Working behind the camera is not a cake walk. An audience just sees the glamour and action in the picture albeit onscreen but fails to see the toiling hands or recognise the endeavour of the crew behind the camera. Earlier, film crew members, especially spot boys, light boys, the assistant camera person, stunt masters, junior artistes and dancers were looked down upon and were treated with disdain and contempt. But on the flip side, there were also a handful of directors who treated the crew members as their children.
In order to provide better facilities and a secure forum for their problems, the Karnataka Film Workers Artists, Technicians Federation (KFWATF) was started. When asked who started this voluntary organisation and what inspired him to start this federation for the welfare of people behind the screens, Raveendranath, Secretary of KFWATF, explained that the yester year artiste Ashok, of Ranga Nayaki fame started this organisation in 1987. This was an exclusive platform for the betterment of the crew members who tirelessly work behind the cameras. Ashok, it seems had meticulously observed their problems and was deeply moved by their plight. Today, this federation plays a major role in negotiating the salary, primary concerns of the crew and providing benefits that are facilitated by the Government of India. The Federation is now fighting for the worker’s Provision Fund, that was passed in 1984 but has still not been enforced. Every craftsman in the industry
belong to their respective associations, which in turn are affiliated to the Karnataka Film Workers Artists Technicians Federation. Now, over 23 such associations affiliated to this federation.When City Express contacted K S Raveendranath, he spoke at length on the problems faced by the industry workers, the wages paid to these craftsmen and the crew behind the camera. Many crew members ‘behind the camera’ are losing their jobs with the advent of new technological innovations in camera and editing equipment. But, there is no dearth of new entrants into this field despite the fact that the film industry is an unorganised sector. City Express takes a look and tries to shed some light on the backroom boys of the cinema industry in the city.
Shooting on their bellies
Providing ‘food on time’ is one of the major requirements on a film set and that too healthy and nutritious to the lead players is not an easy task. This herculean job in the film industry is assigned to the Assistant Production Manager who plays an important role in supplying artistes and the crew with nutritious food based on their personal tastes and requirements.
Shivram Mukunda, Chairperson of the Production Assistant Union said, “Based on our work experience, we have understood the requirement of each artiste and we provide services according to their needs. For instance, if an actor prefers to have a sandwich, then we will find out the place which serves the best sandwich and serve him or her with the same. We also train the beginners in the same way.”
If the crew is in large numbers and on an outdoor shoot, then the producer will arrange for cooks, who prepare food for the entire crew. Hoteliers are not allowed to serve food at any cost, as there are many people in the industry who are dependent on this service. They try to provide the best facility for artistes and directors on any location, remote or city-centred.
Leading a double life
The list is endless as many famous actors like Ambarish, Darshan and Shivrajkumar have expressed their token of gratitude to their duplicates on screen by donating funds to the Fighter’s Association. As we know, a film is incomplete without a dupe or a stunt master. Today, a dupe has become an integral part of any film. To make a particular film the best, these dupes or stunt masters put their lives in danger and risks, but the recognition a dupe gains at the end of the film is nil.
Speaking about the difficulties they face, Raveendranath said, “These stunt masters are paid approximately` 2,000 to ` 3,000 per schedule. In order to act in the films, there are certain qualities, a dupe should inherit. For instance, these dupes must resemble the lead actor and must also match their personality. But this lasts for only 7 to 8 years as they grow older.”
But do they allow their children to enter the film industry? Yes, there are many such examples in the film industry, adds Raveendranath. He said, “Many may not provide the best education to their children. But under these circumstances, the parents want their children to work in the film industry even after knowing the disadvantages.”
Wedded to sets
Marriages are made in heaven maybe the saying but for the film industry they are made on the film sets. Tying the nuptial knot is very common among the crew members. There have been instances when the dancers have married the costume designers, fighters, the dubbing artistes and other combinations, said Raveendranath.
The best example in the industry, according to him, is Madan and Harini, highly talented choreographers, who married after they entered the film industry.
He added, “There are many instances where the family as a whole work for their livelihood, while 50 per cent of the families work in the industry out of passion for the art.”
‘The riskiest job with no facilities’ : Shivamani, senior director
I remember an incident which happened during one of the shoots for my film, Law and Order under Ramu’s production. The shoot was on near Ramaiah Hospital which was then under construction. We wanted to shoot a scene of Hotel Ashok being under construction for which we were shooting on the 7th floor of the building.
It was quite dark except for the shooting lights. Somebody from the crew asked a light boy to get a HM1 heavy light on to the sets. This guy was so involved in his job that he did not see a big pit ahead of him and would have fallen if he had gone straight across. This was happening in front of me but I was scared to even utter a word because he was on the edge of that deep hole. I was so worried that he might fall and my heart beat had increased and I felt helpless. But then, at the right moment, he just crossed away and escaped. It was a miraculous escape for him. In fact, we cancelled the shoot that night because as a director, I could not work in such a situation. This is the most riskiest job in the industry with bare minimum facilities. Though it looks colourful, it is quite a tough job. But these production people or so immune to it. We always see them smiling and chattering to dozens. Everyday comes as a fresh day for them with new locations, new faces, colourful atmosphere and good food, and everything is forgotten. Though, they would earn well in big budget films, it is not the case with every project. In case of outdoor shoots, they go to places where there is no transportation and they are forced to carry heavy luggage like camera, lights, generators, walking for nearly four to five hours for just an hour’s shoot. Their work is definitely not seen in front of the camera.
‘A life full of pitfalls’ : Jaggesh, senior actor
Jaggesh, an actor with 30 years of experience is reminded of Kogile who worked with the production unit but is no more today. We used to call him Kogile as he was very dark and he adored me a lot. Even when there was no shoot, he used to come and stand in front of our house. But the security never used to allow him inside. One day, I happened to see him arguing with my guard and I asked my people to allow him inside.
He was there everyday, only to tell me that his wife was suffering from cancer and he needed some help as he did not have any job. Immediately, I got some money released from the CMs fund and spoke to some producers to give him a job. But, it did not end there. Once, while I was shooting for my film, Double Decker in Udupi. I saw him sitting all alone and shedding tears. I asked him the reason. He then told me that he was threatened by two of the crew members for being close to me. I immediately terminated their contract. After that, the shooting got over and I did not hear about Kogile for a long time.
One day, in one of my shooting spots, some crew members were having a casual talk and then only I came to know that Kogile was dead. I felt, I was not there for him when he needed me. In this reel world, theirs is a life full of pitfalls, and I have seen it everyday.
Names unheard of
The glitsy film world has always put the names of many an actor, director, producer, music director and singer in the limelight to hit the box office.
Some of the expert fight choreographers in the Kannada film industry are Jolly Bastin, Thriller Manju and Ravi Verma while Malli, Keshava, Mahadevan, and Venkata Swamy are some of the leading make-up artistes, whose names have never been heard of. They are the real heroes.
‘They are our strengths’ : Ramesh Arvind
This one incident will always be part of my life when I have to speak about cinema. “I had been to Mangalore, Karavali for a shoot, where I happened to see a construction worker building a house with big irregular stones and filling the gaps with smaller stones only to provide strength to the wall. I compare this particular real life scene to our own industry. The green room or the people working behind us are our strength just as the small stones support the big stones,” says Ramesh Aravind. My make-up artist, Suri Babu, who has been working with me for the past 14 years is such a good man that he has completely understood me today. When he came, he knew nothing. I take only two people wherever I go. One is Babu and another is my driver. In fact, any heroine’s mother who is on the sets envies my luck. They keep saying that Babu takes care of me like a mother. His eyes are always focused on me and he knows what I need and when. Babu has always been there for me.
All those who enter the industry want to be in the arc lights and dream of becoming lead actors one day. But when this turns to ashes after years of struggle, they go different ways for various reasons. Although some get good payment, it is a highly insecure job as it depends on the success or failure of a project at the box office. As heroes, we can tide over the situation even if we are sitting at home for a month, but not possible for the boys behind the scene. It is quite risky. I have few corporate film makers who are amazed at the hard work put in by these people. They start from their house as early as 4 am and reach home at an ungodly hour every day of their lives. And, the weights, these stuntmen carry along with them to any heights, is unbelievable. As directors, we prefer to locate shooting spots at the highest point of a falls or a hill. These men are amazing and they can walk and perform any stunt to any level or distances with a smile on their lips. Talking about the cinema costumes designers, they work in a jiffy. Though, they are designers, it is the costume man, who works round the clock to get the right fitting for us.
I don’t want to mention this director’s name but he came into the industry as a kitchen boy. Learning the tricks of the trade, he started assisting in various projects. Today, he is a part of a project which I am currently working on. It is all about passion for working in this industry in whatever way you begin and the cinema industry is nowhere without them.