While Manoj Bajpayee starrer The Family Man has emerged as a hit web series that has made an impression not just in India but even internationally, it is also being talked about much for a couple of single-shot sequences that are the highlight of the show. While one sequence is set in the dark streets of Mumbai at night and lasts 8 minutes, another is set in a hospital where terrorists create mayhem for a full 13 minutes. We get chatting with director duo Raj & DK on what went behind putting together these sequences.
There are a couple of highlight sequences in The Family Man, first on the streets and then in the hospital, which is directed as a single shot of 8-13 minutes each. What was the thought process behind that?
Raj: When you have budget constraints, I am not saying that The Family Man wasn’t good budget, but well when your ambition is bigger than the boundaries that you have set, you want to do more. When it came to shooting in Kashmir or filming these chase sequences, we want action to be top-notch. We wanted to pull this off. We wanted to use this constraint as an advantage and wanted to make it spectacular. I hope we have achieved it. Lot of people are talking about these single takes. What’s even cooler is that Ashmit Kunder, who plays Bilal in that 13-minute single-shot sequence, is joking that he has just one shot in the film and that shot has become very famous.
DK: When we were conceiving the design of the show, we were discussing how we had to shoot it. Whether we had to go with big wide shots or smooth dolly moves. In some films, we are into long lenses wherein others we have to keep it all gritty and teal. Each film has its own language. Here we knew that any glamour or style has to come in organically and from a real place rather than larger than life shot. This is why we chose a handheld approach and fluid kind of filmmaking. There was a whole treatment of the show by itself.
Yes, there are scenes that are treated a little differently depending upon where they are set. As for the actions sequences, for a few of these, we wanted it to be a single shot. We wanted the audience to be there. Lot of times you get to see everybody doing everything. Here you are staying with one character and not knowing what the other character is doing. Single-shot sequences are not easy. Couple of days go just into rehearsals. You have to light up the entire area. You have to block traffic and passerby movements. It is complicated but then very satisfying. You feel the tension of the character.
The hospital sequence in The Family Man is a 13 minutes long shot. It starts with one set of people and then you move to another character and then you move to others. It took a lot of time to choreograph. We shot in in a real hospital. We were quiet and calm about it. An entire day went into the shoot. I am glad people appreciated it. We are really thrilled and feel indicated that all of this effort has been worth it. There are actually five such sequences in there. That’s the motif of the show.
Wasn’t it a logistical nightmare though for you as the first was in outdoors with various variables and second was indoors that went through many rooms and halls?
Raj: Yes it was a very tough challenge. We didn’t have an unlimited budget that we could have to create our own hospital. We were shooting at real locations. We couldn’t make much noise. It was doubly challenging. Lot of credit goes to Ezaz Bhai for action, also DK who was very stubborn that he didn’t want to have any weak links in this sequence. He was at it all night to pull off these one takes successfully.
In fact, not just the shot taking but even the whole terrorism trail from Syria to Pakistan and India via Kashmir seemed quite well researched and executed. What went behind it?
Raj: Most of the credit goes to Suman Kumar who is our co-writer and Suhas who has put a lot of effort into the geo-politics. We spoke to a lot of people and studied the patterns that we have seen during the last few years. It was a well thought of the process and then some ideas came as we started writing and making the series.
DK: It’s three of us who wrote this, Raj, me and Suman Kumar. He is a dear friend of ours, We have known him for ages and he is also a published author. Geo-politics and research came from him. He has strong opinions on politics of it all.