Monday, October 29, 2007

Bollywood Virgin...Screwed for 3 months

Pickin' up from where I trailed off last time...

So I talked to Deepti (ex-Mercer colleague), who put me onto Aastha (works at Sony Television) who put me onto KK (a director who shall not be named in any further detail!)

I call up KK on Sunday 1st July, and am asked to come over immediately. So I land up at KK's office (a 1 BHK apartment in Vile Parle) and am asked to wait in the reception area. Its full of posters from his previous film (a cop-gangster saga which I had liked), stacks of film reels, shooting lights and related film production paraphernalia. The place inspires me and I feel a twirl in my tummy...this is where it starts then, I hope...

I am called in and am in a small room and am face to face with the director KK...a 30 something guy, tall, be-spectacled...with a huge rack of books behind him...on film and sundry subjects. I am impressed as I sit down after saying hello. I am asked why I want to become a director and I give the standard "I want to tell stories" cliche which gets accepted without any elaboration. Next am asked my favourite films and I go kinda hazy on the films I have loved and watched umpteen repeats of... so amongst other randomly mumbled film names I also mention 'No Entry' as a film I liked...which is met with a smirk (which I was gonna see 10,000 times over the next 3 months). The questioning is short and am made an offer (which I should have refused)

KK-"Ashish, I have my team in place already...I basically need someone to 'hustle' around for me".
Me- "Hustle? What would I be expected to do?"
KK-"Basically your job is to keep me from getting irritated. You will ensure that, do everythin that is the running around and in the process you'll learn filmmaking"
Me (excited)-"OK" (what was I thinking!)
KK-"I wont be paying you for the 1st month... I have an attitude problem, so if we gel in the coming month and you prove to be indispensable to the scheme of things here, we'll take it beyond this month and we'll look at some sort of payment for you thereon."
Me-"Okay Sir, when can I start?" (The words I regret the most thus far in my life...)
KK-"Tomorrow" (and that sealed my fate for the coming 3 months)

So I started working for KK from the next day...did part-time lectures in the morning to earn a living...worked at his office for the rest of the day. My 3 month stint here can be divided into 2 broad categories -

First the good part -Film related work (10% of the time):
- Sat on shot divisions with VK (Associate Director)
- Witnessed discussions between KK and VK about how to stage sequences (good fun watching foreign films for reference...and positioning small GI-Joe type toys for simulation)
- Sat on budgeting for the film (realised that KK stand to make 50 lakhs minimum from the film but somehow cant afford to pay me a few thousands)
- Did costing for fight sequences after detailed deliberations with fight masters (some of who looked like gangsters themselves)
- Coordinated with actors for meetings

Now the bad (understatement!) part-Non-Film related work (90% of the time):
- Typing out long SMSs on my mobile phone and forwarding them to KK so he may forward them to his contacts
- Maintaining detailed excel sheets to keep track of how much potatoes, tomatoes, milk, etc we are using up in the office
- Sorting out accounts for the last 2 years
- Making excel sheets of how much Rice, Dal, Aata, etc needs to be bought for the coming month, keeping track of how much is being utilised, etc
- Ensuring that the entire office shifting (we shifted to Andheri in September) happens seamlessly...arranging transporters, carpenters, cleaners, painters, plumbers, etc
- Paying electricity bills, telephone bills, pest control bills, newspaper bills and any other kinds of bills

The 3 months were punctuated with a couple of discussions with KK when my frustration would peak everytime a new month would stare before me with little hope of improvement work quality or chances of getting paid. Also was told that KK was not interested in making me an Assistant Director (AD) even when the film eventually started...

Meanwhile I started realising what it mades to be treated like days were hell with nothing going the way I had hoped...But still I persisted...hoping that the film would start soon, that my work profile would improve once it did, that KK's attitude would change (maybe he is a troubled soul due to the delay in filming)...

The final nail in the coffin was after we'd finally set up the new office...I had worked non-stop for 26 days doing nothing but shit...and KK comes shouting at me coz there was no soap in the toilet...that did it for me and I decided to quit...but didnt have the balls to say that to his face.

A couple of days later...I asked him that its been 3 months and I would like to know if I'd get paid for October. KK smirked (the same repulsive one)...and said that he wasnt sure if the film would start the next day, week or month...and that I should start looking out if I wished...

I knew that the film was on the verge of taking off...but I sat down and analyzed...

Do I admire KK?
As a director-Yes. As a person - No way. So even if the film were starting tomorrow, I didnt want to be working under someone who I didnt respect at a moral level.

Even if I dont like him, shouldnt I stay back for the learning?
Well I would have if I was told that I'd be an AD...all I got was an ambiguous - "You will not have a designation...but I'll ensure you learn filmmaking in the next 6 months..." While this sounded great when it was first said...having seen the man for 6 months, I was gettin more and more sure that it was a load of bull, and all I would do was do shit work when the film goes on the floors...

So, what the fuck am I doing here?
Called up people looking out for new leads and was out of that godforsaken office for good within 3 days.

I join a friend and start work on a documentary...(more about it in my next post)

1 week later I get a call from KK-"Ashish, pre-production for the film has started". He hangs up before I can respond. The man loves to play games, he expects me to go begging to him to be taken in the team. I choose not to respond. A day later KK gets desperate (I CHOOSE to think so :)) and calls again - "Ashish, the work has started and you could learn a lot here. You will get what you are earning in the new place." I decline the offer and it feels sweet...finally to have shown some spine and defiance...something I thought I'd never be able to show KK...

Post-facto Analysis:
Hypotheses A: Maybe I quit because after all my bloated MBA ego came in the way. Was always told that one has to do ground work initially in the industry.
Counter Argument: Dont mind doing ground work...I can sweep sets, arrange costumes, pick up film cans...but give me shit work related to the film. Dont treat me as an office boy. Anyways, people from the industry told that I was being exploited beyond normal.

Hypothesis B: KK is a bad man.
Counter Argument: None

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