DB: On the sets, other technicians meet each other.
BN: Hum edit room se bahaar niklenge toh hi milenge aur kuchh karenge. (Laughs)
HK: No, but this promo thing is actually a very important issue.
DB: Next time I should demand that they pay me as much as they pay the promo guy.
RSB: Nahin, contract hi pura shift kar de. (Laughs)
HK: I really liked the Barfi! trailer, which Akiv had done, and I saw another trailer that you cut but I have never spoken to you about it.
AA: You do it for people you are close to. There was this film I did, Aakash Vani, and it didn’t do well, but that is irrelevant. The point is that it was a romantic drama, but the trailer was all fun. And the director is a very good friend of mine, so I told him that he was selling the wrong film. He said, ‘Nahin yaar, you know if we sell that, the opening will be dull.’ So I made a version that was more story-oriented, but they promoted the film as a dhamaka wala and phir bhi kuch nahin hua. Cut to three weeks later. My assistant calls me and says they are uploading my trailer on YouTube, without even asking me. So I said, let them upload it, if it helps the film. Of course, it didn’t help. So I said, if you had given the trailer guys a brief, maybe they would have done better. The problem is that when you give them concepts, they never want to execute, but when they get stuck, they come back to the same concept and approach the editor.
BN: For instance, if you edit a particular scene as a member of the audience, the director will not like it.
AA: (Cuts in) Exactly! I always say, we are the first audience because we are watching it for the first time.
RSB: Yes. Once we see the film before starting to edit it, we know what the film is all about.
AA: I get a narration and there are certain things you react to instinctively. And that reaction is like a member of the audience.
DM: (Cuts in) In fact, I don’t read scripts. While editing Aashiqui 2, I used to be surprised and excited by the footage, thinking achha yeh bhi ho raha hai! I didn’t know that the hero dies in the end. That’s how I work.
DB: So many times, I have seen people don’t even have a script ready. But that is what I like. I like to get surprised.
AA: (Laughs) Yes, so many times, they don’t have a script with them. And that’s my biggest argument with them about online editing. Like I went to a meeting for Dangal… It is the most irritating thing to meet executive producers.
RSB: (Cuts in) Sir, budget nahin hai.
AA: No, no… sir budget khatam ho gaya hai.
DM: The budget is always ‘over’ when it comes to the editor.
AA: So they told me I had to work online. My point is, first of all, I am talking to an EP about creativity, which is so bizarre. When it comes to creativity, they know nothing; they only crunch numbers. I told them that, as a rule, I do not do online editing, because the three to six months I spend on the shoot will finish me. There is something that comes instinctively to me when I edit, something instinctive about the way I react when I first see a shot. And because I am a technician, I don’t want to lose that instinctive quality in my work. If I am going to be doing your assembly to see that you have all the coverage and during the process you tell me to correct something, it will be like a first cut. And when we get to the edit table, you will say, kuchh naya dikhana. By then, for me, it’s no longer new.
DM: Almost all of us sitting in this room feel we don’t want to be part of this location-based editing.
HK: There is nothing that comes out of on-location editing. The technical edit only happens on the edit table.
BOI: Are you doing Dangal?
AA: Exclusivity. I can’t do exclusive work. I was told it had to be exclusive.
DM: It will last at least a year or two.
AA: It affects you psychologically. What if I just want to chill at home for a week and I don’t want to go to the sets?
DM: A lot of young editors tell me, ‘Oh, the call timing is 11am and I haven’t reached yet’. The whole idea of editing is that it’s not governed. There is this person whom I will not name… she panicked when the director called at the editing room and she wasn’t there. I told her she did not have to swipe in her time, so she didn’t have to worry. Anyway, when you’re up till 2am working, how can you be expected to return at 10am? I had an assistant, a very fine editor. She was editing a film and because she was a newcomer, she wasn’t given any assistants. She was the only one. You sort, you sync, you do everything. I had to talk to the director and I told him, ‘What are you doing? She will collapse.’
RSB: You (Deepa) did your first film all by yourself?
DB: No sorting, syncing, I didn’t know anything. It happened by chance.
RSB: For my first film, I sorted, synced, edited. They would shoot a song one day and I had to edit it the next day.
DB: I never dreamt of becoming an editor in the first place. Do you know how I became an editor? I was assisting Govindji (Nihalani) on a film called Sanshodhan for UNICEF. The editor was Srinivas Patro and he was the first guy who got into the non-linear format. The machine was there at Rakesh Roshan’s Film Kraft and it was superb. Srinivas was an ad editor and he realised it would be very boring to spend four months editing one film so sometimes, he did not turn up. All the material was stored in the machine and there was no one to edit it.
I didn’t even know how to switch on the machine, so I used to ask the guy at Film Kraft to put it on for me. Then I used to try to edit by myself. After 20 days of shooting, I showed Govindji what I had cut. He loved it and asked me to edit his next film. I thought he was joking. Then, out of nowhere, he gave me Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa to cut. I had never assisted an editor as I had never thought of becoming one. He told me that I had an editing sense, whatever that meant!
He said, ‘Agar tumne theek nahin kaata toh Renu (Saluja) ko bula lenge.’ I was confused, what with all the technicalities. I still remember the first cut list because it was a negative, so there was a dupe after two to three shots. I asked Srinivas what a dupe was. He said nothing and just asked me to send it. Now nobody knew what ‘dupe’ meant. Then we had to replace, shot by shot, because once you cut them, it’s final.
When my first film Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa was complete, it was on AVR 3, the resolutions of AVR 3 were pixelated. Then Real Image said now let’s upgrade. So we went to AVR 5 and you could see it nicely. But the machine hung and we spent six days batch capturing because the hard drive was of 9GB. Recently, my son was using a 32GB pen drive and I was telling him we have even cut films on a 9GB hard disk. Then came 32GB and when a 62GB hard disk arrived on the scene, we thought life had changed!
HK: The first machine had four levels of ‘undo’ and I thought I had achieved it. I can keep four mistakes. I knew I had made it in life if I could undo my mistakes!
DB: I feel the younger generation is at a disadvantage for not having worked like we did and for taking one step at a time. Today everything is ready, systems are in place, you learn on the job.
BOI: Can each one of you share your journey and how it all began?
HK: My story is similar to Deepa’s. I was hired by R Mohan, who had produced Gardish, and my first film was Chandni Bar. He told me it was a very serious film, not commercial at all. He said, ‘I like your work. I will give you the promos and songs but I doubt it is something you’re mature enough to handle. The minute you fail, and I know you will fail, I have Raju Hirani on standby.’
DB: How rude!
HK: I am, like, this is not done. Are you threatening me or giving me a job? But we all know Raju sir’s humble nature. He said to me, ‘Tu jab kaat lega, toh mujhe dikha dena ek baar.’
DB: I was 22 years old when I started my career and I was cutting an entire film. Govindji was a God to give me that opportunity to experiment. He used to shoot everything from everywhere, left, right and centre. So I learnt while experimenting ki achha wide ke baad close daalo, toh yeh impact hota hai. He used to give me the material in bulk. It was like you are given a ground to play football. If you have enough footage, it becomes easy for you to edit. Also, he shoots forever… 70-80 hours was not a big deal for any of his films. So my first three to four films were learning experiences. Hemal, you got Calendar Girls also?
HK: No. After that, I didn’t get any of Madhur’s (Bhandarkar) films.
AA: He (Devendra) took everything away. (Laughs)
DM: Corporate was my first film with Madhur. That was a good film and a well edited one too.
AA: I was played into my first film. I was an assistant working on Raaz and Kasoor, a lot of Vishesh films.
DM: I took over that one too. (Laughs)
AA: So I started my career as an assistant. I didn’t have a computer at home, and when I entered the editing room, it felt like I had walked onto the Star Wars sets. One day, I received a phone call from Raj Babbar’s production house for their home production, Kash… Aap Hamare Hote. He was launching his daughter in the film and asked me to edit it. I had one assistant and we worked on it. After a couple of months, I got a call from Vishesh Films to edit a film for them. Then I realised what had happened. Mukesh Bhatt knew that I knew to edit but he didn’t want to take a risk. So when Raj Babbar went to meet him and said he was planning to launch his daughter and needed a set-up of technicians, cameraman, editor and others, Mukesh Bhatt suggested my name. He said ki arrey Akiv, apne Asgar ka beta woh kar lega. He wanted to check out my work before he started giving me work. So I started working with Vishesh Films.
DM: My first film was one that he (Bunty) was supposed to do. At that time, I used to make promos for Rajtaru and I was working on Radhika Rao’s first film Lucky-No Time For Love. Radhika was to edit the film with the owner of Rajtaru, Rajeev Agrawal. But Rajeev was busy setting up a studio in Dubai. Everyone was saying that Rajeev was going to edit the film, so Sanjay Sankla opted out. Later, they called Bunty but he was busy with Musafir.
So they thought they will make me sit on the edit till Rajeev returns but Rajeev never came. So I started working on the film, without knowing anything about film editing. It was sheer luck that Shirish Kunder had an assistant called Amit who had joined Rajtaru. He had worked on a lot of films. So I used to run to him when I needed help. I always used to ask him how to digitise. While doing that film, I was also doing the promos for Rog. Pooja asked me one day if I was doing the promos of Lucky. I told her I was editing the entire film. She was, like, ‘Oh, you know how to edit a film?’ And she asked me to edit her next film, Holiday (2006). So I was editing two films simultaneously.