A normal day doesn’t exist in this country – Richie Mehta
The lineup of MAMI Film Club is getting interesting and colourful with each screening. The latest in the series being critically acclaimed director Richie Mehta’s India in a Day, which has Anurag Kashyap and Ridley Scott as its executive producers. The film has gained recognition for being India’s first crowdsourced film, the footage for which has been compiled from people all over the country.
As the film readies for release today, September 23, Pandolin spoke with Richie about this interesting venture, the herculean task of editing such vast footage and his future projects.
Where and how did the idea to make this film first come from?
The idea originally came from Scott Free (Ridley Scott’s production company) and YouTube. Six years ago they made ‘Life in a Day’, where the whole world participated and shot footage over a single day and submitted it. They edited and made a film out of it. Now it’s India’s turn. At this stage of development, everybody in India has a smartphone. They are savvy and understand social media. They understand how to shoot videos and take selfies. So, it’s now time for them to express.
It is India’s first crowdsourced film. How was the experience of putting it together?
Yes, it is the first. As far as the experience goes, it’s been amazing. People who have submitted the footage have given so much of themselves. They were so honest, genuine and revealing about their lives. We told them that they could discuss life in evolving India. And people definitely had something to say about the direction that this country is heading towards. Which is what we have tried to put in this film.
People definitely had something to say about the direction that this country is heading towards
Editing such a film must have been a humongous task. What was the quantity of footage that you’ll received and how many days did the entire edit take?
We had around 16,000 clips to work from, which was 365 hours of footage! It took us three and a half months just to watch the raw footage. After we watched everything, we realized the potential of the footage and started working on it. It was really crazy. We had fifteen loggers who were watching the footage. There were seven assistant editors. I also functioned in the capacity of the editor cum director. Overall it was like a sculpture that we all were together trying to sculpt.
How did you’ll go about shortlisting the final footage?
A lot of it was instinctive. Beverley Mills, the editor, and I sat together. What we thought was meaningful was segregated and laid down on the timeline. The film footage essentially is from midnight to midnight. So it goes chronologically from the start to the end of the day. So, if people shot something during a sunrise or sunset, we knew where to place it. That was about the big stories. The next step was to connect the moments with lots of transitions and other things. Beyond a point, we were essentially hacking away at the footage, trying to do justice to what Indians had given us.
Keeping the techniques right (lighting design et al) must have also been a concern?
Yes, absolutely. But we were also trying to breakdown according to the logic of scene. There was a lot of voyeuristic and narcissist content. So, to understand the motive behind the footage was also important for us. It was like a mystery. We were unlocking the mystery of everyone’s footage. If someone gave me 500 clips, I didn’t really know what the story was and it took me probably a week to figure it out. It was very complicated but really fun.
To understand the motive behind the footage was also important for us
Was there a particular reason to choose October 10 as the day for people to shoot?
It’s because we couldn’t find any major festival or political event happening on that day. We wanted a normal Saturday where some people are off work and could have time. Of course, it’s India, so even a normal day would have something or the other happening. I believe that there was an election in Bihar that day. We tried to find a day that was relatively normal. Which doesn’t exist in this country (Laughs).
Working with your Executive Producers Ridley Scott and Anurag Kashyap must have been exciting. Tell us more about it.
It was incredible. They are directors in their own right and amongst the best in the world. They know how directors would operate under them. They were very respectful about the process and were there when we needed them. I could call them for help anytime. If I needed them to have a look at the edits, they were there. It was an amazing give and take.
What are the future plans for the film?
The film is releasing on September 23 across metro cities. Then, within a couple of months it will be up on YouTube for free viewing for everyone.
Tell us about the association with MAMI Film Club and how is it going to give the film a boost?
This all happened just because of Anurag Kashyap. My last film Siddharth was in MAMI in 2014. So I have a relationship with MAMI. Anurag called their team asking them if they would want to show this film in their film club screening. They watched it and everyone seemed to love it. And so, it happened.
Are you currently working on any other documentaries?
There are lots of projects. I am working on two films in India. One takes place amongst the very wealthy elite in South Delhi. It’s a very interesting environment. Another one is about law and order and policing in India. Their scripts are ready and now I am putting it all together.