In a poignant but funny scene from Chachi 420, Kamal Hassan comes to seek Amrish Puri’s permission to marry his daughter Tabu. The authoritarian father asks the shy suitor, “What do you do?” Hassan humbly replies, “I work as an assistant dance director in the film industry.” Amrish Puri retorts, “That’s okay, but kaam kya kartey ho?”
The scene brilliantly exemplifies the common man’s apathy for, and most often ignorance of the vast majority of technicians who contribute towards the making of any film. Witness any multiplex crowd shuffle towards the exits just as the end credits have begun to roll.
Stars, from the very beginning have been the center of attraction in any film-viewing experience. It’s only in recent decades that people have begun to notice the director who is at the helm of affairs. Till Salim-Javed made it to the credits of movie posters in the 70s and made the writing profession prestigious, people were not even aware that films needed to be written. Of course, there was somebody called the cameraman who actually shot the film, but why get into such details? And editors and sound recordists are still marked by their invisibility in the film making process till the media suddenly woke up to a name called Resul Pookutty who got the Academy Award for the Best Sound Recording for Slumdog Millionaire.
You can’t really blame the audience. Who is bothered about the recipe and the process it takes to make a cuisine? Just savour the food buddy, and pay the bill.
Given the prevailing attitude, it would seem that the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes would bear a tremendous grudge at this non-recognition by the patrons and media, but the reality is quite different.
Most technicians are not into the profession for glamour, that’s a prerogative of an actor whose need for recognition and adulation most often surpasses his passion for the craft of acting. Manas Ranjan Chowdhury who did the sync sound for Chak de India, or Subhas Sahoo who got the National Award for sound in Kaminey, or Bishwadeep Chatterjee whose sound-designing contributed immensely to the success of such films as Bajirao Mastani are happy with the recognition that they receive from their peer groups.
Virtuoso editors like Sanjib Dutta and Suresh Pai delight in their roles in salvaging many a sequence that seemed hopelessly beyond redemption because of some technical gaffe during the shoot while the director tore his hair in frustration. Kolkata-based Abhik Mukhopadhaye, three times National Award winner for best cinematography is a name unknown by most viewers, but he is a celebrity in his own right and commands a respect and prestige that is usually accorded to a film star.
Line producers like Miriam Joseph who generally handles Farhan Akhtar’s productions or Nagesh
Kukunoor’s executive producer Elahe Heptoola make sure that the entire shoot goes on without a hitch and stays within budget. There are ace assistant directors who literally direct the film on behalf of inexperienced or confused directors who ultimately take all the credit for the final products. Art directors like Nitin Desai, Sukant Panigrahi or Sharmistha Roy are responsible for some of the most endearing works in which their craftsmanship have become integral characters in the films.
The list is literally endless. Most of the names mentioned above are world-class technicians and work frequently for foreign productions too, but they never find mention in the pages of film magazines or feature in Page 3. Many of them lead colourful lives as well and command an attention during shoot that sometimes makes the stars uncomfortable. They are sticklers for discipline and would brook no nonsense in the execution of their craft.
While it is true that there are many talented technicians who are yet to get their dues, both in terms of work and payment, the rest are satisfied to work in the shadows, the only payoff being the occasional Filmfare Award or some state award. If not the viewers, the industry knows their caliber and they are content with that. It is scope for good work and the challenge that drive their passion, and of course – the money.