain in layman terms what exactly the job of a line producer is all about?
To put it in very layman terms line producer is like a wedding organizer. So you have to take care of your guests, in this case your actors, your crew and your team. You have to identify the locations. Often you have to locate the right team of local technicians. You need to find the right vendors in a project like this. Then it also involves the food, catering, transportation and the logistics of it. So it is the job of the line producer to put the entire show together according to what the director has in mind. We are given one liner of the script so we exactly understand the kind of location that a particular scene requires… the brief of the characters so that we know what their world is, etc.
How does the job of a line producer, a sort of a routine job, excite a creative person like you?
As a filmmaker being part of films is what is exciting. Now I have handled documentaries and small indie films but to be a part of this crew and project which was bigger in scale was what excited me. As a director you can be disconnected with the realities of production and so when you work as a line producer you get to appreciate the physical limitations better. So for me it was just an opportunity to learn a side of filmmaking which I hadn’t directly got involved in.
How was it working with Onir as a director and Sanjay as a producer?
One of the biggest reasons why I wanted to do this project was because of the opportunity of working closely with Onir and try and see and understand his process. And that was quite an eye-opener. You see every filmmaker has his/her own style. Now Onir is an editor also and because he is an editor he has the entire film ready in his head. Since I have studied cinematography my visual power tends to overpower the editing sense. So I am usually very clear with my visuals but I don’t have my edits very well planned. Bur Onir has everything sorted and so it was a fantastic experience working with him as it taught me better how one can economize shooting schedules by having a proper edit plan in mind. With Sanjay I had worked previously on that music video. So I already had a sense of how he works. As a producer he is very understanding and is fully aware of what exactly a script needs and is very good at making sure that the team executes those tasks.
You have been working with Sanjay Suri closely for over three years now on different projects. Have you ever been tempted to cast him in one of your own projects?
Of course I am. In fact, I have spoken to Sanjay about that. I do have a script that we would like to work together. It’s just a matter of finding the financiers and other collaborators.
Tell us about your first film and the second one you are working on.
The first one was called After the Third Bell. It’s shot in a very indie manner with Cannon 5D over a period of 15 days. It’s shot by my DOP Tanweer Ahmed who has been working with me for the last 12 years and has shot all my films. I was really fortunate to have managed a limited theatrical release after a crowd funding campaign in 2014. My second film Ek Na Ek Din is a a sort of a slice of life thriller about five different characters, disconnected from each other, which run into each other one fine day. It is about the change that takes places for different people on that particular day. Right now we are in the process of getting funds for this one. So we are currently targeting the end of the year.
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