Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A time of excitement


Director Lal is busy with the post-production work on ‘In Ghost House Inn’, which will be released soon. He talks about his daily schedule, as well as some secrets of his trade

By Shevlin Sebastian

It is a busy time for director Lal. Post-production work is going on for his new film, ‘In Ghost House Inn’. The film is slated for release on March 25.

At present the sound mixing is being done and Lal did not like the sound at a particular section in the film. But one recent morning when he got up, at 6.30 a.m., his unconscious mind had supplied the solution. Excitedly, he called the sound engineer and passed the news.

At 8.30 a.m. the director was in his Lal Media studio at Padivattom with the engineers and they had started tinkering with the sound. Every now and then Lal would listen in on the earphones and make a suggestion.

This went on till 1.30 p.m. Then Lal went home for lunch, had a small nap and returned to the studio at 4 p.m. He worked till 6 p.m., came home for a game of badminton in the backyard of his bungalow with friends. “This is my way of keeping fit,” he says. After a bath and dinner, he was back at the studio and worked till 1 a.m.

When he returns, without fail, every night, he will watch a film in his home theatre. One of the recent films he liked was ‘The Terminal’, starring Tom Hanks.

For Lal, it is a time of great excitement. ‘In Ghost House Inn’ is taking its final shape. There is a strong possibility that the film will be a hit. Lal has been a successful director for long. Some of his hits include ‘Ramji Rao Speaking’, ‘In Harihar Nagar’, ‘Godfather’, and ‘Vietnam Colony’.

He has a foolproof method to make a good film: he repeatedly shows it to his family. By studying their reactions, he is able to eliminate mistakes, poor characterisation, and flagging pace.

“A couple of weeks ago, I showed my family a rough cut of ‘In Ghost House Inn’, with only the dialogue and picture, but no sound or music,” he says. “They laughed a lot.” But when the sound was added, they were a lot less merry. Lal was puzzled. He spoke to each member individually and concluded that, at certain sections, the music had become too heavy.

So Lal instructed music director Alex Paul to make it light-hearted, like in a Tom and Jerry cartoon film. “The audience was able to relax and enjoy the scene,” he says.

Lal’s family is his best audience, because they are honest. “They know that the success or failure of my film will have a direct bearing on the fortunes of the family,” he says. “If I asked for your reaction, you will think, ‘Why should I tell the truth and hurt Lal?’”

Meanwhile, Lal, unwittingly, hurts his family. Once the shooting begins his behaviour changes dramatically. “Where normally I am friendly and jovial with my wife, son and daughter, I get irritated quickly,” he says. “When we travel in the car, I don’t want to hear music. I am always pre-occupied. They do get upset by the change in my attitude.”

But everything changes when the film is released and it has become a success. Last year, when ‘2 Harihar Nagar’ had a superb box office collection in the first three days, Lal switched off his cell phone and took his family for a 10-day holiday to China. “I had a great time and so did the family,” he says, with a bright smile. But he is always happy to come back home to Kochi, his birthplace.

So what has he to say about the benefits of the city for the film industry?

“Kochi has good locations for shooting,” he says. “There is the airport, shipyard, railway stations, and good beaches. There are forests, hills, and scenic villages nearby.” There are dubbing and DTS mixing studios. “The only drawback is that we don’t have a colour lab,” he says.

His other complaint is about the theatres. “Theatre owners rarely take the trouble to upgrade their facilities,” he says. He is also put off by the rude way the staff behaves with the patrons -- the shouting and the lack of courtesy.

Lal says, “What further devalues the viewing experience are the cramped seats, the poor sound, and the bad state of the toilets.”

(This column looks at the daily life of leading personalities)

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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