Movies

Experiments on a train journey

Sudhish Kamath shot Side A Side B during a 44-hour train ride, where eight songs were recorded live.  

Travelling long distance with your pet can be an arduous task. But for the lead characters in critic-turned-filmmaker Sudhish Kamath’s latest film Side A Side B, it comes as an opportunity in disguise to resolve their relationship issues. Wedged in a 44-hour-long train journey from Guwahati to Mumbai, Aiban Gogoi a.k.a. Joel is accompanying his girlfriend, Shivranjani Singh, who is moving along with her cat to explore the metropolitan life. As the two singers traverse across the country, they discover their incompatibility and conflicting expectations from life.

Exploring the musical format, the story is told in eight songs with sparse dialogues sandwiched in between. “It’s a real-world musical structured like a ’90s album,” says Kamath, who has previously made indie films like Four-Letter Word (2006), Good Night Good Morning (2010) and X – Past is Present (2014).

Keeping it minimal

Experimenting with the traditional methods of filmmaking, the entire movie was shot during a 44-hour train ride from Guwahati to Mumbai, where the eight songs were performed and recorded live. “The best way I could do this movie was by getting musicians who are also actors,” says the 40-year-old filmmaker. Inspired by movies like Inside Llewyn Davis and Begin Again, the characters break into a song almost ever four minutes, addressing a new relationship concern each time.

As challenging as it is to record live music on a train, Kamath went a step further and filmed the entire movie on two phone cameras: iPhone 6s Plus and Samsung S7. The filmmaker says he wanted to capture the maximum area possible within the first class coupé of the Kamakhya Express, where most of the film was shot. “Imagine the train space and you’re reducing it by half if you have a camera with a stand.”

The film being an independent venture, the filmmaker and the crew skirted around acquiring permission to shoot onboard. “There were eight of us in a train shooting two of our friends who are musicians. That’s not breaking any rule.”

The path ahead

To raise money for Side A Side B, Kamath moved out of his Mumbai apartment and rented it out. “So Rs. 50,000 a month would be Rs. 6 lakh in a year, which is enough to cover basic costs.” To generate more, the filmmaker took credit from his partners and gave the crew stakes in the film. Once the film is completed, the filmmaker is expecting the budget to cross Rs. 50 lakh. “Remember, [the] budget is not a function of how much we’ve spent, but how much it would’ve been worth had we actually spent the cash.”

For a filmmaker, making an indie film is just half the battle won. With Side A Side B, Kamath has planned a theatrical release before sending it out on other platforms. He says marketing a film is a bigger challenge for independent filmmakers. Having made four movies, he now plans to carry out the distribution himself. “We have to look at how the other arts like stand-up and theatre are doing it.”

“Independent cinema also needs to change the way we do our marketing”.

Since songs are at the core of Side A Side B, Kamath wants to cash in on them to generate a buzz for the film.

“Sadly, in India, music is sold on the basis of star names.” But despite several evident impediments, the filmmaker is optimistic and confident about his fourth film, and hopes to successfully crack the last mile this time around.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 5:51:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/Experiments-on-a-train-journey/article17302812.ece

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