It was Day 6 of the Jugni shoot, the last but one day at “Bibi Saroop’s House”. The house had worked out really well so far but the novelty of the shoot for the owners of the house was wearing off. They were continuing to stay in the house while we shot and so we were forced to ask them to “clear the field” a lot of the time. They were getting tired of being asked to sit somewhere else because the spot they had chosen was going to be in frame. Some neighbourhood politics of the village had also kicked in making everything a little difficult. All in all, they were not saying it but they now wanted us to get the hell out of there!
We had a night scene scheduled for that day, to be shot on the “chajja” or their terrace. On day 4, when we shot the first song on the terrace, Joel shooting the “making of” asked the “Production Designer” Vikram, how many people the terrace could handle and he said “4” in a tone of resignation because there were 20 people on the terrace already that day. The actors were dancing and everyone else was rushing around! (as you would have read in “The day music hit the Jugni shoot“)
The terrace was “kaccha” ie, made of wooden beams, covered with layers of wet mud. And so… Yeah… it was not meant for more than four people on it at any given time.
Back to the night scene on Day 6. It was a scene where Babaji and Bibi Saroop are on the terrace already and an excited Mastana comes rushing in, singing at the top of the his voice and plonks himself down on the charpai next to Babaji. Mastana, ie Siddhant is an energetic actor playing an energetic character and the energy he brought to the scene that night was superb! He rushed up the stairs, climbed the charpai and jumped down, plonking himself in place, next to Babaji!
A loud “CRUNCH” was heard but we all stayed in character. The actors, the director, ie me and the DOP. We keep rolling and the actors kept going. When the take got over, there was a lot of chaos downstairs. The loud “CRUNCH” was the sound of a few beams giving way with mud falling on the people sitting in the room below. We were extremely lucky that the roof did not cave in, else… No! I don’t even want to think about what could have happened.
Anyway the art department swung into action, nailing a plank of wood up there to keep the broken beams in place. BUT… Manas Malhotra (see him in his Darth Vader look as he was on most of the shoot) was more tense than I had ever seen him before. And understandably so… we were in a bit of, not just a bit of… quite a bit of… actually, deep trouble!
We had to finish the scene and so despite the tension writ large on everybody’s faces, the bare minimum people went back up and finished the scene with strict instructions to the actors to do nothing that might endanger the floor… It was difficult but we managed. After all, as I have said several times on this blog, crisis management is the second name of the film making process.
That scene got done, somehow… but… there was one more scene on the terrace, scheduled for the next day… the last at that particular location. My co-producers, Manas and Karan were very keen that we should not shoot on the terrace again. We should just finish whatever we needed to do in the lower part of the house and move to the next location.
The journey back to the hotel every night was in different vehicles but the same people travelled together everyday. Our car was the Direction team along with Manas and Karan. So every night all along the way back, we discussed how to deal with all the problems (of which there was never any dearth! 😉 ). And I have to say, it was a super energising journey at the end of every single day. So on the journey back that day, my chief AD Ripunjoy, first AD Kartick and I started discussing options for the scene remaining on the terrace. By the end of the hour long ride we had two plans that could possibly work and enable us to shoot the scene without compromising on the lyricism planned for it.
Finally after several rounds of discussion between us and the DOP, Divakar, we did end up shooting the scene on the terrace. But with only the actors on the terrace. All the rest of us were downstairs and the DOP was on a crane.
There is a solution to every problem. Always. And the film making process painstakingly teaches you that every single day! Cheers to the process! 🙂