Other than Vidya Balan, there’s another girl who is responsible for the super success of the latest toast of Bollywood – Kahaani, its editor; at least that is what director Sujoy Ghosh has been telling everyone at every given opportunity.
When you first meet Namrata Rao, her dimpled smile and the pretty-girl-with-a-dimpled-million-dollar-smile-next-door looks make it a little hard for you to believe that she has edited films like Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Band Baaja Baraat, Ishqiya, and most recently, Kahaani. In a candid conversation she spoke to us about her first meeting with the borderline mythical Aditya Chopra, her professional equation with her directors, the loneliness in the edit studio, her fear of asthma and how much she likes to make documentaries and just observe people whenever possible, at malls, traffic signals et al. Even while we were talking animatedly, she was observing everything that was happening around us…
The First Cut:
After a few false starts like getting into the IT field, trying her hand at copywriting and designing for an advertising agency which wasn’t even accredited, working as a production assistant at a TV channel; much to the disapproval of her parents, she decided to study filmmaking at the prestigious Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata. This is where she was exposed to lots of films from across the world and the thumb rules of film editing which she had to later unlearn when she set foot in Bollywood. Her stepping stone to commercial ‘masala’ entertainers was her stint as an editor of hardcore, brimming with reality documentary films, which she is still fascinated about. During the conversation with us, she mentioned about an idea that she had struck upon, that of making a documentary film based on a film journo and his life which revolves around talking to film stars who are probably bored of answering the same questions over and over again, before and after the release of their films. (If she does get around making that documentary film, you know who to thank.)
Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!
Given the fact that film editing wasn’t her primary career choice and that too without hailing from a film family, bagged her first film, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, she considers herself to be very lucky. When asked about the kind of competition that exists between film editors, she says she has hardly seen any other film editors. She talks about seeing Aarti Bajaj and a few others, thanks to her editing assignments for which she has to frequent the Yash Raj studio, in suburban Mumbai. She rues the fact that she hasn’t been able to get her assistant any project because he isn’t experienced enough to take on big assignments. Director Dibakar Bannerjee signed her for OLLO, impressed by a documentary film that she had cut, I am the very Beautiful, directed by Shyamal Karmakar. He wanted a similar documentary film-feel for his film. It’s another matter that OLLO became something else, but the documentary film-look was later used in parts for his next outing as a filmmaker, Love Sex Aur Dhokha.
The Kahaani Unfolds…
Director Sujoy Ghosh was not in a very comfortable position in his career, thanks to the fact that his last two films, Home Delivery and Aladin, didn’t fare very well at the BO. He had brought Namrata on board because of her experience of making documentary films, as it was the kind of look and feel which he wanted for his Vidya Balan-starrer. Namrata was first shown the rushes which Sujoy and his team had shot and then she got to read the script overnight. Other than the written script there was a lot of material which the makers had come back with, which was supposed to be used in the film and present Kolkata as a character in the film. Namrata says that it was a very challenging thing to do; while retaining the essential qualities of a thriller, taking the audience into the bylanes of a city which they all aren’t aware about. She says that she loved the unpredictable and warm nature of Sujoy and how he goes that extra mile to ensure that everyone is taken care of. On being asked about why there was so much of explanation happening in the film, Namrata admits that though it was a little too much for an evolved audience, it was essential to reach out to the masses who may have not understood what is happening, without the hand-holding. She adds that a lot of explanation was edited out but to make the film more accessible to as many in the audience as possible, it was a hard decision that had to be taken. She says that she is very happy that Kahaani turned out to be such a huge success, especially for the director, who was going through a lean patch. Suddenly he has become the toast of the town and people are talking to him with a newfound respect and admiration.
The Big Picture:
Working with the biggest production house of Bollywood, Yash Raj Films, isn’t a cake walk and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. Namrata has the highest regard for the production house, for all the caring she got while editing Band Baaja Baraat. She was working in tandem with Aditya Chopra, who is almost a mythical figure in Bollywood, because not many (even the B-towners outside the YRF camp) have seen in real life. Namrata shared with us about how scared she was, before meeting Chopra Jr, especially because of the digs taken on him in Love Sex Aur Dhokha, which she had edited. She said, “I was so scared of meeting him and to see him angered if he found out that she had edited that film. I used to avoid meeting him.” She adds, “He was a total sport and said that he had watched and liked LSD.” Namrata is now editing the Shahrukh Khan-Katrina Kaif starrer, being directed by the veteran, Yash Chopra. She is totally smitten by how Sr Chopra ensures that everyone is having a good time, while working on his film. Namrata calls him a totally different school of filmmaking, as he knows exactly how he wants things done. She also spoke about how much she loved Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and now she is editing a film in which Shahrukh Khan is playing the romantic hero. Smiling like a gushing fangirl, she said that she even called up her mother, just while she was at the editing console, watching King Khan serenading Katrina.
The Next Cut:
Namrata has found a comfortable space for herself in the Bollywood terra firma and is in no rush to make her own films in the capacity of a director. For now, she is planning to buy a car soon, because she can’t stand the pollution in the city and is afraid of contracting asthma.
Note- This conversation happened just a short while before the release of Jab Tak Hai Jaan.