Film Education

Behind the scenes

By Sorab Irani – Chairman/Managing Director, SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd.

Films are seen on the big screen, but they have to be made. The process of film-making is most interesting. In this space I will share my ‘Behind The Scenes’ experiences as a documentary and feature film-maker, my role as Producer/ Director and share insights of my association for the past thirty years with the Indian Film Industry and the International film-making scene. At the centre of this writing will be the three ‘E’s’ – Educate – Entertain – Enlighten.

Let me start with a poem on memories


Tears are the showers that fertilize this world;

And memory of things precious keepth warm

The heart that once did hold them.

They are poor

That have lost nothing; they are poor far

Who, losing, have forgotten; they most poor

Of all who lose and wish they might forget.

For life is one, and in its warp and woof

There runs a thread of gold that glitters fair,

And sometimes in the pattern shows most sweet

When there are somber colours. It is true

That we have wept. But oh! this thread of gold:

we would not have it tarnished; let us turn

Oft and look back upon the wondrous web,

And when it shineth sometimes we shall know

That memory is possession.

In this my first post I will like to talk about “The Clap Trap” – A 52 minute Documentary on the Extras of the Bombay Film Industry, produced by me for Channel Four Television Corp. London.

Let me start by saying that while I did actually produce this documentary in the traditional sense the original idea for the film was my brain child. The inspiration interestingly was triggered by a location. Here then is the story of how this film got born.

One day in the year 1993 I went along with an assistant director friend – Barot to select Extras for a Hindi feature film he was involved in as I had never known how this was done. I was only aware that Extras had a strong union and hated being called by that nomenclature – they believed they were Junior Artists.

I was wondering where my friend Barot was taking me as we were entering a very crowded area in one of the many lanes that branched off from the main Jacob circle – junction at Mahalaxmi.

I was further intrigued when we entered a slum and walked past todi (liquor made from coconuts) shops and scrap dealers and shanties down a path with multi-coloured hanging drying cloths and the perennial khatiyas with groups of slum dwellers squatting on them, just hanging out killing time and shooting the breeze.

The final destination suddenly came in view – a huge tin shed. It has only one entry gate and a sign which announced – The Bombay Cine Junior Artist Association.

I was amazed at what I encountered inside. The place was like a amphitheatre with a tin roof.  A u-shaped cement 4 tier sitting area facing a raised kind of improvised cramped stage – this was where the President of the association sat at a desk and next to him to his right was a jutting out precarious small balcony from where the AD’s could see all the assembled Extras or Junior artists – if you may- and then point and select them. The place was like a hot oven owing to the tin construction and fans were far and in between circulating hot stale air. Over all, to my mind, it was a very stiflingly depressing, repressing and a rather inhuman place to be in. This was exactly what was reflected in the faces of the hundred odd aspirants assembled there for work that afternoon. The process of selection was about to begin.

The story carries on in my next post


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