Fertile ground!

That Kolkata-born Subodh Maskara had never watched a film shoot before showed up in his curiosity as he took a peek at wife Nandita Das shooting for Onir’s I Am Afia with Sanjay Suri and Purab Kohli in Kolkata

It’s 11 on Monday morning. An animation firm on Keyatala is all abuzz with activity. No, not because of a new assignment but because Onir’s shooting unit has parked itself on the first floor to shoot I Am Afia. Nandita Das, almost oven-fresh from multiple wins for Firaaq at the Filmfare Awards, is dot on time. And so is Sanjay Suri, who is playing a documentary film-maker in the film. Watching a shooting isn’t half as exciting as watching the finished film.

Even minor details like whether the colour of the tea served in the two glasses match or not is a big issue. But tedious as it might seem, there is something special about any labour of love. And that comes across when Purab Kohli walks on to the sets. “Hey! Pretty Boy, would you give the claps here too?” asks the cinematographer, even as Purab keeps an eye on the monitor before going off for his costume trails with Nil. “The last time I was in the city to promote Hide & Seek, every one asked me about my role of a sperm donor. So, here I am ready to donate!” he says, tongue firmly in cheek. “I Am Afia’s cinematographer used to call me Pretty Boy on the sets of My Brother… Nikhil. Back then, I had some days off and still hung around on the sets. I’d be the clapper boy there and hence, when I met the cinematographer, he got nostalgic!” Soon Purab is joined by Nandita’s husband, Subodh Maskara. Few know that Subodh was born in Kolkata and has also spent 11 years here. “I haven’t been to any sets before and since, Nandita is acting in a film after three years, I wanted to be there to support her. I didn’t know of Nandita before marriage and hadn’t watched her movies,” Subodh says, in a matter-of-fact manner that his ignorance pre-marriage about all things Nandita seems quite natural. “Post-marriage, I’m learning about her world. She too supports me. Having been through failed relationships, we understand the importance of investing time and effort into every day of our lives.”

Soon there is a break and Nandita summons Subodh to join him. And as the duo sit and chat while Nandita has some freshly cut apples, one wonders how she feels facing the camera after having been behind it? “I’ve told Onir that I might be a pain but I can’t help giving suggestions. Even when I made Firaaq, everyone in the film was welcome to give their inputs. Today, it feels so good that Firaaq has received so many Filmfare Awards. And that too in the technical categories. Usually films like Firaaq are not recognised at popular awards. While there isn’t any particular kind of story that I want to direct, I’ll be penning my own story soon,” she says. As for her role in Afia, Nandita says, “On the face of it, the film is about a personal choice of a woman who wants to have a kid. I loved the script and agreed to do it. Acting is like cycling or swimming. One can never forget it. I do receive offers but I don’t want to do everything only because I miss being in front of the camera.” Soon it’s time to resume shooting. So far, it’s been a great day at work for Onir. “I’m running a little behind schedule but am happy with the shots. It feels great to shoot with Purab after five years,” the director says. As a parting shot, Sanjay says, “The first day has been all about learning and adaptability. It was a kind of a marriage of two working cultures. The seed has been sown at the right place. Only time will say how fertile it is!”