Oct 252009

At one time Mumbai had a plethora of shooting floors – at Natraj, Navrang, R.K, Kamalistan, Mehboob, Mohan – floors that were linked to banners & great film makers. But over a period of time it became more commercially viable to construct residential and commerical complexes on studio land, rather than let them out at 15k per day. Today, in Mumbai the main floors are at Film City, Sankraman, Famous and Mehboob. The rest are gone.

Shooting Floors aka shooting studios – have their own unique eco-system. Different from the shooting bunglows that dot Madh or Juhu; different from the multiple pre constructed ‘locations’ that are the mainstay of places like Jaipan … shooting floors are giant cavern like structures – with no beams or columns ;where you can put up a set.

Last week we were shooting at Sankraman – in Aarey. The same sankraman that was the home to the bulk of the Balaji soaps that used to be on most channels. If you had gone there a year ago – you would seen it buzzing with activity. This year, it was akin to driving into a ghost town. The place looks seriously run down & desolate. Even the studio dogs – looked lean and bored.

Shooting on a floor is a trip in itself. I have spent over a decade and a half on various shoot floors that dot Mumbai. I can’t explain the lightheartedness that i feel when i am on a floor – or the sense of homecoming when my car drives in thro’ a gate of a floor complex – or the adrenalin rush by simply stepping into one of these areas ….

sankraman studio 1

(outside every floor will be a gate keeper – who controls the movement of people in and out of a studio. afterall, when you are spending an average of between 25 and 35 thousand per hour (without talent cost) – the last thing that you need is people to distract the shooting process and multiple retakes)

sankraman studio 3
(not so much graffiti, as much as testing colours – seriously. )

studio cooling_

(shoot floors can get hellishly hot. Think of a cavernous structure with no ventilation – with around anything between 50 and 300 KW of lights, sometimes more – then you are talking of serious heat. When i began my career the number of AC floors were few. Thankfully, that has changed. Needless to say – the power bills are huge)


(there is something about studios that attracts dogs in droves. Possibly the fact that when you have to feed an army of people, there are always leftovers. And, where there are leftovers – there are dogs, and their pups. But, with the end of the Balaji hegemony on TV – and with the number of shows being shot outside Mumbai on the rise — even dogs at Sankraman wear a famished look)

(we who shoot are a superstitious lot. if you really look at it – an hour on the shoot floor is about 15k to 35 k without the cost of sets or artists. It is expensive. can’t afford any f***ups. And, given the number of people on a shoot floor, the constant flurry of activity, lots of moving parts, tons of electronics and lots of electricity – not to mention an ego and a half per person – it helps to have stuff that wards off mishaps. If you told us that wearing a bring magenta scarf with bright green polka dots will ward off mishaps — you will possibly see a fair number of people wearing that the following day)

Oct 172009

It’s been three Diwalis since Vikaram Buddhi has been locked up in jail in the USA, without a trial after a trial lasting 3 days (thank you Rahul). He was accused of posting on-line threats against George & Laura Bush. He maintained that he didn’t do it.

A PHD Student, he was an alumnus of the IIT, with Maths being his area of interest.

So why is he in prison – what did he do ?
The basic case history :

Vikram Buddhi was at first interrogated in January 2006 by US Secret Service for allegedly posting messages on Internet Yahoo space which had called upon the people of Iraq to retaliate the perceived unjust Iraq war and to kill President G W Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others. After thorough interrogation, the US Secret Service set Buddhi completely free in mid-January 2006 and in February 2006 the Secret Service even made a formal report that Buddhi is not a threat to US President or any other person. But for some mysterious reason, the US Secret Service arrested Vikram Buddhi on April 14, 2006 and launched federal prosecution charging that he threatened to kill US President and others.

(vikram Buddhi’s father, Subbarao Buddhi holding up his son’s photograph)

It has been almost three and a half years since Vikram Buddhi was picked up by the US Secret Service for allegedly threatening George W Bush via online threats. He is still in jail. There has been a trial, but no sentencing, just internment

It is sad that that the media that whips up emotions every time a student gets mugged by a bunch of wastrels in Australia, hardly pays attention to a young man whose only fault was that he got carried away by the notion of free speech.

In India, to abuse your leaders is an inalienable right – we deal with all our leaders and the system with humour and thinly veiled contempt. When Parliament was attacked – the SMS that went around was ‘damn, they missed them all”. When 26/11 happened we called for the heads of political leaders to decorate the street outside the Taj. Vikram Buddhi comes from such a culture, where calling for the Head of State’s head is considered to be a vent to let out pressure not a serious threat. If the authorities in India arrested everyone who called for political leaders to be hung from the nearest lamp post – there will be no one on the outside – not even the political leaders :). The so called leader of the free world needs to be slightly more tolerant of free speech and abuse of leadership. Their nation is not a monarchy, and their President is not King Emperor !

Vikram Buddhi does not deserve 3 and a half years in prison for abusing political leadership. He deserves to be free, compensated for his lost years and allowed to build back his life.

In addition to the mass petitions, lets all send individually crafted mails requesting justice for this young man to the Prime Minister of India, the President of the United States, The Ministry of External Affairs India, The Secretary of State USA, and anyone else who is in authority and can make a difference to this case.

Happy Diwali Vikram Buddhi – may the next year see you free

Articles on the Vikram Buddhi case :

Vikram Buddhi, Indian student languishes in US jail, alleges abuse

Does this Indian deserve to be in jail for 35 years?

Ind. grad student convicted of threatening to kill Bush

Vikram Buddhi, Anti-Bush Blogger, Wrongfully Jailed

Threat against Bush was stupid, but was it also illegal?

Appeal from Dr. Buddhi Kota Subbarao

Oct 162009

3 lights

Word/Phrase Association Diwali :

Lights, Sound, Sharing, Family, Hope, Goodness, Triumph of Good over Evil, Joy, Homecoming, Lamps, Rangoli, Festivities, Giving, Loving, Anticipation, Dawn, New Beginnings, Gifts, Sweets, Savories, Community,

…what words do you associate with it.

Oct 122009

Remember the time you heard about the Nithari killings and  almost threw up – the kids went through stuff that we, thankfully, cannot even imagine.  Remember the Mira Road case – where a man raped his daughters on the advice  of  a Tantric to get rich.  Remember those times when you read about a 3 year old being raped and killed and  looked up into the ceiling and yelled at the Heavens  and said – you don’t exist because you let things like this happen to kids.

Child Sex Abuse – is stuff that isn’t supposed to happen. But it t happens to kids and screws up their today and all their tomorrows. The acts that make kids wonder, for ever, what they have done wrong. The stuff that we all skim through if, and when, the media reports it. The stuff which rarely gets to court – yet, sentences the victim to life.

Rahi – a NGO working “working towards prevention and intervention in the area of incest and child sexual abuse ” tells us that

53% of children in India are sexually abused.

72% of these children do not talk about it and suffer in silence.

A majority of these children have been abused by people known to them

64% of Incest Survivors were abused between the age of 10-18 years

32% of Incest Survivors were abused between the age of 2-10 years

87% of the Incest Survivors were abused repeatedly

19% of the abused were currently living with at least one of the abusers

We may say it happens elsewhere – but it happens here (wherever here maybe). I am sure that most of you will want to hang the perpetrators by their privates as a deterrent – but the system doesn’t allow us to do that.

Maybe you can do something :

Rahi a Delhi based NGO  is raising funds for protecting vulnerable children.It’s using the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon as one of the methods of raising awareness and funds.

This is where the funds will be used

disclosure – I am not attached in any way with Rahi – i am just very glad that someone is standing up for abused children.