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Navigating the pandemic

2020 was to be the year! The year of culmination and manifestation. The year that started with a bang and quickly went boom! It has taught us much more than most of us were ready for; a completely new world, a completely new way of working and thinking, and a new audience. Films that were supposed to be it have opened to lukewarm response and even harsh criticism, and films that had no expectation of a good theatrical run have been lapped up with open arms and raving reviews. Especially in India, it has turned the movie game on its head. Producers and makers have had to take a long hard look at what should always have been the core – content. It is simple, engaging, and honest storytelling that has hit home and struck a chord with the audience. So, no more gimmicks or star power or stereotypes. Since most people would now be watching things on a smaller, more personal space, it gives us the opportunity to create content that works more in the telling than in the spectacle.

From grand we move to intimate. It gives us time to explore more varied content. The story becomes king and there is room for experimentation, since now, it need not be restricted to things one can only enjoy with the family. Also when you have a platform available in your home, you may find yourself getting tuned to something you may not have necessarily thought about buying a ticket for.

Ashram was slated to be our most ambitious project for 2020. We had wrapped up the shoot and were looking forward to finishing and putting it out there. Then the pandemic hit and everything came to a screeching halt. Post production completely stopped and we were all stuck in our respective homes. Stopping production meant major unforeseen expenses and even loss of income for many, not to mention delays we could not afford.

We could not start the edit as the footage was stuck in one place, the editor in another.

So as soon as the lockdown eased up a bit, we arranged for our editor to travel and stay at our studio. Monitoring the edit remotely was a whole new system but we adapted quite well and promptly. The editor would send us the edited footage end of every day to review and we would give our feedback. This went on. We did not face many challenges technically but it definitely added immensely to the time taken to finish it. After the edit, it was a bit challenging to share the humongous amounts of material online. The to and fro was laborious and often filled with glitches but we came out triumphant in
the end.

The biggest challenge this pandemic threw at us, I feel, is the protection of our crew. Everything else can be worked out in this digital age. Shoots scaled down, sanitized, monitored; post production done remotely, feedbacks, and prep on video calls, but the stake of human safety is what we need to look at minutely. This is what we have been working on the most. Creating a safe bubble, with tests, monitoring movement, and constant sanitization. We are also taking measures to look after the mental well-being of our crew by opening up conversations, meets with well-being experts, and tweaking working conditions.

I hope we come out of this pandemic, not only knowing that we can find a way around most working conditions but also as compassionate team players so we help ourselves and each other in getting through tough times. As we get ready to brace a new world with new realities, we also look forward to a new and exciting time for cinema and new content.

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