Film Education

BEHIND THE SCENES: Part 3 (Clap Trap)

Behind the Scenes (“ClapTrap”): Part 3

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

It is believed that in Mumbai there is a potential documentary waiting to be made on nearly every street corner. Mumbai is perceived as the city of dreams, the question which begs to be answered is how many of these dreams ever come true and for how many. As one of the character very poignantly said in the film “The Clap trap” – ” There is only one Amitabh Bachhan and many thousands of disillusioned actors with shattered dreams and compromised  lives – why chase such a dream ?” However to dream, to hope, is the stuff that keeps us going, we all live today for a better tomorrow, without hope or dreams it would be an empty tomorrow and today filled with despair.

Bollywood probably unwittingly made dream-making into an industry. Provided hope and elevated despair with escapism. In the darkness of the movie theaters everything was served up, song and dance, sex, comedy, melodrama, forcing people to suspend their reality and millions thronged the theater space for exactly that, probably again without realizing it.

Having said that even my idea of a documentary film on the ‘Extras’ of the Mumbai film Industry had to move from the realm of idea (mind) into reality.

After struggling with the idea in India where documentary at that time was considered the orphaned child of Bollywood, I shifted my focus to parts of the world where documentary was given its due importance as a film format and audiences were interested in seeing them.

I proposed the idea to Farrukh Dhondy at Channel 4 TV – London. Farrukh Dhondy was a multicultural Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 with an interest in India. The commissioning process was straightforward. Submit your idea in one or two paras if the Commissioning Editor saw merit in the idea then he would commission the research of the idea, the effects of the research would determine if Channel 4 wanted to commission the project or not.

Farrukh Dhondy approved of the idea and commissioned the research, being a documentary the research was rightly given more importance then director, technicians etc. The subject matter was correctly the center focus.

The research that I presented both visual and along with the treatment was appreciated  and my company was contracted to produce “Extras” which was its tentative working title. The budget was comfortable as payment was to be received in pounds sterling.

Once all this technicalities of budget approval and legal contract were over I decide I must  meet Farrukh Dhondy in London and get his thinking aboard realizing that this film had to be made for an international audience and so needed to be crafted as such. I also got to see many documentary films made by Channel Four and benefited immensely.

Farrukh Dhondy was a renowned writer and intellectual which he still is and of course a great communicator. What I learned from him was to stand by me in good stead for the many other documentaries that I made.

The basic thing he told me was that the Films Division format of documentary was dead. We were of course brought up on Films Division documentaries which we were forced to see when ever we went to the movies in those days by government decree. Example – we see a visual of say of the Khumbh Mela and the voice of the narrator would say this is the Khumba Mela. The voice of the narrator was to be eliminated all together and the narrative of the film should be propelled forward by the voice of the characters that people the film. The technique of using voice – over to provide smooth transitions of scenes, that a good documentary was given birth on the editing table, that the director had to be non intrusive, the material should never be staged, capture live events as they unfold in time, the magic of such moments is what Farrukh called ‘Observational Documentary’ all these new ideas were very exciting and I knew they will  help me make a documentary film which will be very engaging to an audience. However I must say here that the most important advise and in Farrukh’s own words was – ” Want advise to make a good film – tell a story, want more advise to make a good film -tell a story” .

So I came to Bombay teaming with all these fresh ideas and work started on assembling a team to make the film.

To be continued…………


8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I really like the Documentary and see the pain that must have gone in for production & the gain when people say “wOw.”

I am very interested in reading the production story of great creation like ‘Clap Trap.’ Look forward to read the continuation.

Comment by Agastya Kapoor

Thanks for the feedback and am glad i can continue the learning process for film lovers with this blog, it makes me feel happy. And ofcourse I am grateful for Dad to share his experiences and his valuable time to write this column for us.

Comment by oorvazi

The film brought to the forefront the struggling country cousins of the glamour world.The Clatrap serves the essential role of a documentary-to highlight a marginalised group and give voice to their problems.Great. We look forward to more.

Comment by Indu Raman

Thanks so much Indu! Great to hear from you will convey the same to dad.

Comment by oorvazi

as usual good insights into the process of film making, will be useful for all film makers. waiting for more

Comment by hemant m

Hemant thanks so much for your continued supportive presence on my blog and sincere feedback!

Comment by oorvazi

I really liked the documentary and am also interested in knowing how it was made. The honesty with which it was made can be felt while watching the movie. The way the woman said, ‘Shame was not going to feed my sisters’ still rings in my ears and sends a chill down my spine.

Comment by Rasik

Thanks so much Rasik for the feedback and sharing your thoughts.

I am happy that you felt the sincerity of the film as that is an important aspect of documentary filmmaking.

Comment by oorvazi

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