Ms. Fauzia Khan, Vice President, Ad Films division, Spatial Access and Executive Producer(EP) on Hamid, shares her two-cents on how the film is a low-budget movie yet well directed and cinematically shot.
As a cost advisor on ad films, feature films and still shoots, I come across hundreds of projects every year. But last year was notable because not only did we advise on varied projects, but I also happen to work as an executive producer(EP) on Hamid, produced by Yoodlee Films, the film arm of Saaregaama and directed by Aijaz Khan. Though I have worked as a producer many times before, Hamid was special as it was a compelling narrative set against a conflict-ridden Kashmir.
Hamid is a story of a Kashmiri boy who in the process of trying to find his disappeared father, uses his father’s phone and ends up connecting with ‘God’, which unknown to him, is a CRPF jawaan. Two fractured souls, set against the conflict zone of Kashmir, find solace and eventually redemption.
Shooting Hamid was a life time experience. Along with the warmth and bonhomie of the Kashmiris came resistance from some mischief makers, as our set was pelted with stones on several occasions. The clang of the stone on the tin roof, and the camera team would scoop the camera and scramble to safety, followed by the entire crew. After five minutes, the team would walk back and start setting the shot, as though nothing had happened. Then there was an instance where we were asked to pack up ASAP as a terrorist was lurking around and another had been slayed nearby by the forces. On another occasion, when we were trying to create a riot scene, it got more than its share of attention. The Director and the DOP were taken into custody! But there was enough ‘junoon’ to complete our labour of love…against all odds.
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As the Executive Producer of the film, amongst the challenges were completing the shoot in 30 days, in a conflict- ridden Kashmir, within an extremely tight budget. This meant shooting at least 3 to 4 scenes a day. Moreover, the Director had a set of requirements that he did not want to compromise on, regardless the budgets. The trick was to create an amiable and fertile ecosystem in which the crew and the artists could flourish. This meant being able to create good quality content frugally. With a 7.7 rating on IMDB, Hamid won a Diploma of Honour for Best Film on Peace at Fajr International Film Festival, Tehran. It won the Best Film and the Best Actor award at the UK Asian Film Festival, the Audience Award for Best Film at The Dallas International Film Festival, Best Director and Best Actor at the Jaipur International Film Festival, and several other awards, and continues to do the rounds of festivals across the globe.
As I reflect, one big learning for me as an EP was that fancy equipment and other frills do not necessarily translate into a good film. Good script, meticulous planning, curating a good team are the pre-requisites. With limited resources at your disposal, one learns to improvise, and make the most of it. For example, since a steadicam was out of the budget, we mounted the camera on a scooter, held firmly by the DOP. Yes, it may not give a stable shot, but it served the purpose nonetheless.
This contrasts with my day job where I see many over budgeted ad films being passed for ‘quality’. The fact that one can achieve quality on a low budget is perhaps out of fashion and vehemently unacceptable by agencies, production houses and clients alike. Now you can imagine my reaction when production houses tell me that a 3 crore budget for a TVC is tight! I am often tempted to tell them about my Hamid experience and its budget!
– Fauzia Khan