Friday, November 24, 2006

waiting to be shot

The women waited impatiently for the camera. Finally, we didn't even use the shot. Where I was puffing and panting with my own weight, going up and down the hills, these women collect hay, wood and water all day long. A hard, hard life.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

aiman and monty

When we reached Kanakchauri for the first time, two large dogs greeted our jeep. Monty and Kallu belong to the village, and hang around the road near the entrance leading up to the steep climb up to the temple.

They were a frightening sight, but they greeted Aiman as if they were long-lost friends. Aiman bought them lots and lots of Glucose biscuits, and of course after that, they hung around Aiman all day.

In a few hours, the village kids got jealous at this desertion and ran away, calling out again and again "Kallu, Monty, Kallu, Monty." Reluctantly, the dogs followed their real owners, but were back the next day and the next, to meet Aiman.

Here, Aiman talks to Monty between shots.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Amit smiles in Garhwal. Amit is Makar's naughty 8-year old. He acts as one of Lilkee's friends, playing hide-and-seek at the beginning of the film.

The last day of "Lilkee"

For the last couple of months I've been finishing off work on "Lilkee" very reluctantly.

How often I have thought, what is this madness that prompts you to make a film? I'm never going to even want to make a film again.

It's hard, when you are working with very little money, because you have to do most of everything on your own, even all the not-so-fun stuff, like couriering letters, filling up forms, photo-copying scripts and more tedious stuff like that.

But yesterday, when I went to the lab, to make my final payment, waiting outside near the car, for the negatives of the film to be delivered, I felt a rush of nostalgia already for the fun we'd had for the last year.

The truth was it was hardly ever any fun, while we were doing it, we were all working so hard, and exhausted most of the time. But, but... already the stories came back to my mind, and I started saying to Vivek, remember when .. remember when...

And when I came back home, the Mac had behaved impeccably well, and encoded a good DVD (it's harder than it sounds) and so, I felt finally, all's well that ends well.

And by evening, Vivek and I were sitting down and pontificating about how we'd do better the next time we are making a film. And already I'm thinking, what next, what next?

Space Bar said...

congrats! and i'm so glad you're already planning the next one. waiting to watch lilkee.

9:09 AM

hey congratulations! so glad that it's done, you must be like phew!
All the best for the next one. would love to see Lilkee...

2:51 PM

surabhi said...

CONGRATULATIONS BATUL! waiting to see the film-please let me know when you screen the film...

9:53 PM

My football match

While the football fever is on, I remember the day we had to shoot the football match for "Lilkee". For days, I'd been trying to pass on the responsibility to someone else, Vivek maybe, an assistant director, the kids, and hoping they'd bite. I'd also tried wistful sighing, reminding everyone that on a commercial film set, the match would be looked after by an action choreographer, and I may not even have landed up on the location. We would also have had at least two days to shoot the match, more raw stock, and professional child artistes, who knew how to play football.

But this is a low-budget film, and I have no choice but to land up on location, and face the unit, all men, who look at me knowing I know nothing of football, nor anything about shooting the game. Twenty or more children, from the apartment block we are shooting, are at their morning best, creating a din, which makes it even harder for me to assume or pretend control. They kick around the ball, and go from one end of the garden to the other, and behave as if they've never played football before. The pathetic attempts I've made at a shot breakdown, curl up limply in my sweaty, terrified hands.

We have two hours to finish the shoot. Vivek's getting impatient, we are all yelling at each other to no effect, my assistant director goes off into silence nursing a cold. I go off to the loo, and have a secret cry, sure that everyone finds me ridiculous. I come back on location to find Aiman crying as well, for no real reason except she can feel my desperation.

I wonder why I ever wrote that football match into the script. We bung through the two hours, in a sort of stoic frenzied way. And trust to the editor to cover up the "absence" of the director.

I watch Germany and Argentina play for the World Cup, look at the tight circle of cameras around them, and keep thinking of how I could have handled my own football match better. I'm looking at the TV, but don't see Argentina make a goal.

Sometimes, you are so busy scratching your own backside, you miss the moment.

Indeterminacy said...

From a complete layman's point of view, film and sportswise, I think the best you can hope to do is film some random footage and hope you get something you can edit together later. The probable advantage on television is there are many cameras going at the same time, so they can always show the best view at all times. Maybe one camera should follow the ball and the second camera should be one step ahead of the ball in the direction it is going, or trained on the goal in that direction.

I saw the Germany-Argentina match myself, and think it was an especially dramatic and tense game. Probably a good game to use as an example / source of inspiration.

I probably sound like a complete amateur?

5:42 PM



Thursday, April 06, 2006

Upperstall has uploaded an interview with me, about my film Lilkee.

posted by Batul @ 1:24:00 PM

Rough cut

Vivek and Noorbhai at Rudraprayag, Garhwal.

The crew at Korlai beach, near Alibagh.

Hemanti has finished the rough cut. It's bliss to edit at home. After ages, my MAC behaved perfectly. Found out that all the trouble had been caused by a corrupt hard disc. And so many people had been going around in circles, trying to find the problem, loading and reloading again. Anyway.

After having given the DVDs to CFSI, there is a lull. Oh, these lulls. I hate not working, I really don't enjoy the emptiness of waking up, with nothing to do, the way Vivek seems to. I'd love more than anything else to be tearing around, stressed out, trying to manage a hundred things, and failing miserably. Instead, I have the calm of a not too busy director around me.

Satish has uploaded some photos from our shoot on Yahoo.

posted by Batul at 10:45 PM on Feb 14 2006
Jyothi Kapur Das said...

Batul, all the very best to you and hope your film generates another and another and another !!!! :)

It's great to hear of the experiences of a sister-filmmaker, a sister-mother, a sister-social animal.


1:01 PM

david raphael israel david raphael israel said...


ah things like harddrive problems can be too unnerving: happy when solved. You mention photos on Yahoo but I don't see a link.
So the edit is completed now? Ah, "rough cut." (So more editing ahead...) Shot e.g. in film, DVCAM or what, btw?

Thanks for note. Will be interested to see what-all-more you write here.
cheers, d.i.

1:28 PM

Jacks, all of us

Suresh at Rudraprayag, with his head in the continuity book


Manoj at Forest Castle, Pune with his head in the costume trunk

Working on a low budget film, or rather, ultra low budget film has it's own postpartum glamor. On "Lilkee" most of us were working overtime, managing more than 2-3 departments. Manoj not only played seven cameo roles, but also helped me to write the script, rehearse with the children, and take care of their costumes on the shoot. Suresh was not only playing the main lead, but also taking care of continuity and background action. Vipin took care of sound and frayed tempers. Satish did the stills, and helped me with accounts, and production work. I discovered that my sister, Farida and sister-in-law, Farzana were excellent costume directors apart from being caretakers for the children. Vivek had to be the art director along with being the cinematographer. Aiman not only played her role to perfection, amidst conditions of extreme stress, but helped with choreography and make-up. And me, what did I do, amongst all this? It seems to me that my biggest strength has been the people around me, and my ability to pick their brains, their talent, and their hard work.

Sleeping beauties

Looks like we are all working very hard indeed. But what better than a cat-nap to compensate for late nights, and all too early mornings?

Noorbhai, the camera attendant has handed over his duties to Raees.

Anjibabu, the make-up man, asleep for the day.

"Rhea", played by my neice Anushka, has finished shooting for the day, but must wait for all of us to pack-up to go back to the hotel.

farrukhfarrukh said...

Hi Batul,

Found you at Caferati. Nice blog. And pictures.

What's the movie about, may I ask?


11:00 AM

surabhi said...

thrilled to see that you visited my blog!
looking forward to your film...

7:50 PM

Jyothi Kapur Das said...

When will i do this....? I am so happy that YOU have! :)

12:29 AM

JohnJohn said...

Hi Batul,

Thank god I discovered your blog. I can learn a lot about the fascinating world of film-making.

Keep writing!


10:38 AM

BatulBatul said...

Dear John,

Thanks. Wish my world was more fascinating. ie. I was making more films. But one day soon. I'm loving your blog too.


1:13 PM

Back home

A long 20 days in Pune. I've gone back as a stranger for so many years, resigned to the changes, assuming the Pune I loved no longer existed. We have moved house, most of my friends have gone abroad, my other friends have also moved. The city has grown, the traffic is horrendous. Blah, blah, blah.

But shooting a film there, was the loveliest way to reclaim the city as my own. Living in the old, rambling YMCA, in the middle of Quartergate, eating everyday at the places where we had eaten during family outings, for more than 25 years, and finding the people very, very Puneri inspite of the malls, the traffic, the flyovers. Afternoon siestas prevail, 2 km distances are the other end of the world, and one can still whiz around the city three times in a day.

Shooting at Forest Castle, Silver Woods, and Satellite Towers was another experience altogether. Mundhawa is far by any Puneri standard, but the buildings are beautiful, with a Japanese austerity. They look fantastic on screen.

The children performed very well, except one of the kids, who being supremely talented, is also a bit of a monster, and definitely under-performed. We who knew her so well during rehearsals, were disappointed, imagining what she could have done with a little more concentration.

Otherwise, the usual goof-ups that happen on low-budget shoots. After watching the telecine rushes yesterday, relieved that we haven't messed up, a little ashamed at the spots where one lost control, and which immediately shows on celluloid, and wishing for the luxury of re-shooting bits that need it.

Anyway, still recovering. And getting used to Mumbai all over again. The worst was coming from the Pune winter to the Mumbai sultry heat. Back again.
Dan HusainDan Husain said...

Wish you a joyous new year :-)

12:03 AM

Demi GoddezzDemi Goddezz said...

nice! wish u all the luck in the coming year!

7:03 PM

I think I exchanged notes with you several months ago, when I'd just joined Ryze [for Caferti], and you were trying to find a location in Pune for your shoot. Now I see things have rolled quite a ways from that point. Congrats!
If you have a place where the film project is described per se, that would be nice to feature prominently -- e.g. via a link on the blog sidebar. Then people like me (curious to have an easy overview of it) wouldn't have to bug you with such questions. ;-)
anyway: will be good to see what it is eventually, when completed.


3:19 AM

Actors and rehearsals

Rehearsals with actors, have been working with them individually, some times in pairs. Most of the time it's been heartening. Occasionally, a little dejected. Have I made the right choices. I've cast everyone in the film, without a single audition. Should I trust my intuition, or should I consider myself a fool? Well, so far, nothing has led me to despair. Just a little more hard work needed. Lots of hard work needed.

The trained actors are all right. The amateurs are OK too. It's the ones who've done a little bit that are the worst to handle, because they are set into patterns that are false, and they lack the experience to go beyond them.

Sometimes I feel as if I'm running on auto, there's no time even to be exhausted. Besides, after cribbing for years about being without work, I cannot even open my mouth a micro-centimeter to complain.
manohar nair said...


I was just browsing and came up to read what you had written...
Surprising! That the trees have yet to show up outside your window.

Without that how do you know the professionals from the amateurs? The old from the new? the experienced from the naive? all are actors.

The trees show the hierarchy and the details of the generations.

Then it is left to the imagination of a capable director to get the best out of all.

Good Luck!

7:34 PM

Work and more work

When an adult does not have meaningful work, a purpose, she slowly withers away. The work has to be meaningful not by any one else's definition, but satisfy her own soul. For years now, though I was busy, taking care of my home, my child, earning a living in the best way I could, I felt myself shrivelling day by day, wasted. Because I was not making a film, because I was not getting funds for my ideas. I did make a documentary on DV with my own hard-earned savings, but that did not feel quite right. It felt somehow, as if I had cheated, as if I had found a short-cut in the race.

Today, when I have been commissioned by the Children's Film Society to make a film on a miniscule budget, I find myself back in action. I feel as if I have a place in this world, as if I have a voice again.

Work does lend one an inner confidence, which even money cannot. Or love. Atleast for me, work has always been an important factor of my life. Though in the way of most foolish females, I have often let relationships surmount me.
suniti said...

Hi Batul,
Wonderful article. Gives a good insite into the kind of work you do.
You have a very easy style that I can relate with. A controlled rambling -is what I call it :)

8:35 AM


meetings begin

22 Sep 05

Today we had a first meeting between two lead actors, Nazneen and Suresh who are playing the roles of Bela and Tutu; Manik, Vivek's camera assistant, Manoj, my associate scriptwriter and assistant director, Vivek and myself. I read the script, and we had an initial discussion. Now that we are closing in on dates, there seems to be a huge amount of work, and little time and resources. We need a lot of action props that were going to be easy to manage if we were shooting in Challenger, in our own flat. Now that we have shifted the location to Pune, a lot of small little details will have to be worked out completely. I'm hoping that by involving people like Gauri who are based in Pune, I'll be able to manage more than budget permits.

The important job of a director seems to be to make everyone excited in the project, and give it their best.
And the most exciting moment, to hand out scripts that one has laboured on, in solitary confinement, for more than a year, and see words taking physical shape through the interpretations of others'.
DSD said...

Your blog is interesting - Keep up the great work.

9:52 AM


Frantic location hunting

25 Sep 05

Still struggling to find a location. When I wrote the script, I thought I was being smart, fitting my story into an apartment complex where I lived. I knew CFSI budgets were miniscule, and I wanted to make a film, which could be well-executed within the budget.

But the film took more than a year to happen, the apartment politics changed, and I am stranded without a location. And what was to be the easiest part of the shoot, right now seems to be the most difficult.

All my decisions, including secondary actors' casting, props, assistant directors, apart from the more mundane issues of hotels, food and transport are swinging around because of this uncertainty.

When I had my baby 12 years ago, what went forever was the arrogance of my youth. I learnt that one could not be anti-social if one wanted the best for one's baby. I learnt to be patient with all kinds of people, nurture relationships, selfishly for my kid. And it's the same with making a film. Once again, it's all about finding different languages to deal with different people.

posted by Batul @ 12:44:00 PM

music and lyrics

29 September 05

The last two days have suddenly been turning points. Three days ago, Vivek gave me a long lecture on music and lyrics, and how I needed to put in more work. As usual, I defended myself by saying that my work process was internal, and that, one day I would be ready. He knows that, but does get exasperated by how vague I can be at times, and thus perhaps give the wrong impression to people who don't know me.

Perhaps it was the effect of his scolding, but I woke up in the morning, with part of the lyrics for the letter-writing song, written in my sleep. And once you have a springboard, it does not take long to launch off into space. We drove off to Revdanda beach for a recce, looking for a lighthouse. We found it a few kilometers ahead of Revdanda at Korle village. It is spectacular, an old fort, the sea, hills, a old world fishing village. At the base of the fort, while I waited for Vivek to finish taking his stills, I wrote the beach song, as well. I could not believe I had done it, as for a year, I had been proclaiming that I would need a professional lyrics writer, and I could not do it myself.

That's made me believe how powerful the mind is. Once I had done that, I could talk to my music director too very clearly about what I wanted, and what I hated. Now I feel sure that I'll get what I want, and not just accept what he thinks will be nice.

Parul GahlotParul Gahlot said...

Damn good for you! Forge ahead

9:10 PM

On finally making a film

After a year of waiting and working, the CFSI film is finally happening. The budget is miniscule, and they want more than I set out to give them, but what the hell? It's 10 years since my Institute days, and this is going to be my first feature film. We are used to guerilla film-making, low or no-budgets and I've been clever enough to write a "do-able" script, and not my usual mad-cap over-ambitious ventures.

The trouble is I'm not feeling elated, or anything. So many years of waiting has dulled my nerves. And I've still to realize that yes, I am making the film.

this is great batul. all the best for your film.

6:15 PM

Lilkee - a synopsis

Lilkee is a 11-year-old girl, from a small, remote village in the hills of Garhwal, in Northern India. Lilkee’s mother is very poor, and after her husband’s death, can barely make ends meet with the domestic work she does in other houses. Bela belongs to the same village, and works as a young architect in Mumbai. She brings Lilkee to Mumbai to look after her 8-month-old baby, Bittu. Bela herself would like to get back to at least, part-time work. Tutu, Bela’s corporate executive husband disapproves of the whole scheme, as he thinks Lilkee is too young, and liable to become a responsibility rather than a help.

When Lilkee first arrives in the city, she is awestruck with the crowds, the traffic, and the tall buildings and with Bela’s posh home in a skyscraper tower in suburban Mumbai. She feels homesick and misses her mother and her village very much, but she knows that her mother cannot afford to keep her, and that she must work to earn her own living.

When Bela leaves Lilkee home alone with Bittu, to go to work, Lilkee is a little scared and also restless, confined in a flat. She misses the open landscape of her village, and running around free, with her friends. But she deflects her homesickness, by writing letters to her mother, about her life in the city, comparing it to the life in the village. She tries to describe the various things in the city, which her mother would find amazing, the lift, the phones, the skyscrapers, and fantasizes that if these were to be transplanted to the village, her mother’s life would be so different. The letters are compiled into a song, and the city is transported to the village through Lilkee’s words.

On her third or fourth day in the city, when Lilkee takes the baby, Bittu out for a walk in his pram, she meets three girls her own age, playing football. Rhea, is the tallest, good at games, a natural leader, but a snob and judges people by their clothes, their toys, their homes. Sani is roly-poly, cute, easygoing and lazy. She hates to study, but is good at diffusing tension, and making everyone laugh. Anushka is a whiz with computers, very sensitive and hates to hurt anyone.

At first, the gang doesn’t realize that Lilkee is a servant girl, because she is well dressed, pretty and talks of the baby as her younger brother, and Bela as her sister. But when they visit her at home, in Bela’s absence, Rhea puts two and two together, and draws her own conclusions. Tutu also meets the gang at home, and is concerned that Lilkee is crossing the line. Tutu and Bela have a chat about it, worried about the fact that their neighbors won’t like their children to mix up with a servant girl. But before they can talk to Lilkee about it, Rhea on realizing that Lilkee is a servant girl bans the gang from playing with her. Lilkee is hurt and confused, when the girls avoid her.

One day, the gang finds Lilkee playing with some stray pups in the compound. Rhea asks her to stop playing with the pups; they belong to the gang. Lilkee fights back that they are not, but when she sees an elder approaching, she runs away. Anushka argues with Rhea about why Lilkee cannot play with the pups, but Rhea is stubborn. Later that night, when Anushka’s grandfather puts her to sleep, he finds her troubled. Anushka does not want to tell tales, but her grandfather does manage to tell her that she must not be afraid of sticking up for what she thinks is right. Friends, who cannot understand that, are not worth having.

Anushka is still too scared to go against Rhea. Even when Lilkee retaliates against a little boy, Golu who makes Anushka fall from her cycle, and gets a scolding for it, Anushka does not go up to Lilkee. But the next day, she makes friends with Lilkee while she is playing with the pups.

When the pups are driven out of the building complex by the society secretary and the watchman, Lilkee and the other girls follow them out. Sani decides to take one puppy home. Rhea would like to take the other one, but Lilkee has it in her arms. Rhea is too proud to ask her for it, but Lilkee generously gives it to her. The girls become friends.

The girls, because of their own protected and pampered existence, cannot understand many things about Lilkee’s life – the fact that she has to work and that she has to live away from her mother are the two most horrible punishments they can imagine. Though Sani feels that the fact that Lilkee does not have to go to school is ample compensation for the hardships that she has to face. Lilkee herself would like to go to school, but she never brings the matter up. Though Bela and Tutu are concerned and aware that she is not going to school, they are too caught up in their own plans, and promise themselves that they will send her at a later date.

Lilkee meanwhile wins over Tutu with her simple ways, her eagerness to help and her affection. But one day, when he returns home and finds Lilkee and the baby missing, he panics. When Lilkee and the baby return, and he learns that Bittu had swallowed a bead, and Lilkee had to rush him to the doctor, he loses his head, and gets very angry with Lilkee, and almost slaps her. He blames her for being careless. Lilkee is shocked at his anger, and realizes that she is after all, only a servant girl to Tutu and Bela. Though Tutu apologizes to her, she tells Bela that she would like to go back home. That night, she misses her mother very much, and cries herself to sleep. Memories of her mother, her father, the villagers at home, her friends in the village, haunt her through a lullaby her mother used to sing.

The gang is very angry with Tutu for raising his hand against Lilkee. They decide to save up money and send her back to her home. In their minds, Bela and Tutu become villains who have snatched Lilkee away from her home. The gang collects money in various ways, and pool in all they have. When the girls want to hand over the money to Lilkee, she is reluctant to take it. She assures them that Tutu will leave her home. The gang asks Lilkee to take the money, anyway, and buy some nice things for herself. Lilkee refuses even that, because she is too proud to take things from them, and Bela has given her enough. So, the girls decide to give Lilkee a treat. They ask her what she would like to do best. They propose a visit to the mall, coffee or pizza, but are amazed when she says she would like to see the sea, she has never seen the sea. They themselves take the sea and the beach for granted and find it boring to go there. The gang decides to take Lilkee to Juhu beach, on her birthday. Rhea convinces Anushka and Sani to keep the outing a secret from their parents, because Rhea’s mother does not like her to be friends with Lilkee. Anushka and Sani agree to lie, because they feel that this will be their last chance to make Lilkee happy.

The gang has a new secret mission. Rhea calls the driver of her car, pretending to be her mother, and asks him to take the children out to Juhu. The driver is surprised, but obedient. He drops the children at Juhu beach; they run off and start playing (There is a song here about fun, frolic and friendship and funny, comic moments at the beach). The girls have planned to go back home at the time when they normally return from school. But in their excitement, they get late. And then, they get caught in a typical Mumbai traffic jam. Lilkee realizes that the other girls have not informed their parents about the trip.

When the children don’t come home from school, panic sets in. The parents call each other up, meet, and wonder whether they should call the police. Rhea’s mother realizes that the car is missing, and is convinced that the driver has kidnapped the children. Anushka’s grandfather suddenly remembers Lilkee, and thinks perhaps she would know something about it. But when they call Bela they realize that even Lilkee is missing. However, Bela tells them that the children have gone to Juhu beach. Lilkee told her and went, and she had presumed that the other children had also told their parents. The parents are relieved but very angry, and begin waiting for the children to come back.

When the girls return home, they all get a scolding and are dragged off home, by their parents. They are all subdued and sad. Lilkee goes back home with Bela, who tells her that Tutu has a birthday treat for her. Lilkee does not show any enthusiasm, she is still distant from Tutu.

When they reach home, Tutu makes Lilkee close her eyes, and guides her into the house. When she opens her eyes, she finds that Tutu and Bela have bought her a school uniform, school bag, books, etc. She is to go to school. She starts dancing with excitement. Tutu apologizes to her again, and hugs her.

The morning after, as the gang waits for the school bus, talking about the previous day, they are surprised to see Lilkee coming towards them with a school uniform and a school bag. Sani starts dancing with joy, Anushka beams with delight, Rhea runs to Lilkee and starts questioning her. They all get into the school bus, chatting and laughing excitedly.

In Lilkee’s village, her mother and little sister walk back home, through the hills. Lilkee’s sister is reading Lilkee’s letter aloud for her mother. Lilkee writes that Bela has put her in school, and she has made many friends in Mumbai. She is going to come first in class, like she used to in the village. And she is going to bring back a doll for her little sister when she comes home in the holidays.

Original story: Batul Mukhtiar
Screenplay: 70 minutes
@ November 2004
JugalJugal said...

Beautiful Batul, this is simply phenomenal :)

7:33 PM

BatulBatul said...

Thanks, Jugal

10:18 AM

Jyothi Kapur Das said...

When can i see the film...?

2:26 PM

Anonymous said...

Belive me Batul,

I had tears in my eues reading it.
Now, looking forwrd to see film.


4:21 PM

Cobainess said...

I bumped onto your blog.. I am glad I did. Its a beautiful story.. so hope-giving. Tears welled up in my eyes while reading this.. Really beautiful..

4:19 PM