‘It was a gamble’: ‘Side A Side B’ team on the challenges of making a film within a train journey

Rahul Rajkhowa and Shivranjani Singh in ‘Side A Side B’

Rahul Rajkhowa and Shivranjani Singh in ‘Side A Side B’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

About seven years ago, Sudhish Kamath’s former assistant director went on a train journey from Chennai to Mumbai with his girlfriend and a cat. The girlfriend was moving to Mumbai and they could not find a flight that allowed cats. Hence, the train.

When Sudhish, a film critic and journalist turned filmmaker, heard this, he was excited. “Man, that’s really cinematic. I think you should definitely write it,” he recalls telling his former assistant, Joel. “When you’re in love, and one of them has to move to a different city, that’s a testing time for a relationship.”

“But he was like, ‘No, bro, I’m in a very happy space in the relationship. I can’t think of all this depressing stuff.’”

Sudhish, however, was hooked on the idea. “I am a huge fan of movies like  OnceBegin Again, and  Inside Llewyn Davis. I wanted to do something in that space.” He wanted his characters to be musicians. So, if he could find two talented artists who can sing and act, he thought he could make the film.

But that was not the biggest challenge; that was shooting the film on a moving train, a logistical nightmare.

Side A Side B, a romantic musical about a couple – Aiban Joel Gogoi and Shivi (both musicians) – travelling from Guwahati to Mumbai,  premiered at the New York Indian Film Festival in 2017. But Sudhish did not just want it to be a festival film. He wanted a wider audience and his friend, filmmaker Luv Ranjan, agreed to produce it. “We finished all the paperwork in 2018 and were looking for an OTT buyer. But there was a problem: there was another film by the same name. And, that led to a whole lot of confusion.”

As he was trying to sort out that problem for two years, the pandemic struck. “I think we should all just cancel the last two years,” says Sudhish with a laugh.

Six years after he shot the film, it is finally out for public viewing on T Series’s Youtube channel. Despite the delay, Sudhish reckons his film will not be anachronistic. “Being an independent filmmaker, I am aware my films might take a while to release. So, I always write stories that are timeless.”

Taking a gamble

Being an independent filmmaker, Sudhish had other challenges too. He had to fund his own film. So, he started living out of a suitcase, saving on rent. “It was a gamble because I had to shoot the entire film within a 44-hour train journey. It was all or nothing for me.”

Luckily, his cast – Rahul Rajkhowa and Shivranjani Singh – and crew, especially the sound engineer Dipankar ‘Jojo’ Chaki, helped him make the film he had envisioned.

It was no mean task, say the leads. “The rehearsals were rigorous. There was no way we could have multiple takes because we had a very short window to shoot,” says debutant Shivranjani.

“Very few people in India can do what Rahul and Shivi (Shivranjni) have done,” says Sudhish. “They had to get the lines and lyrics right, act, sing, and strum the guitar. And, all this inside a first-class AC coach. It was a near-claustrophobic experience.”

Rahul, however, admits it was not easy to focus on the acting, singing, and the guitar simultaneously. “When we perform on stage, we get to know the lyrics really well – to an extent where it kind of becomes muscle memory – so that we can focus on other things like dancing or interacting with the audience. Shivi and I thought of taking the same approach with the script. We internalised the lines by making it a part of our daily conversations.”

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2022 4:58:31 pm |