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Motion of the picture: The Ghost of Water-loo

by Siddharth Babbar
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Being a filmmaker isn’t easy. You have to combine genres ranging from writing, scripting, acting, camera skills, fine arts, and finally filmmaking itself. So much so that Michael J. Fox, actor from the iconic “Back to The Future” movie series, said, “Pain is temporary, Film is forever”. Going through all those pains and problems, spending hours and hours on end and getting that one great film, this is a film maker’s dream. Be it Tarantino or Kashyap, or Spielberg or Rohit Shetty, or your little known and struggling film maker, all of them aim for that one great final product, that one film to rule them all.

In my three years as a student film maker, I had many interesting experiences. Some were good, some were bad, but it was the end product that mattered. A good film makes the making worth living through, as every film maker would second me. I have had experiences in making my own films, helping others make theirs and being guided by more experienced seniors in a few cases. I met interesting people, had funny takes and retakes, had real night-outs sleeping at 10 am, had few minor accidents and what not…it is all a part of the learning experiences.

Being a filmmaker isn’t easy. You have to combine genres ranging from writing, scripting, acting, camera skills, fine arts, and finally filmmaking itself.

Well it is said that you can’t forget your first love. Well, I can’t forget my first film either. Even though the finished product wasn’t very good, it is close to my heart. This film was made during our very own inter-hostel freshman competition or “Freshiezza”. Although I had made an ad-film 2 weeks before, this was the first real short film I made. The experience can hardly be penned down, but I will try my best to describe it as vividly as I can. Please forgive me for the use of any technical film-related terms, I promise I won’t use them unless absolutely necessary. Here it goes:

After being declared the winners of the Ad-making competition 2 weeks ago, my friend (and teammate) Paresh came to me with an idea. He wanted to make a horror film. He had the complete story in mind and was very confident about it. I was enthused by the idea, but wasn’t very confident about it.

The previous evening, someone had taught me how to replicate the ghost flying effect. I saw this as a great opportunity to test it out and agreed to the film wholeheartedly. Eventually though, I ended up using all the meagre film making skills I had acquired by then, and the broth that I ended up making wasn’t all that bad!

Once we had the story, the next step was to look for actors. As had been told by our seniors and we had found by the previous experience, this was perhaps the toughest step. But not for us…we had the complete hostel at our disposal. We rounded up a few wing-mates, or “wingies” for short, and forced them into roles that we thought would befit them. We needed two main characters, the ghost and a puny little guy to be tormented by the ghost. Well that is what we kept the eligibility as, the shortest, thinnest guy became the haunted guy, and the biggest bulliest looking guy became the ghost. Although he has still not forgiven me, the ghost was happy with the role back then. Adding a few supporting roles, the cast was complete.

Making this film was one of the best experiences I had. I learnt a few things on how to make a film, but I learnt hundreds of things not to do while making one.

Now came the shooting. A fact that might be worth considering is that this movie was made in 24 hours from conception. And to get that eerie effect, we wanted to shoot at night, unaware that shooting in bad light is not good for the film. And the 24 hour thing meant that we had just 1 night to complete the shoot. So aGhostt 8 pm, out comes the camera and the cameraman (that’s me). The camera was a puny little 8MP digicam, found in almost every household…nothing sophisticated. And we set out to shoot. First road block: the ghost doesn’t look like a ghost. He needs make up! Now who here has a girlfriend so we can borrow her make-up box? Sadly none of us had one. So my innovative friend Paresh takes inspiration from the Dark Knight and makes his own make-up for the ghost. Simple items from an art enthusiast’s cupboard (another one of my wingies) like white chalk powder and graphite black from a pencil does the trick. Lo and behold, we have our own custom-made ghost ready.

Now for the first scene. The soon to be haunted guy is sleeping peacefully in his bed. We imagined the movie to open with a shot of his face zooming into his closed eye, which suddenly opens up. Imagining is easy, but god knows how those filmmakers do it! Well this is how we did it. Imagine the poor little guy sleeping on his bed (my bed, in this case, for the lack of funds). Now, I am standing over him with my camera in one hand, and the other hand clinging on for dear life. And where is the camera? Well, it’s pushed into his face so that we have his eye in focus and his face in the frame. And now when Paresh says action, I have to zoom in by moving the camera closer to his face and shouting out to open his eyes at the right moment. Now you know why movies are dubbed. A few retakes did the trick and we were really pleased with the product.

Moving on, we encountered problems after problems but we handled them somehow and went on. There was one scene where we needed flickering lights. Being the editor of the film, I wasn’t convinced that I will be able to do it in the editing. So we ended up actually turning the light on/off to get that shot! Luckily, the tube light responded well and did not give those extra flickers it gives at the start. Another scene was when the protagonist runs away from the ghost and into the camera kept on the floor. Cinematography wise bad idea. But who cares? Anyways, he is running into the camera. Wait, who prevents the camera from flying away, being kicked by the actor? Happy realization! I ended up scolding the actor to be extremely careful close to the cam and I was behind it reaBlooddy to catch it if anything goes wrong. Nothing did.

After shooting various scenes, we needed some blood. Sauce? No man, too obvious. Well somebody produced a packet of gulaal from somewhere and voila! Here’s the blood ready. You will see some good uses of this blood if you actually see the film. A Batman Begins inspired spray can (hallucinogen) made an entry too somewhere but that was brief.

Soon we realized, we needed a tantrik. Enter Girdhar, winner of the best freshman actor. Being a tantrik he deserves a dramatic entry and he got one, I made sure of it in the editing. The exorcism is carried out, the dying of the ghost is shown, he haunts them for one last time (my dear flying ghost effect!!) and everyone goes home happily. Oh wait, my horror film has turned out to be a comedy one. Why? Because the ghost dies way too dramatically, a heart attack which came after he wasn’t allowed to answer nature’s call. Don’t blame me for that, not my idea. And by the way did I mention that the ghost’s name is Sandaska bhoot and he haunts toilets? We soon realized that it would be a good idea to declare this as a comedy movie and it was received well by the audience as that. Although we ended up adding more twists and turThe exorcisimns including a detective (played by Paresh himself), a scam by the tantrik, and what not, we did complete the shoot on time.

Next whole day went in the editing, sound mixing (yeah, we mixed lots of tracks) and finishing the product. I applied all I knew and left no scene untouched. Bad idea, but didn’t know it back then. After this crunching schedule and 2 sleepless nights, we had our film ready. Not very good, but was good enough to win the competition, among allegations of too much sound mixing and copied scenes.

Making this film was one of the best experiences I had. I learnt a few things on how to make a film, but I learnt hundreds of things not to do while making one. Made new friends, many of them are still good friends, including the poor ghost. I also developed an interest in this field and went on to learn a lot and soon enough, even teach aspiring film makers. Paresh went on to become the hostel Film secretary and the next year, the cultural councilor of Hostel 7. Most of the others never made a film again. But they helped me raise an interest in it.

I have purposefully left out the editing end of this experience. Apart from being too technical, it will be quite boring for most of the readers. Hope you liked the story, and I assure you, all the characters, events and names are real. You can even go and watch the film, “The Last Laugh” on YouTube: or just Google “The Last Laugh iitb” and you’ll find it. Although most of the readers would find it really difficult, I would encourage you to at least once try to make a film, or get involved in one. It’s an exhilarating experience.

[For those who are not interested in googling out the movie, here’s the YouTube movie link.]

Siddharth Babbar
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