Khalid wants his actress, Bhoomika Chawla, perched high up. Not the most elaborate of sets, a set of black screens are erected around the fountain, and Khalid wants Bhoomika balanced atop one of these as she delivers the dialogue. Logistics are presenting difficulties.
The director's attractive assistants have just returned from attempting to climb the said scenery, and it's not looking good. The wobbly boards aren't the safest places in the world, Khalid is forced to admit. Getting a crane for Bhoomika would mean missing the shoot for the day. The top shot is scrapped.
The song being shot is called Ban jaiye, sung by Alka Yagnik and Kunal Ganjawala (the Bheege honth tere guy from Murder) -- as the music review helpfully tells me.
While the song is being canned, there is no way the singers' voices can be discerned. To attain the eventual effect of slow motion, the song is being played back at more than double its speed, and the actors have to match steps with this chipmunk-ish version.
Bhoomika is unbelievably impressive as she lip-syncs perfectly, even to the insanely fast and screechy version.
Opposite her in the song is Rahul Bose, the man who had famously declared that he might act in Hindi cinema, but would never be seen in any song and dance number.
How come here, then?
"Well," Rahul splutters, "I meant to say that I'll never be 'singing' any songs. Here, my character may be in a song sequence, but he is not actually singing any words. I'll never mouth the words to any lyrics." As an afterthought, he adds: "Unless, of course, my character plays a singer. Or something like that."
Santosh Sivan -- who has shot films like Mani Ratnam's Dil Se and Gurinder Chadha's Bride & Prejudice, to name just two -- is Silsilay's cinematographer. He has a terrific sense of humour. Between takes -- the longest time taken on the sets is for the actors to change costumes -- the National Award-winning lensman laughs merrily and talks about wanting to direct an English film sometime soon.
The sets, by this time, have taken on a different look -- pillars of satin, black and white, are suspended from wires in the air and fanned furiously. The effect, to the naked eye, is of a surreal field of huge condoms dangling hollowly in a gale -- in short, a bizarre vision not out of place in a Tim Burton nightmare. As opposed to a masala movie.
Then Sivan moves the camera around for less than five minutes. He beckons the director to look at the monitor. All necks crane expectantly. The result is fabulous -- the frame looks terrific as the satin suddenly seems willowy, the pillars mysterious and enchanting. Sivan smiles at the gaping, stupefied faces around him and reveals: "It's just a change of angle."
Then, without warning: "Oh, I want that dog!"
The pooch abruptly brought to attention is a white puppy presented to Bhoomika for toying with during the song. The actress doesn't need to be told to cuddle with gusto, and soon the air is thick with happy yelps and cho chweets. Sivan declares he wants to adopt the dog and that's that.
The menagerie grows, and two horses are brought onto the set.
Khalid watches the shooting with casual disinterest, as if he were one of the few on-set spectators. He doesn't try to run the ship at all. His two pretty assistant directors coordinate the shooting excitedly, as Khalid stands by, tossing in an occasional suggestion and shrugging slightly when it is turned down.
Could be the unobtrusive journalist in him. Could be because it is just a song being shot. Let's just hope it's one of the two.