DM: The first song that I actually cut of Pooja’s film Holiday, I gave the cut list. At the time, we used to digitise from beta and cut list nikaal ke de dete thhey. I didn’t know one needed to check the punch marks. So we gave it away. Luckily, I got a call from the lab asking whether they should cut the negative with a blade or a splicer. I asked them what a splicer did. He said that the frame would not go if we cut it with a splicer, so I said cut it with a splicer then. He asked ki uska paisa kaun dega? I was, like, I will pay but just cut it first.
He cut three to four shots and called me, saying something was wrong and that in some shots you could see the clap, and in some shots there are only the actors’ legs. I was very nervous and confused and went there to check it out. I was horrified because it was Pooja’s film and you know how she is. I went to check what was wrong. But because he had cut it with a splicer, there was no frame loss. Someone suggested that I check the punch marks. I did and then edited it and gave it back. Eventually, it turned out all right.
HK: Deepa, one filmmaker you spoke highly of… now I will talk about him. So I was shooting for Chandni Bar in 2001 and the Lagaan set was nearby. Lagaan was delayed because they messed up the offline cut. It was delayed several times due to this.
DB: But they had a very solid and technically sound team. Ballu (Saluja) was a solid technician.
HK: Everybody has those two films where they blunder.
DB: I always tell my assistants… imagine what it would be like if there was no ‘undo; so always mark it. What would Renu (Saluja) do? She would look at the footage and mark her editing in her mind. Her graph was in her brain. So I keep telling my team, don’t ‘undo’. Just work together and make the first cut based on your instinct. If you learn to develop that art, it makes your job easy. If I watch 20 minutes of footage, I develop a frame based on how I want to edit it.
AA: I think one needs to put it on streamline. When I started, we used to put it on matchback and only Film Kraft had Avid 24, so we had to learn the process. We used to take a positive, we used to check everything.
RSB: In those days, it was 24-25.
HK: Patro and I were one of the first to edit on that machine. Patro was working on a Subhash Ghai film, I don’t remember the name. So I guess Chandni Bar was the first film where I got to cut the negative straight, without a positive.
DB: We too cut it without a positive. The negative was cut straight in Sanshodhan. But there were mistakes.
RSB: Toh Avid mein kaata na.
DB: What he means is, earlier, one made a positive.
DM: I don’t think Chandni Bar was cut on a positive, I don’t think Vishesh Films ever cut a film on a positive back then.
AA: Footpath was cut on a positive.
DB: And I always think that Avid was not the first machine. FCP was full of errors.
RSB: My first experience was with Dhoom. My actual career started with Raju (Hirani). It was a very long process. I think you guys are lucky to get a break so easily. Raju is from Film And Television Institute Of India (FTII) and he is the most amazing guy I have ever worked with. He is a great teacher and I bet he is the best editor you could ever have. All you have to do is sit with him and you will realise what editing is all about. But it took me seven years to understand everything. He used to say that every scene has a rhythm. And I used to be, like, kya rhythm? I was a newcomer at that time and Raju used to give me a little work. I learnt what I know while assisting Raju.
My backstory was that I was doing several ads and Raju had given me all his clients. But advertising became too much for me so I went back to Goa. Raju also lent me some money to start a business but I couldn’t handle the business so he called me back to editing. He was starting Munnabhai (MBBS) at the time so my first feature film experience was Munnabhai. After he finished Munnabhai, Sanjay Gadhvi called him about Dhoom, saying that Adi (Aditya Chopra) wanted him for the editing but Raju turned down the offer because he had already directed his first feature film and he didn’t want to go back to editing. So he recommended me.
But Yash Raj Films wanted a senior guy and they kept approaching Raju but he was adamant that they take me on. Sanjay would tell Raju, ‘Are you mad, Adi wants you.’ After a few months, they told Raju that they were willing to pay him anything but he insisted that they take me. Then he said, ‘Let’s do a deal, you let him edit it, If you like it, keep it or throw him out.’ Ultimately, they didn’t have a choice. So Adi told me exactly how he functions and how he wanted me to function. So I edited a few scenes. I remember the first scene, which was about John driving from that cliff. That was my first scene.
After a few days, Adi came in and I showed him the edited scene. He saw it and walked out. I realised there was a problem as he had not reacted. I called up Raju and said that there seemed to be a problem as Adi had walked of the room without offering any feedback. He asked me if I had added any sound and I said no. He told me to add some sound effects. I went to Raju’s office, where I could pick up some songs, thanks to the 4GB hard drive.
BN: There was no YouTube back then.
RSB: I went to Raju’s office as he used to have these CDs of sound effects, so audio le ke bhaag ke aaya. Back then, we used to work from that small YRF office. I asked them to keep it open the whole night as I would be working. We used to import then and there was this special software. I imported and put out all the sound effects of gears changing, bike sounds and background music, and presented it to Adi again the next day. He said, ‘Haan, very good.’ He asked me if I had done anything to the edit and I told him I had added sound effects.
HK: To satisfy this country is sheer nepotism. The people who are making films and our producers, of course, I honestly want to interview them.
AA: I too would love to interview them. I want to know if they are even qualified to judge my work. the sad part is you can’t say it.
DB: I believe that, above all else, there is just one thing that is important, and that is respect. If you can’t respect the other person, then your relationship is worthless. I have to believe in my director.
BOI: Buntyji, tell us about your early experiences.
DM: Buntyji abhi bhi jawaan hai.
BN: Meri pehli picture thi Kaante jiska abhi bhi kha raha hoon. I used to work for Rajtaru and we did promos for Sanjay Gupta’s Khauff and Jung. That’s how I landed Kaante.
AA: But, back then, online was on a roll. These people used to make magic. I remember Kasoor ke promos chal rahe thhey at Rajtaru and you guys were working and I would be, like, ‘Bunty, would you show it to us once more?’ I used to watch it chhup chhup ke. Back then, I was assisting my mentor Amit Saxena and I used to sneak off to watch the promo he (Bunty) was cutting.
BOI: Do you guys think you are paid as well as you deserve to be?
RSB: People have blatantly told Akiv and me that we should up our price. We have to keep fighting ki iske baad 10th film mein you will get paid.
AA: If you argue, you are asked to leave. An EP’s only job is to deduct money, and an EP cannot deduct the money of actors, aur director ko toh haath bhi nahin laga sakta. The EP cannot cut the cameraman’s remuneration because you need a good-looking film and you want good production.
DB: According to them, all these factors can be seen on screen.
AA: I think writers, sound designers and editors are the only three technicians whose money they can cut. So what an EP does is, he deducts `2 lakh from the editor, `2 lakh from the sound designer and says, ‘Woh dialogue writer ko `8 lakh dene ki kya zaroorat hai, dialogue hi toh hai, us `5 lakh mein kardo. Why do you think people don’t want to become writers, they are like chhodo, 10 saal struggle karengey aur director ban jayengey because you are not validating a man’s profession.
DB: Now on you can’t do that to Ravi Chandran (cinematographer). You can’t tell him you will not pay him money or deduct his remuneration.
HK: I would go a step further and say that it is not we who are facing this problem, really, it’s the young generation who is. Take a star DoP like Binodji (Pradhan, cinematographer) or a star editor. Now Binodji spends 100 to 120 days giving his best, including 20 days of recee. We also spend six to eight months on a film. He invests himself emotionally and in every other way. Now I haven’t attended a wedding in the last 20 years, so we too are truly investing in the films we work on. The point is, look at the disparity in payment to a star DoP and a star editor. It is ridiculous. You cannot say that one craft is five times more valuable than the other.
RSB: They judge our work by just one thing, that a film is made on the editing table. Woh line sunn ke achha lagta hai bas!
DM: A film is made on the editing table but, apparently, anyone can edit! (Laughs)
HK: Even my mother can edit, yaar, she looks at a film and asks, ‘Woh gaana kyun rakha?’ DoP ko nahin bol sakte na, that’s why we are paid less than we should actually be paid.
RSB: It is high time we put our foot down because we are setting standards for the next generation.
DB: True. I mean, also the assistants find it difficult to get a fair deal. Take, for instance, a make-up man… the stars’ assistants are paid more in a day than our assistants earn in a month. They are very talented and assist us on important stuff and they are paid a mere `15,000 or `40,000 a month.
RSB: At the end of the day, you have to run the show with your assistants. You need people who are capable of taking over.
DB: Of course, I can’t think without them.
AA: I tell them I can get assistants on a budget of `10,000 but if your files get deleted or the hard disk crashes, only you will suffer. You can talk about investment, stars, whether the film looks nice or not but they don’t want to invest in the art.
DM: Everyone knows that an editor brings immense value to the product but they just don’t want to admit it.
DB: If I were asked to do a film for Karan Johar, I would understand but if someone asked me to work on a Guneet (Monga) film, I would charge differently. We all need to adjust. Basically, you are making a high-budget film of `50 crore and you are weeping over paying your editors.
AA: Sometimes we charge just 1 per cent of the film’s budget.