Hitting the right spot

Where to hang Kasab? It’s the place that counts. In fact, I have always believed that a location in a film should be treated like a character. In the right context and with rightly composed shots, you will almost feel as if the location is alive. It should have a recall value long after the film is over.

A few examples from my own films which I can give are the Sarkar house and the Bhoot apartment. The bungalow in which I shot Sarkar is now referred to as the Sarkar house by the film people in Mumbai. Many films were shot at that location before and after but it came to life only in Sarkar because of the way it was used to complement the character of Sarkar.
I wanted to capture the feelings we experience when we look at the house of a man towards whom we have so much awe in our hearts. And the impact is also due to a combination of the background music score, shot composition and most importantly, their placement in the edit.
Similarly in Bhoot, its apartment became synonymous with Manjit the Ghost. Using the same angles and compositions repeatedly created an effect of a character entering the film again and again. Also by making the geography of the apartment very clear, the viewer almost felt as if he or she was living there. The impact of the Bhoot apartment was such that even several years after its release, I am told that nobody lives there and people refuse to buy it.
Very few filmmakers give this aspect of casting a location sufficient importance. Hence we rarely remember locations in films. The first time I felt this impact was in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The house looked as sinister as the killer. And this wasn’t because of its architecture but the manner in which Hitchcock made it into a menacing character.
More often than not filmmakers use locations and settings as a backdrop to show off either production values or at most, a general ambience. But when it’s used to evoke feelings, then it has some impact on the viewer.
I have just finished shooting Kasab’s hanging for my film The Attacks of 26/11. Besides detailing the procedures, as much care was taken towards recreating every nuance of the place — right from the wall’s texture to the steps leading to the noose for the hanging.
So it’s not only the story, acting, direction and production value which are important for a film. Imagining the right location in which a scene should take place is as vital as raw stock is to camera.

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