‘A film is a mosaic of emotions’: Namrata Rao

Namrata Rao   | Photo Credit: 27dmc Namrata Rao1.

Having established herself as a master storyteller through films like Kahaani and Titli, Namrata Rao, is now busy editing the upcoming Shah Rukh Khan starrer Fan. The recipient of the National Film Award and Filmfare Award for Best Editing for the critically acclaimed Kahaani in 2012 recently conducted a storytelling workshop at the I.G Khan Memorial function in Aligarh Muslim University.

Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the workshop, she revealed her process of editing films of various genres and the use of mind tricks in suspense films.

Edited excerpts:

When did you decide to become a film editor?

I used to read a lot of stories as a child and made up my own stories to tell others but I had no intention to do it professionally and even as a child we seldom visited cinema halls. When I graduated from college I read the advertisement in the newspaper and I applied for the course in editing and it all just happen like destiny had chosen it.

I went to SRFTII because I was really lost like most of the young people at that age. I just did not want to continue in the field of Information Technology. The turning point was when I saw the films of Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawain Delhi and that cinematic experience jolted me from within and that day I decided that this is the thing I want to do in my life.

Success of smaller films like Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Kahaani lies in their convincing storytelling as it is tough to distribute films with no star value.

There are lesser avenues for smaller films to reach people as our films nowadays are going through a transitory period and there is a lot of politics around the budget of the films and the heavy cost of marketing sometimes makes it more difficult for smaller films to be released. The success of Kahaani for example, lies apart from its excellent storytelling, in the image of Vidya Balan which was built by The Dirty Picture which in a way helped the film to reach a wider audience. So I think making a film has become an expensive task and smaller film can only compete in the business if they are technically sound with a good storytelling.

Do you attend shooting and like the director to be with you in editing room?

I prefer not to be on sets unless it’s a patch shoot. This helps me stay away from logistics like how much money was spent on this shot, how hard it was to get the camera and actor movement co-ordinated and how hard it was to light the location. I judge a shot on the basis of performance, emotion and its relevance to the story. On patch shoots, a large part of the editing process is over and it helps to see and evaluate a shot on set quickly whether it fits our existing edit or not.

With big commercial film like Jab Tak Hai Jaan and critically acclaimed films like Titli and Kahaani in your kitty, tell us how you decide the right length or the pace for a film? Do you think that the songs in Bollywood films break that continuity of emotions?

A film is a mosaic which is made by micro emotional elements which are lined together to make a macro emotional continuity. The story and the director’s treatment of a film decide its length. In this process we sometimes kill our darling to set the right pace of the film as some scenes which are much dear to the director are to be cut or made short in order to set the right pace of the film. So, there are no fixed rules of engagement in this process as sometimes increasing length can make a film look shorter. It differs from film to film as in a film like Titli, the director wanted the storytelling to be experiential rather than move from one plot point to another. In Kahaani, the idea was to keep the audience engaged and breathless and In Jab Tak Hai Jaan, it was about creating a larger than life canvas.

The treatment decides how long a film eventually is and the songs are important aspect of Bollywood films since its inception, so I cannot say it breaks the flow of emotions but as new filmmakers are coming to industry, they are using the songs in background fitting on particular situation. So, it depends on the genre and the orientation of the director.

How different is editing a content driven film from a film which has a popular star?

Of course, a star is a big attraction but the film needs to be engaging nevertheless. Audiences are a little forgiving when they are getting to enjoy their star but beyond a point, it is about the story and their emotional association with it. They want to see the star on screen for more time and that distinguishes it with from those films which are only dependent on content as the audience can forgive a bad story with a star but a film with no star, will be doomed if it fails to convince the audience with the story.

It is a tough task to retain the suspense in films like Byomkesh Bakshy and Kahaani in which you have played mind tricks with the audience.

It is important to retain interest of audience and to keep them wondering about what’s coming next. Something has to keep them from checking their phones. It is true for most films now as the attention span of the audience is getting shorter. I would always check with the director and myself. How interested are we in each moment emotionally? If not, what can I do to make it more riveting with the given material? It also helps to watch films with an unsuspecting non-film audience who have not read the script. This exercise proves to be of extreme value in understanding the ‘pot holes’ . I try and do this on every film, irrespective of the genre.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 4:37:54 PM |

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