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The Lootera Journey: Through the Eyes of the Editor

Dipika Kalra, who had edited Vikramiditya Motwane’s Udaan earlier spoke to MAM about her experience of working in Lootera. Here is the complete interview.

 Dipika KalraWe’ll start with your experience of working in Lootera.

Lootera was a great learning and growing experience, both personally and as an editor. It was so complex with all the emotions, snow, VFX… everything fell into place only at the end. Vikramaditya Motwane is one of the most sorted directors you will ever find. It was because of him that Lootera was so much fun and a great learning curve!

The promos of the film show that it is a love story which also has an edge-of-the-seat thriller element into it. How did you then, as an editor, take care of the pacing of the film?

See the pacing comes from the camera and character movement and not just editing alone. The film is set in the 1950s. The first half of the film is set in Bengal. There is this classical approach. It has been shot on tripod and has a very warm look to it. The second half has been shot in Dalhousie. So there is this cold and gritty look and shot mostly on hand held camera. It was a combined and planned effort which decided the pacing of the film. Of course I had my discussions with the director and arguments but all for the good of the film so that everything falls in place at the end.

Is there anything that an editor has to specifically keep in mind for a period film?

The most important thing that has to be kept in mind for any film is the mood and emotion of the film.

You are an FTII Alumnus. How much does going to a film school help one?

Look I am biased. My foundation stone was laid in FTII. I had no family background in movies. I did my mass-communications in Delhi and went there. So whatever I learnt was in FTII and what ever work I got here was because of the work I had done in the institute. Else, I knew no one in Bombay.

Please tell us something more about your journey into the Industry.

My parents are from Delhi and that is where I grew up. More than me, it was my father who convinced me that I was not cut out for a 9 to 5 job and sort of pushed me into the creative field. Of course they had left the final decision on me. Once I decided upon it, I did my mass communication from Delhi University. After that I joined a production house where I did everything from writing to editing to voice-over putting in whatever I had learnt from mass-comm. It is here that i realized that of all these aspects, it is editing that I enjoyed the most and applied for FTII.

FTII opened up my world to new kinds of cinema. I had grown up, like most kids, on Hindi Cinema which used to come every Sunday on  Doordarshan. Here we ended up watching at least 3 films everyday from allover the world. Even the kind of batch-mates I had added to my learning experience. The diploma film which I worked on (When This Man Dies) and which ended up winning the National award was made by the person whom I eventually married ! And that was the film I showed to Vikramidtya Motwane as well. So it was a great journey in FTII.

In Bombay I started by working as an associate to my senior from the institute, Mr. Shan Mohammed, in films like Wake Up Sid & Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa. It was during this time that I met Anurag Kashyap who said that they were looking for an editor to work on a new production they were going to start.  I met Vikramaditya and I liked his script and he liked my work. That is how Udaan happened and the movie was a great journey.

With Lootera, I would say that it helps if you already know the director & team. You already know how the director looks at the scenes and the characters. All of us have have grown from Udaan. It is especially lovely to see how much Vikramaditya has grown. This team  is now like  family & friends to me. I seek their advice on everything now, even on personal matters!

You have edited music videos and number of documentaries before you made your way into the Hindi Film Industry. Do you think that it is a good starting ground for an aspiring editor?

I don’t think that the format of a video matters at all. Whether it is a documentary or an awareness documentary or a short, what is important is the director’s statement. Even so many movies are shot like a documentary . These days there are so many videos on YouTube which are clean-cut with some music playing in the background. The format keeps on changing. What is important is what do you want to connect to the audience. It was just incidental for me that I started with them.

How much say does an editor have in the final cut of the film. Is he or she only there to act as a bouncing board to the director or does the editor also contribute to the final material shaping up?

For me it is always the Director’s Vision first! In case of any difference, I have always had the opportunity to voice my opinion. Fortunately all my directors have been very democratic so far. Whatever debates or discussions we have is for the good of the film and what the film defines. This is always a very subjective thing and completely depends on how the director deals with his team members.

What about a decision like choosing between the background score and silence in a scene? 

That is a very difficult question. Most of the times an editor prefers no background score. We have to see what are the emotions in the scene and whether the scene is demanding a background score or is put there just for the sake of it. It’s usually gut instinct. We have to constantly imagine what the film is finally going to look like and how will the effect come after the sound mixing. Whether the sound effect would be cheated properly or not. It’s a tough decision and we have to constantly imagine keeping the emotional need in mind. I always take my director’s advice on this.

I personally believe editing is the toughest part in a film-making process. Does not it become exhausting watching the same scenes over and over again. And then you do it film after film. How do you then continue to “feel” ?

I take a break (laughs) ! It does happen that you cease to feel. But if you loose objectivity from the film it can be very dangerous. Also you are living in the world of that movie. So many things might be obvious to you but a third party might not get it. So I always take a break. Come back and re-watch the edit with a fresh eye. Take opinions from team members or watch the film in a different environment with no one from the team around.

Renu Saluja, Deepa Bhatia, Aarti Bajaj, Namrata Rao and now you. Every generation has had a great female film editor. Do you thing they bring a fresh perspective to cinema?

I have been asked this question before. See there are many male editors I look upto like Shan Mohammed and Sreekar Prasad. I would say that women definitely bring in a nurturing quality and a lot more patience. And I could totally be wrong about it, but say its a male-dominated film then maybe a female editor could bring in a new angle and if its a woman-centric film, a male editor could see it with a fresh eye. But at the end of the day, its more about conveying the director’s idea and not about a male-female thing.

Before we wrap up, your final word on Lootera.

I think its a great film ! It has turned out to be a classic. It might sound like blowing our own trumpet but I think we have made a very different film. I have no idea about the Box-Office collections but there has been a lot of hard work put into this. I don’t think I have seen anything like this before. We have created a very new look. This is my favorite crew. It is always lovely to work with them and I have great hopes of working with them  in the future as well !










By: Abhishek Chatterjee
Posted: June 26, 2013, 10:30 am


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