It all started when Christopher Nolan came to Mumbai in March 2018, for a Film Restoration Conference— An initiative towards restoring film stock and encouraging new age filmmakers to understand and dwell into the celluloid world (film, film stock, film negative; and reels).
We— Krishna Marimuthu (Writer/ Filmmaker) and Niketh Bommi (Cinematographer)— after dreaming of shooting on film ever since we saw Nolan describe its magic, finally landed up with a few cans of 35mm Film Stock and 16mm Film Stock. With adequate tech support from Raju sir and Suresh sir from Kodak, Raviprasad Unit, ACS Unit, Alan Bartley sir, Gnanashekar MN sir, Raman SG sir and Charan Reddy sir (24 karat), a Test Shoot was in order. Niketh spearheaded this shoot with eagerness to roll 16mm, 35mm, and Digital Format side by side to predominantly see how colours reacted in each format
““Unlike digital sensors, color film captured and recorded blue, green and red components of the image separately, layer by layer to be developed into yellow, magenta and cyan dyes respectively. When the final color print was projected in the theatre, the color image was created by a subtractive process.” Quotes Gnanasekaran MN
His main motive was to create a comparative study that could be showcased to the directors he works with, so that they might be inclined towards shooting on film. And highlight the fact that many institutions and individuals are willing to encourage and technically support people wanting to shoot on film. As it’s an ecosystem that needs to survive, not just the film stock.
Having worked on multiple projects together, we were connected to a team of ace technicians— Kripakaran P (Editor), Suresh Ravi (Colourist), AK Anirudh (Executive Producer), Pallavi Singh (Costume Stylist)— all excelling in their respective fields. When the team got together for adding an artistic value to the table, the project slowly moved from being a techie’s comparison to a more abstract space— an Expression. Having embraced the imperfections and glitches that come along while working on film stock— Flaws, came to be.
Set in Niketh’s ancestral home that was a standing testament to late 50’s architecture, which had modernised over the years with necessary amenities, Flaws automatically became something of a remembrance of a bygone era trying to find its place in the present day, and probably even the future. Just like film stock. And hence… A retrospect.
The Expression the team was looking for needed a face. A face, that not only fills the shoes of a performer but also a person who believed in what the team was trying to do— exploring the unknown. After making a thunderous mark in the South Indian Film Industry with her sincere debut, Aditi Balan (Actor) said an immediate and nonchalant yes to Flaws. She was genuinely excited to collaborate with the team for a role that involved her doing something that she’s never done before on screen— just be herself!
While the Pre-production phase was a bit of a cake walk, thanks to all the technicians having vast work experiences in their respective fields, the Production (Shooting) was a different ball game all together. A 7am call time like always, with the first shot rolled at 10:46 am. A lost battle we presumed. Loading film onto the camera was a habit forgotten even by technicians who had spent half their lives doing this. “Wait a minute! I’ve worked as an assistant director on films and TVCs shot on film even nine years back and I don’t remember it being that big a deal! It was a tougher process but it was something still in vogue. How did we just abandon an entire process like that?” Ponders Krishna. If starting late contributed to a heart attack, the sound of the film stock speeding inside the camera was that of multiple deaths. Without the accurate monitoring systems, not knowing the level of under or over exposure, all the while resorting to the light meter as God, not having ‘false colour’ or ‘peeking’ for quick fixes, we secretively missed their new age digital format. The red flags got even redder as we approached the developing stage. We learnt that that film can’t be transported just like that, as travel can damage the film, and sending it through X-rays in airports will expose the stock. Niketh drove down guarding it with his life, and sat through multiple scans till we got it right. After which, the Post-production being yet another tedious process compared to the easy workflow options offered by the digital format. Yes we missed shooting on digital for various reasons. Until we saw the scanned rushes from the 35mm and 16mm reels. Ogling in awe, we went—
Krishna — Speechless
Anirudh — “The basic tonality is so magical.”
Kripakaran — “I just love the glitches during the exposure and cut!”
Krishna — “Let’s use them as transitions!”
Pallavi — “The colour and the saturation! Why does it feel so right?”
Niketh — “Why did I stop with buying just two cans!?”
And just like that… We had our video in all its totality. The Expression we were looking for was around the corner but missed its better half— Audio. Having followed Dot. (Aditi Sehgal)’s music for a while now, we felt no song could be more suited for this video better. She plays piano and sings over it facing a camera. (Follow YouTube Page — https://www.youtube.com/user/ msknockknock99) . As organic as it can get to contribute to this Expression with her singing “My only wish is to dance…” Her song was the icing on the cake.
Why all this now? When the whole world is on its knees looking for a way out from the Pandemic. This is where destiny plays its tiny bit. The Expression was that of a girl in boredom trying to keep herself occupied. She keeps looking outside to other dimensions only to understand that all the answers lie within. A predicament we’re all in right now. A pleasant coincidence. A time to seek change both within and out. A time to restore the good past, breathe the unchangeable present and imagine the unknown future. A time where it’s okay… to just dance about!
Equipment Used :
- Arri Alexa LF With ARRI Zeiss Master Anamorphics
- Arri 435 With ARRI Zeiss Master Anamorphics
- Arri 416 With Zeiss Super Speed (S16) Lenses
Stock Used :
- Kodak 35MM 500T 5219
- Kodak 35MM 250D 5207
- Kodak 16MM 500T 7219
- Kodak 16MM 250D 7207