Dhananjay Kapoor, senior agency producer - national film cell, JWT India, has been traveling in Mumbai's famed local trains since 1995, when he was but a rookie out to turn an honest buck in the city. And like so many non-Mumbaiites, he admits that he has never ceased to wonder at the city's enviable rail service, and the manner in which it ferries half the city to its workplace and back, six days a week. It was, in fact, this fascination that prompted him to first consider making a short film set against the backdrop of the local trains. "I was always amazed at the energy of the people who commuted on these trains every day," he says. "The diehard attitude of the commuter attracted me, which was why I wanted to tell his story by capturing the flavour of the local train."
That, of course, was back in the year 2000. Kapoor's plans took a more definitive turn following last year's dastardly bomb blast on a local train at Mulund (one of Mumbai's eastern suburbs). The act of terrorism and cowardice planted an idea in Kapoor's mind, and he decided to make a piece of fiction that was rooted in reality. The result: a short film titled 'The 09:24 Local', which has been picked as one of the Top Five films in last year's BBC World Talking Movies Young Filmmakers Competition.
"After the Mulund blast, the fact that anyone can take advantage of the city's crowded suburban trains to plant a bomb came to my mind," says the JWT executive, who has been with the agency's films department for the past five years. "I wanted to show how vulnerable the city was to the threat of terrorism, and I had a one-line concept and decided to make a film with a duration of five to seven minutes. But I decided that I would use an innovative style to shoot the film, one that had a documentary-type realism with a work of fiction weaved into it."
The style that Kapoor talks about was to shoot the film live, but build in the element of fiction without disturbing reality. To this end, Kapoor enlisted the help of "an enterprising actor" (Dinesh Lamba), who was to board the 09.24 local, travel some distance, then disembarkÖ but not before quietly 'leaving' his bag behind in the compartment he exited from. All in peak rush hour. "I told him to get into the train and act naturally," recounts Kapoor. "He had to keep the dummy bag somewhere, then leave the compartment without getting noticed. I was not sure how it would come off, whether either of us would be noticed. And the added challenge was whether the bag would be noticed." Kapoor and Lamba did a dry run before going for the final shoot. "We used the same compartment of the 09.24 local on both occasions," he says. "Dinesh kept the bag in the compartment, and got off at Andheri. And I filmed his exit and got off at Bandra - with the dummy bag."
"And no one noticed that something was going very wrong on either occasion!" Kapoor shakes his head in disbelief. "I think that is testimony to the risk that I have portrayed in the film, and that is precisely what is so scary." Clear and present danger, caught on celluloid. The filmmaker is now planning to put his film in Mumbai's theatres. "The film has to serve the purpose for which it has been made," he reasons.
Kapoor is obviously pleased that his effort has won critical acclaim at the BBC World competition. "It was a chance I availed of when I heard that their deadline for accepting entries had been extended by a month," he smiles. Of course, to meet BBC World's stipulations, he had to submit a two-and-a-half minute edit of the film, "but it made sense, even though it had only half the intensity of the full edit". Kapoor is pleased with the fact that his film impressed Tom Brooks of Talking Movies. "I knew the film had potential, but I was not sure about the quality of entries. But when I saw the top one or two entries, I knew that my film could have been in the Top Three had I had the option of a full five-minute edit. That would have been compelling."
Kapoor is already working on "a sequel" to this film, which, he promises, "will employ a new technique, and will have a social theme that will put a mirror in front of the viewer". He is also working on a public service ad for water conservation, plus there's a "feature film". None of which will take him away from JWT, he assures. "I would love to continue with JWT as it has given me so much," he says. ¬© 2004 agencyfaqs!