We came to Delhi intending only to stay for a couple of days, but somehow each trip to Delhi ends up being a week long. So we’re off to Himachal only tomorrow.
Our first base in Delhi had been at KP’s house – KP is Iswar’s friend from school. His photo will not make it here at the moment because Iswar is very jealous that he got to make it to the World Cup finals at Wankhade Stadium. Anyway when we got to Delhi we found out that KP is getting transferred to Mumbai, so we didn’t really do anything the first day here since Iswar spent all day torturing Richa – KP’s wife – and their baby Tejas, who has mastered the incredible skill of keeping a ready supply of tears just at the corners of his eyes, waiting to let them flow out at the slightest provocation.
So now we’re staying here with Parvez, an old friend of mine. For those of you who don’t know him, Parvez is a psychiatrist turned film maker who’s also a superb musician and loves to travel. He also runs a trekking company called Route Purple along with friends of his – I went on one trek with him a couple of years ago and he has a lovely mix of being very firm and no nonsense when it comes to safety and the basic rules of the trek (this earned him the nickname of Hitler from two girls on the trek who were very miffed at being woken up at the crack of dawn and having to head out on a long walk without time to put on their make up!) and completely relaxed and adventurous in every other way. Check out their treks at http://www.routepurple.com
Our main agenda while in Delhi was to visit the Centre for Ethnomusicology at the American Institute of Indian Studies in Gurgaon. This place has one of the widest collections of audio and video recordings of folk performances from around the country, and the audio centre is run by a very experienced and excellent sound technician called Umashankar who we met the last time we were in Delhi. He was the one who reminded us of the need for a ‘dead cat’ on our mike, to cut out the wind noise while recording sound out in open spaces. He’s also extremely well travelled and gave us some good and very accurate advice about the kind of folk performances and music we should look out for while in Rajasthan. Unfortunately this time around we couldn’t meet Umashankar – he was on leave – but we made use of the resources at the Centre. Here’s a photo of Umashankar from our last meeting.
We also got to meet Gautham, a film maker, also based in Gurgaon, who had also given us a lot of good advice on travelling in Rajasthan. Actually in just one month we’ve had a number of people who’ve helped us with information and tips on where to go and what to do and our thank you list is already threatening to be longer than the actual film!
Speaking of the film, Iswar and I have had repeated conversations about why we’re doing this trip and what the film could possibly be about. The one thing that both of us agree on is the need to keep the film very personal and not a clinical document of what we see and experience. But that’s easier said than done, and we’re still trying to figure out what that means in terms of how we shoot the film – what’s our style, do we do interviews, do we keep putting ourselves into the frame, do we just shoot at random and see what comes of it or do we go in search of something specific – if so then what is that specific. And that keeps bringing us back to what the ‘thread’ of our film could possibly be. Parvez walked into one such conversation and sowed the seed for an idea that really seems to bring everything that we’re doing together. I don’t want to talk about it just yet, except to say a big thank you to Parvez! J
Meanwhile we also have technical issues to sort out. The Nikon D 3100 is a great camera to shoot with but because of its size, weight and general build, it isn’t the best camera for doing hand-held shooting, which ends up being the bulk of our filming. So we’re trying to figure out how we can shoot – maybe create some sort of a rig – to stabilise our hand held shots.
This DSLR has somewhat decent sound quality but when you’re shooting on auto focus, you can hear the sound of the motor as it tries to focus on the subject so that makes the audio pretty unusable for the most part. It’s also definitely not good enough to record voices, so each time we need good sound we have to pull out the ‘zoom H2’ digital audio recorder that we’re carrying. This may not sound like a big deal, but when there’s only two of you and you have to handle a new camera, audio, and talking to people and you want to shoot stuff that’s spontaneous and not planned and set-up it can get a bit overwhelming. It’s a sort of rhythm of work that we need to get used to and I think it will come with a little more time and practice.
And if this wasn’t enough to deal with, we’ve just gotten another camera for the period of our travel, and that’s what we were waiting for in Delhi. Abhimanyu, a journalist and friend of mine from college, managed to convince Panasonic to give us a demo piece to film with, so we were pretty excited about that. With him in the photo is Charlie, who in Manyu’s words is a dog with a magpie mentality, and went quite berserk trying to steal Iswar’s socks.
Coming back to the camera, at the last minute we had an option between the Panasonic GF2 and the Sony Alpha 33 – both similar to DSLR cameras, but with slightly different technologies, and after a bit of research we went with the Sony. We had a bit of a crazy experience yesterday and today trying to find a spare battery and lens cap and UV filter for the camera – which took us all around Delhi – from Gurgaon to Nehru place and finally to Palika Bazaar, where we got somewhat lucky. None of the Sony showrooms or service centres anywhere in the city stocked any accessories for this new camera and they have no clue when and where we may get a spare battery. Sony is competing with the Nikon and Canon DLSR market but after today’s crazy search, I’m guessing that this would be one of the first things that would put any one off switching loyalties. Which is a pity because the camera looks pretty cool and I’m super excited about shooting video with it, one of the big thrills is that it has a flip-out LCD screen, something that’s not so common in DLSRs. It’s another new piece of equipment to get familiar with but we’re both super excited about it!
Ok we’re finally off early tomorrow morning, so must get some sleep. Leaving you with the first sunset shot on the new camera. Night!