In editing you have to unveil layers that are not visible
From being a Computer Science student to his acquired instincts of editing, Tushar Ghogale, the editor of two acclaimed films Liv and Ingmar and Let the scream be heard believes that a film is a film, be it documentary or fiction. In a tete-a-tete with Pandolin, Tushar who has edited The Path of Zarathustra tells all about his process, the experience on this film and more.
How did your love affair with editing start? Can we call it a love affair?
It’s indeed a love affair. I would also call it love at first sight (smiles). I have done my post-graduation in Computer Science and after finishing my studies I came down to Mumbai looking for a job. I was staying with my childhood friend, Dheeraj Akolkar, and two other room mates, Manu Gautam and Rohit Jugraj, who are all filmmakers now. So our apartment was my film school because it was there that I was introduced to world cinema. We had a very good collection of films on VHS. There used to be days when we would be up whole night discussing films and scripts and I would just sit listening to them. So my grooming as an editor started here. One day Rohit took me to the studio where the film he was assisting on was being edited. That’s when I was introduced to film editing. The entire concept of a film being shaped on a computer in an editing room was quite overwhelming and the moment I saw it I was quite sure that this is what I want to do.
What was your very first editing project?
I started by assisting Aarif Sheikh who had then just finished editing Maqbool. I worked with him on Parzania and couple of other projects before I moved on to television as an independent editor. I worked with Star TV for a little more than four years and it was here that I got the opportunity to work on reality shows like Super Singer, Nach Baliye, etc. My first independent feature length project that released in theaters was a documentary titled Liv & Ingmar directed by Dheeraj Akolkar. Liv & Ingmar released internationally and was also screened at MAMI & MIFF which is where Oorvazi (Irani) saw the film and contacted me for this project.
How do you choose your films?
It’s primarily the story that draws me into a project. I believe there has to be something in the story that I should feel excited about, which encourages me to be a part of the project. Secondly it’s also the director and his/her vision about the film. I believe this is equally important because editing is a collaborative process and it is very important that your sensibilities match with that of the filmmaker.
And how do you decide on how to treat a film? Does the genre play any role in that?
I believe it’s the story that ultimately guides you on how it needs to be told. The rhythm is very important. I believe it is innate but you have to identify the right rhythm for a particular story or a scene. You need to be honest to your material and keep striving to find it. Techniques definitely help enhance the story but according to me it’s a tool that should support the storytelling but never stand out. Because ultimately what stays with the audience is the story and its emotions. As an editor one should be aware of the genre and use it as a guideline.
How was the experience of telling two stories we’ve heard before – Liv and Ingmar’s love affair and the film on Edward Munch? How did you newly retell them?
Both the films have been directed by Dheeraj Akolkar and it’s been a great experience working on both of them.
Liv & Ingmar is a love story – encompassing the 42-years and 12-film long relationship between legendary actress Liv Ullmann and master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. It is a journey of two wonderful human beings, a story of their kind of love and friendship. I don’t think there is another film that candidly captures this. Ingmar Bergman was no more when we started filming Liv & Ingmar in 2011, so we decided to interview only Liv and stay true to her story. And then in the process of our research we got access to these beautiful poetic love letters that Bergman had written to Liv. That really helped us because by having these letters the film, at one level, became a dialogue between Liv Ullman and Ingmar Bergman. Like all great artists, Bergman films are very autobiographical so we have also used scenes from their films together to convey the emotions. So the way their story was presented was unique in that sense.
Let the Scream be Heard is an artistic investigation. The film is not a traditional biography, it looks at Munch from today’s context. It tries to discover and celebrate the secret behind the universality and timelessness of Munch’s art. We interviewed various Munch biographers, scholars, art historians and also artists from various streams of art. Dheeraj firmly believed that the scholars would give us the details about Munch, but its only the artists who could take us to the genesis, to that sacred space between the mind and the surface of the canvas. And this takes the film to a completely different level. I would give credit to Dheeraj because he didn’t choose to tell these stories in a conventional documentary format.
One must ask what did you take away from these two films?
There is a lot to learn from these great artists. It’s amazing to see the passion, integrity, discipline and commitment they have as artists towards their art. You are just floored seeing the body of work that they have produced. Ingmar Bergman has directed over 60 films and almost 170 plays. And Edward Munch has produced more than 40,000 works of art. This in itself is so inspiring.
How did you come to edit The Path Of Zarathustra?
After seeing Liv & Ingmar Oorvazi contacted Dheeraj and took my email address and wrote to me. So we met which is when I read the first draft of the script. And I immediately felt this is a story that needs to be told and I definitely would love to be a part of it. So I have been involved on this film right from its pre-production stage and have also been part of the shoot.
Both your director’s know each other/ have worked with each other… Is that a boon or a bane? Why?
I was working with Oorvazi for the first time. What drew me was her passion, conviction and dedication towards her work. I have known her for almost two years now and what I respect and adore is her ability to keep trying and never give up. I have seen her run from pillar to post all alone to get this film made despite all the constraints. I think it is the sensibilities that matter when you are working with any filmmaker. For me the journey of making the film is equally important. Also I believe the Director – Editor relationship is very important. Making a film is a long exhaustive process so it is definitely a different comfort zone to be working with friends who understand each other very well.
How do you crossover from editing documentary to fiction? Or for an editor is there not much of a difference?
Be it documentary or fiction, for me ultimately it’s a film. Every film has its own challenges. There are so many path breaking documentaries today which have broken the conventional formats and are being more creative in the way the stories are being told. So I don’t think it changes my approach in any way.
Documentary or fiction, Which do you enjoy most?
I have done more documentaries than I have done fiction but I must say I enjoy editing as well as watching both. I believe it’s finally the film, the story and how it is presented that is extremely important. Documentary or fiction merely puts it into a genre.
What were the challenges while editing The Path Of Zarathustra?
I think being involved right from the pre-production stage definitely helped me gain more clarity about the film. I must admit we had more challenges shooting the film than we had editing it. One of the biggest advantages we had was that we shot the film in one go, so we had the entire material with us when we started editing the film.
How important is an editor’s perspective on set?
I believe filmmaking is a collaborative process so yes every creative input or suggestion from anybody that helps the film is always welcomed. So Yes! An editor’s perspective definitely adds. There are times when the location inspires a certain cut which is not pre-visualised. I have been part of most of the schedules of The Path Of Zarathustra. And it has been fun as well as a great learning experience.
Who was your greatest ally while you were on the table editing of The Path Of Zarathustra?
There were no allies. To be honest I have never had allies on any of the projects that I have worked on. I believe communication is the key. It is extremely important to express what you feel. At the same time it is extremely important to listen to the other person as well. Sometimes you may be right but at times you may not be right, so it is extremely important to be open and not have any sort of egos. I believe the film stands greater than everyone.
What software did you use to edit this film?
The film has been edited on Avid.
What did you take away from The Path Of Zarathustra?
I had never been part of shoots before so The Path of Zarathustra for me shoot-wise was a huge learning experience. On a personal level I made a lot of friends. So it was indeed a pleasure to be a part of this film.
Who is your inspiration? Which editor is your aspiration?
There are a lot of filmmakers whose work has really inspired me – Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, Shame, Saraband, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia, The Sacrifice, David Lean’s Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, to name a few. Documentaries like the Man on Wire, Chosen, Central Park Five, The Act of Killing and many more have had a long lasting impact on me.
Walter Murch is somebody I have looked up to but very honestly I don’t aspire to become like somebody. I believe you should give in your best and be honest to your craft.
Is cutting a good synonym for editing? Or does it under rate what an editor does? If so how? / How not?
According to me editing is not merely cutting. In editing you have to find and unveil layers in a scene or in a shot that are not obviously visible. Its’ about setting the right pace and the right rhythm in which the story needs to be told. I believe editing is more like sculpting.
Technically the writer starts the film and you end it. Do you ever meet the writer of a film? Did you do so for The Path Of Zarathustra?
Yes I do and I believe one should as well. As you rightly said the writer is the person who starts it so it is very important to also understand his or her vision not just about the film at a macro level but also each and every scene at a micro level. Unfortunately I couldn’t meet Farrukh (Dhondy) on this film as he was in London when we started making it.
How do you remain objective while editing a film day in and day out over a period of time? Is objectivity most important as an editor? If not what is?
Objectivity is very important. It’s very important not to get carried away with the flow while editing. First thing in the morning, I review what I have edited earlier and make honest notes about what I feel. If I feel something is not right about a particular shot or scene I go back to it and take a fresh look at it. One has to be completely honest and you have to keep trying till you have achieved a cut that you are completely happy with. Also once I have achieved the entire first cut I completely disconnect myself from the material for sometime before I go back and have a fresh look at it. And it usually helps.
According to you, why should people watch The Path Of Zarathustra?
The film is a journey to find the roots of Zoroastrianism and in the process understand the true meaning of our life. I think the film is extremely relevant as the Parsi community today is on the verge of extinction.