9.13.2007

"Chale Chalo - The lunacy of Filmmaking" A Must Watch


Much before the release of ‘Chale Chalo – The Lunacy of Filmmaking’ DVD, Satyajit Bhatkal wrote and released a book on making of Lagaan titled ‘Spirit of Lagaan’. Even if you have already read that book, you should definitely watch this movie for it brings all those magical moments behind the making of a masterpiece right in front of you. The book though is an interesting read and has more trivia about the making than the documentary; visual impact of the documentary is beyond anything that the book offers. I am surprised with the quality of the documentary considering that it is shot and edited by someone who neither has handled a camera before nor does know anything about movie making. Satyajit Bhatkal is an advocate by profession.

A documentary is a reverse movie making process. Usually, a movie is shot after a script is written but for a documentary the script is written after the movie is shot. It is an art in itself as tough as movie making. The only advantage is that you need not make anyone to act; you just have to capture the reality and make drama out of it. And toughest part is editing and sequencing the available video material to tell a gripping story. Satyajit Bhatkal has recorded every single moment of the making of the movie from which he has edited and sequenced the most interesting and vital moments into a 120 minute documentary, which runs at a pace faster than the actual movie.

The documentary may definitely be boring for those who don’t like the movie (are there any?) and for those who haven’t realized it magic and impact. It is for hardest core fans of Lagaan. The documentary has no footages about the creative process of the movie making. It doesn’t show how the story was written or how such a tight, streamlined screenplay was achieved. It is all about the cumbersome process of transforming Ashutosh’s creative genius from paper to screen and the practical problems they faced for it. It tells a real story that is more gripping and fascinating than the actual movie. The documentary takes us in a long journey right from the moment when the seed of Lagaan was sowed in the minds of Ashutosh till the movie getting an Oscar nomination.

Satyajit has given more emphasis on the problems they faced while shooting than the joyous moments. He records everything from thorns in Champaner plains that pained the legs of the cast - who have to walk with bare legs (period factor), the extreme heat of the desert to the trouble of production executives in getting 10000 people for first day cricket match shoot in a remote village. In between he adds as many interesting trivia about the movie as possible.

There is one episode in this documentary which is amazingly edited and put together and is a classic example of how a documentary should be made. The purpose of this episode of the documentary is to show the problems faced by Ashutosh while shooting the Arjun’s batting scenes (the actor playing Arjun’s role didn’t know how to bat). It also tells how Ashutosh overcame the difficulties and how he made the actor look convincing as a good batsman in the movie.

Though the script of Lagaan may be one of the most well-bound ever written in Bollywood before starting the shoot, such challenges pops up once in a while where the director has to take immediate decision within the given time frame and yet without compromising the quality. Though well planned, sometimes there is nothing that can help you like spontaneity. This is a classic example of it.

To make this episode simple and straight, Satyajit would have easily conveyed it by making Ashutosh or Aamir khan explain it in words. They could have said the entire thing in just 2 lines.

‘Arjun is supposed to be the best batsman in Champaner team but actually while shooting, the actor who played Arjun’s role didn’t know even the A..B..C.. of cricket. He was eating up lot of shots and we were running out of time. So in order to show him convincingly as a good batsman on screen, we took close-ups of Arjun’s face with a reaction that looked as if he is hitting a ball with ultimate force’.

Less than one minute and they would have covered it and we would have got the point and this is how it would be written if you read the book. Now see how this gets transformed or dramatized in the documentary that reaps in maximum effects.

Satyajit inter-cuts the interviews of Aamir and Ashutosh explaining about this situation with the actual video footage taken while this scene was shot. It shows Arjun missing every single ball and we could see frustrated Ashutosh looking at the monitor. Also see how Satyajit adds comedy in between by showing a video footage of the interview of the guy who played Arjun’s role saying that ‘I am the best batsman of Champaner 11’, immediately after the shots of him continuously missing the balls while shooting. At the end, Satyajit beautifully connects the shots of Ashutosh, Apoorva Lakhia (First A.D of the movie) and Aamir smiling shots, when they get the required feel in the shot and he doesn’t stop with that, he again inter-cuts the smiling shots with actual footage from the movie where Arjun continuously hit sixers and boundaries.

What amplified the whole impact was the brilliant way in which Rahman’s background score from the movie in used for this part of the documentary. Satyajit has used the background music scored for the scene where Aamir tries to hit a ball in front of the villagers in which he will miss the first two balls but hit a sixer in the third. Of course the scenario is almost the same while shooting the Arjun batting scenes.

The most fascinating aspect of the documentary is that it draws a parallel between the actual story of movie and the real story of its making. Ashutosh plays the role of Bhuvan in this documentary. Everyone in Bollywood (including Aamir) seems to have advised Ashutosh not to take up the risk and challenge of making this movie. It is exactly like how all the villagers are against Bhuvan for risking the villager’s life by accepting the Paul’s challenge. Ismail and Bhuvan’s injury and pain is equivalent to A.K.Hangal’s injury and Ashutosh’s slip disc problem. Inspite of such heavy body pain they continued with their shoot like how Ismail and Bhuvan continued with their game. Like how Bhuvan selects people according to their inborn skills, Ashutosh carefully picks the cast through audition and screen tests. Like how Bhuvan’s dream soon becomes the dream of all the villagers and players, Ashutosh’s dream also becomes the dream of every other cast and crew involved in the project. The climax of the documentary is as uplifting as the movie’s climax. Watching this documentary is like reliving the whole experience of watching Lagaan in theatres. After all, both the movie and the making of the movie is a triumph of hard work, determination, courage, sacrifice, team spirit and synergy.

If you are a fan of Lagaan, this documentary is a must watch.

4 comments:

Mysorean said...

Is this documentary available separately? I mean I have seen it being bundled with the original DVD of Lagaan. Would I be able to buy the documentary DVD alone? Or is it necessary to buy the movie DVD to get myself a copy of this documentary too?

Suresh Kumar said...

mysorean - the documentary is available seperately as VCD and not DVD, if you want DVD, then you have buy the speciall collector's edition

Vijay Kumar said...

well written Suresh. Not many Indian DVDs come with a special features package. I have an original Lagaan DVD but didn't check if it had special features. Just got the motivation to do so.

Suresh Kumar said...

Vijay - Thanks. The special collector's editions of Lagaan DVD got released recently in India which includes this making docu also. If you want to buy it seperately, 'Chale Chalo' is also available as a seperate VCD.