Ambar – Video Shoot

Posted on October 31, 2007

It was meant to be and therefore it happened! It took three months and many postponements of the shoot date to finally reach a point where we had no choice but get it done. I think it was by end of August that we took a call on Ambar as the launch video song through MTV. Though Vishal and Shekhar were very sure Ambar should be the launch song, I was not myself too sure. Probably because I have always been biased towards Mysore Se Ayee from a very very long time.

Lets say everything that happened towards the completion of the video for Ambar now seems like a conspiracy of the universe in bringing together all the most improbable elements which made the entire process and the result very memorable.

Meanwhile, Anand Surapur (Phat Phish Records – Shot Rabbi’s video for Bulla ki Jaana), who knew me for sometime now (I was supposed to be launched through Phat Phish Records 2 years back), proposed that he would love to direct the video for Ambar and that too for free if Ambar would be the launch song!

Anand is a director who doesnt like to have a concrete storyboard to begin with. It can be quite frustrating to clients wanting know what the video is gonna be all about or how its gonna look. But, with Anand, the answer is never straight and you would be better off not asking him!

Till the video was finally done with, I didnt have a clue what it was all about! All I knew was that Anand is flying down some hep ‘motion control camera’ and that the whole video will be a single shot video. The song’s wave form was first mapped into co-ordinates which then was converted into a data that was fed into the motion control camera and the camera would then move according to the crests and troughs of the wave form of the song!!! aaarrrgggghh! Thats the concept???!!!! I wondered…and doubted the whole technical jargon thingy!

But the more frustrating point was that I made 4 trips to mumbai each time staying for nearly a week to 15 days everytime and each time the video shoot was postponed because ‘the camera never arrived’!!! Meanwhile there was this deal with MTV to submit the video before the first week of October. They would then bombard the video enough number times so that no one would wonder who the hell Raghu Dixit is when he opens for the Lycra MTV Style Awards 2007.

But, it was only by 18th of October, much beyond the deadline date, that I went back to Mumbai after being assured that the camera had indeed arrived. But damn, i forgot to ask if the cameraman had arrived too! It was only after I landed that I was told that the motion control camera had reached but there was no camera person to operate it! The technician who was supposed to arrive was stuck in shoot for Kamal Hassan’s movie in Chennai!

By now we had reached a point where we had no more time to lose. Anand ditched the motion control camera and instead decided to work with a handheld movie camera but still wanting to execute his idea of a single shot video! The camera person would hold the camera and sit on a Grip Trolley manually pulled and operated by four hunky men for about 200 metres and the entire song would be enacted as the camera and the trolley moved through those 200 metres! I was still doubtful about the whole process and i carried those doubts with me to the shoot location.

Location? It was a government run Animal Hospital!!!! But I was simply thrilled when i went to the location. The hospital was full of huge green trees and the buildings were beautiful old british-era structures. The trolley-camera would start at the beginning of a narrow tar-surfaced lane, continue to first a dog-house, then a piggery, a horse stable and then lead on to a broken, run down 1832 built Microbiology-Pathology laboratory where the main part of the video would be shot!!! How perfect that my first video gets shot in a Microbiology lab. The coincidence was hard to believe and the conspiracy of the universe was beginning to unfold! (for people who don’t know, I used to be a Microbiologist before I became a musician!). The big plan was to practice the whole run of 200 metres for two days and shoot on the third day.

Now was the tough part. Anand wants 7 good looking women for the video! We really couldnt afford the professional models. So the ever dependable Samira, Neysa and Bobby turn their mobiles on and start calling up friends and after many ghost-to-ghost hook-ups they finally managed to get 4 ladies including my good friend Anushka Manchanda (ex-viva girl). A good friend of mine, Deeba Shiekh came down to the location to meet me, and Samira immediately goes ‘would u be interested to act in the video for free?’ and Deeba didnt say no! The same evening my gorgeous wife Mayuri calls up from Bangalore and tells me that she is landing up next morning to watch the shoot. I was thrilled and urged her to bring along some pretty clothes…little did Mayuri realise she was getting conned into modelling in her husband’s video!!! So finally we managed 7 women…very good looking at that. Delna (Bobby’s Fiance), Anushka Manchanda, Mayuri (my wife), Poulomi (Samira found her on facebook I think), Tracy (Youhan’s gf), Deeba and finally Rohini (RJ on Fever FM).

The video would start with me singing the first two lines and then camera would first capture Delna (Bobby’s fiance), who would be on the balcony of a house and then catch Anushka walking dreamily into the camera as it flowed down. Meanwhile I would run to the next point and start walking with my back to the camera and slowly turning to it as it came down on me….the camera would swoop again up to capture some of the beautiful trees for about 6-10 seconds and come down before which I run to another point such that this time I am in front of the camera and walking towards it singing the song…like that we keep alternating between me, the women and the nature till the end of the video! Just that everything has to be perfect! The trolley has to be pulled to move at the perfect pace to reach the precise positions marked and the artistes too have to be at the precise point at the precise moment in the song! We practiced the whole motion for about 15 times.

Anand was shocked to learn that I would wear a lungi and kurta. He was disturbed that I was not wearing a casual T-shirt and jeans and chappals! But I insisted that I stay in my Lungi ;) which kind of traded off well with me obliging to Anand’s demand that I shoot for the video without any makeup!

The cinematographer was Bakul, a frail and petite but tough woman. Navarathri ke din maal banaaneka hai was the line from her I will never forget! She was completely focussed throughout the shoot and despite many disagreements and arguments with Anand every now and then, she did a commendable job! Its so imporatant to be objective on a job! Sanjay and his team of strong hunky men too never did whimper even a single complaint pulling that heavy trolley up and down the road for 20 times or even more. The only problem I faced was that we did not have a PA system to play the song loud enough. What was available was an iPOD with an iTrip relaying the song onto a portable music system at a barely audible volume! I am sure u will catch me strumming and singing off the sync with the song in the video ;).

I think it was the 7th or 8th take that we managed to get that almost perfect take and i barely heard the casual murmer from Anand saying ‘pack up’! Our one shot video was done in as much time as the length of the song! But then we had waited for months and practiced for hours….and the result will be there for all to see by the first week of November once the video is aired for the first time on MTV! Hope you all will love it.

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