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The Making of ‘Mere Angne Main’
MUMBAI: Somewhere in the suburbs of Mumbai, a house is bustling with wedding preparations. The house is decorated brightly with flowers and lights, while many of its members are running around to get things in order. An alarm of some kind goes off suddenly, whereupon everyone quiets down and the shooting commences. This is the set of Star Plus’ one-hour daily fiction show ‘Mere Angne Main’.
Sphereorigins accepted the challenge of developing a story of Mughalsarai into ‘Mere Angne Main’. The show required about 40 minutes of footage every day, which was quite a challenge. Hence, the production house roped in production experts and enforced some rules to ensure maximum productivity.
For starters, this is the only show with a multi-camera set-up and a different production plan to manage such a shooting schedule.
Sphereorigins producer Sunjoy Waddhwa says, “The channel wanted to try out the one-hour format, so we had to get a multi-cam set-up and a different kind of production plan to ensure bulk and quality. It took a lot of time.”
As part of its production plan, Sphere roped in director Partho Mitra, who has helmed shows like ‘Shanti’ and ‘Banegi Apni Baat’; art director Rajat Poddar, who has won awards for ‘Barfi’ and also worked on films like ‘Murder’ (1, 2 and 3); writer Vinod Ranganathan, who has written for ‘Ishk Vishk’ and ‘Mast’; and dialogue writer Vinod Tharani, who has coached stars like Deepika Padukone.
Exploring the set, I see a mehendi sequence being canned. The director is a tough-looking man who walks onto the floor with assistants in tow. After scanning the set-up and checking the positions of the cameras, he asks for the script. He quickly runs through it and designs the scene for the next sequence.
Head of production Abdul Karim says, “The show has a multi-cam set-up where the planning needs to be concrete and executed swiftly. To achieve that, we need strong pre-production planning and scheduling because unlike other shows, we plan and shoot 20–25 scenes per day and no time can be wasted on the floor.”
Once the schedule is ready, the next day’s requirement is made clear, and before getting onto the floor, the team has a separate plan for the upcoming scenes. Once a scene is on, other artists get ready for the next scene.
As the show needs a multi-cam set-up, they have huge number of crew members. To deliver the content on time and manage the crew, the production house has prepared some deadlines and rules for everyone to follow.
“This show and such planning and execution were a new thing for everyone. However, before the start of the shooting, the director did a presentation in front of the entire unit, making us understand how the shoot for a one-hour show should go,” Karim states.
In a five-camera set-up, the shooting happens quickly and the time taken is only for preparation.
The first bell rings at 8:45 am, indicating that the technical check has started and the technical team needs to be on the floor. By 9 am, the second bell rings, meaning the check is complete and artists are coming on the floor. The third bell goes off at 9:20 am, indicating the start of a rehearsal. The bell keeps ringing intermittently throughout the day until 9 pm when everyone packs up for the day.
The artists too follow the same routine and have to report to the sets latest by lunchtime.
The actors also have to rehearse their lines well in advance and give one-take shots (5–12 minutes of dialogues). The director sits in the control room monitoring the eight cameras. Outside the control room is a sign board, which the director uses to communicate with the actors.
Having studied in an American film school, Mitra is well versed in multi-cam set-ups, but the challenge for him was execution.
“When Sunjoy told me about the show, I was very excited. But the challenge was to shoot one-hour content for six days. I had to make a module to show how the system will work. We run the show like clockwork, which requires a lot of work from everyone on the set. I have to be a hard taskmaster because the requirements are such,” Mitra explains.
Three months prior to the start of principal photography, Mitra took workshops with the crew where he created the system of bells. When the actors came on board, a weeklong workshop was held to help everyone understand the multi-cam set-up.
Sharing her experience from the set, senior actor Krutika Desai, who had earlier worked in a multi-cam set-up, says, “What really got me hooked onto the show was that the one-hour daily show would be shot with a four-camera set-up and we would be doing 2–3 scenes at one go. I have shot with a four-camera set-up before; however, technical finesse was not much of issue then, as it is today.”
The most ‘traumatic’ aspect of her experience has been the warning bell. “I thought I was done with school and the bell just brought me back there. One long bell means something and two long bells mean something else; it got me so confused. After a while, I forgot what the bells were for. Besides, it was so irritating that I just wanted to break that bell! I have decided not to conform to it and would listen to the director instead,” she laughs as she sits all decked up waiting for her shot to commence.
Mitra states, “The rules have to be followed and if the actors are late even by five minutes, they will be questioned because otherwise the whole system will fail. The schedulers discuss each scene with me and schedule it as per our system.”
While the production side has its own rules and regulations, the creative team too has tight deadlines.
A team member explains that they first draft a border arc of the story, then segregate each section as per the episode and decide what the hook point for the week should be.
“We need the script on time as the entire schedule will go haywire otherwise. The scenes are all connected. The story is tight so we have to prepare the scripts and dialogues in advance, and have to tell the characters what is coming up so they can mould themselves accordingly. The writing happens constantly. The storyline is made after meetings take place. Then the screenplay is readied after discussion with everyone.”
Presently, there are three writers—one for the broad story and two for the screenplay. Within the screenplay, one handles the episodes and the other does the dialogues.
The bell rings again and everyone readies for work. As the team members run in and out of the set for the final preparations, I quietly head for the exit before the principal (director) chides me for disrupting the shoot.