THE NEW “fuh se” PHASE – Shweta Basu Prasad
How often does one watch a movie, thinking about all that that goes behind the scenes to actually bring about the 2 hours of entertainment that people watch with strangers in a dark room called cinema hall? Although growing up in the film industry, as a child actress, I have always had the chance of knowing of whatever little about behind the camera, by being in front of the camera! So, when Anurag (Kashyap) and Vikram (VikramAditya Motwane) approached me with a job proposal of being the script consultant, part of the development team at Phantom Films, I grabbed the offer! Yes, still an actress. But, how much can one audition and what does one do in the remaining time? The job offered me to read scripts and curate them (I love reading), stability and work with one of the coolest, progressing and prestigious production companies around. I would be silly to turn it down.
Although, I pursued mass media and a journalism degree which included Cinema as a subject, yet, I was initially unaware of what exactly does a script doctor/consultant do. So before joining I had a brief research on the job, which included script-curating seminars too. The job made my humble parents very happy. Coming from a service class family of doctors, engineers, IB officers, CAs, etc. my parents were proud that I too now, have a ‘9-5 job’! In fact they said, “continue with this job and quit acting if you like, this is such a wonderful job anyway”– no thanks! A little nervous and very excited was my first day at work, when I was introduced to my boss and the head of development Neha Sinha. Boss, such a scary word by contemporary jokes and memes, failed when I met Neha. A woman of fine taste in literature and movies believes in teamwork and instructs with the friendliest smile. Today, Neha is one of the reasons I look forward to office every morning. As far as the hierarchy is concerned in the company, as Vikas (Bahl) says, depends on the one who laughs the loudest, which goes hands down to Madhu Mantena. Madhu, Vikas, Anurag and Vikram make a great team, they are approachable and are fantastic listeners. The best feeling about being at Phantom office is that everyone is friendly with everyone. Bosses are not scary. In fact, there are times Anurag (Kashyap) gets bullied by his assistant directors (ADs). Literally.
It’s been almost a year into the job and 100+ scripts, synopses and concepts/ideas that I have read so far. I am still neck deep with many more, right now as I type. The scripts narration sessions remind me of the story telling by grandmothers and aunts in childhood. I look forward to every story narration with equal excitement, no matter how tiring (or hot) the day is. It is so amazing to see each writer presenting their piece of work, which is so dear to them. Their excitement, the hard work, inspiration, all comes across while they narrate. Although, the development team has to find logic in the stories or see them through as projects with a seamless narrative. Yet, each story is unique in its own way. Romance, drama, thriller, psychological thriller, comedy, suspense, horror- you name it and we have read it here. Dear writers, we read all the material you send us here. It is not possible to revert in a week. It’s a process and takes time. It breaks my heart when the walk-in writers are sent back. Although all the material is sent to development, we do not entertain walk-in writers without appointments. The best way to approach us is to email a brief synopsis. Not every script that is sent to Phantom gets a green light, yet they are all respected equally.
Just like all the departments and people of those departments. Back to what I asked first- ‘How often does one watch a movie, thinking about all that that goes behind the scenes to actually bring about the 2 hours of entertainment that people watch with strangers in a dark room called cinema hall?’ A lot and many people! Of course the director is the captain of the ship. But the ship sails through with many sailors on board. It’s so unfair that most of the technicians don’t get a face value like actors or directors. In fact, in most cases, they don’t even get 30 seconds of stage time to thank when they receive awards! Development, production, post-production, marketing. Such a process! People spend their days and nights for the deliverables. Is the trailer of the film cut right, the sound, the subtitling, color correction, press release, promotions and of course the censor certificate! It’s a grind. All of these people put together so much for us to buy that tickets and get entertained. Filmmaking is no cakewalk! After all this, chances are that some films work and some don’t, but that does not take away the credentials of so many people who work hard on that writer and/or director’s dream to tell a story that stays with us. And when a film is well made, that filmmaker, according to me should be considered a super human being! To put together so much, write, narrate, get an approval on the project, coordinate, assess, deal with nonsense and yet tell a story which makes us laugh and cry. Wow. I love this world. It’s a like a magic show. All you see is the performance. Only the magician and his team know how the body levitates.
Just like how we are taught as kids not speak when elders talk, that’s exactly what I feel at the weekly development meeting. We usually have a weekly meeting for the development team. I keep mum when Vikram and Neha brainstorm on stories and writers. I witness it silently and speak only when asked to. Not that they don’t want me to talk, they include me in the meetings as actively as they are. Still, they know so much more, so many years of experience. Sigh.
This place is like home now, it has taught me so much and helped me grow as an actor and as a person. Stories, I curate with eye of an audience, mind of a critic and heart of a writer. I am a very proud employee of the ‘fuh se’ Phantom family. This phase of my life shall remain very special and memorable, something that I would smile about years later. Signing off for now. But next time when you watch a film, you know the phantoms made its presence in them.
(Shweta is a mutli-faceted Indian Film and Television actress who started out as a child artist. She has been part of several Hindi and regional language films. Her performance as the little ‘Chunni’ in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Makdee won her the National Film Award for Best Child Artist. Alongwith pursuing acting Shweta will now also be a Script Consultant for Phantom Films.)
The article was first published here – http://shwetabasuprasad11.blogspot.in/2015/10/the-new-fuh-se-phase.html?m=1
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