irst-time filmmaker Shivajee Chandrabhushan’s 110-minute, starkly beautiful black- and-white film, Frozen, set in remote, snow-lined Ladakh, won the Special Jury Prize at Delhi’s recent Osian’s-CineFan. The film is the journey of a father and his son and teenaged daughter, seen through the daughter’s eyes. 35-year-old producer-director Chandrabhushan talks about his own journey in the making of his award-winning debut film.
Upbringing: I am Delhi born and a graduate in Sociology from Delhi University. I did some theatre in Delhi as an actor and dabbled in painting, woodcraft, poetry. My wanting to be a professional cricketer did not happen. I think I always was a good storyteller. In class when there was a free period, I told stories to keep the kids entertained. Being a sort of a rebel shows in my creative pursuits, be it cinema or photography.
Work experience: I moved South to Chennai and Bangalore, working as a consultant on setting up internet cafes - and I owned an event management company. I also was a regular voice-over artiste for Hindi programmes, advertisements and TV. I came to Mumbai eight years ago, giving voice-overs to Hindi Discovery Channel and NGC. I then took up photography, and opened my own production house, Seagull Media Productions, to make serials and music videos. I think subconsciously I was working on film scripts.
Filmmaking: I started a feature called Palak on the psychological condition called Rapid Eye Movement Behaviour Disorder, which got stalled when I met cinematographer Shanker Raman. We switched to making Frozen when I told him its storyline.
The script: My childhood experiences of having imaginary friends and my own perceptions helped me develop the film. I wanted to remove the romantic view people have of Ladakh, giving its real local flavour. The black-and-white makes its visual experience more graphic. It was shot in colour, then digitally intermediated to black and white, and finally printed on black and white stock to get the tonality we needed. The film was processed at Deluxe Lab in Los Angeles.
The funding: I put in my own money, taking loans, and family and friends pitching in. Due to money delays there were sudden vacancies in our unit, which were filled by sound designer Vivek Sachidanandan introduced by our editor Shan, and music director John P Varkey. Being from FTII they jelled well, prepared for financial constraints. Last-minute, everything came to a halt, as money ran out. I had completed the shoot and was looking to finish the post production. When Berlin and Cannes showed interest, we couldn’t deliver the finished print. Phat Phish Motion Pictures saw the rough cut and offered completion funds. They are my associates now.
The shoot: We are the first to shoot a complete feature film in the Ladakh winter, logistically a very tough shoot (my website www.frozen.co.in describes it). I love mountain climbing and trekking, so am attuned to high landscapes. We shot the film in February 2006 over 32 days at 15,000 feet above sea-level. There was no green anywhere. We wanted that look since it goes with the film’s name, symbolic of the mind of the people who are running under threat of being displaced. The army is very visible in Ladakh because of its strategic location. I wanted to touch on their psychological conflicts. The film was shot in Stakmo, an hour’s drive from Leh.
Actors: Danny Denzongpa fitted well with the character of Karma. He is a Buddhist and the son of a monastery head-priest. This is his 150th film. He loved the script and when I showed him pictures of the locales, he was on. Mumbai’s Gauri, an untrained artiste with a sharp, intelligent mind, was cast as Lasya from the start. The boy Angchuk, a brilliant actor, as Chomo, was chosen in Ladakh. Yashpal Sharma and Raj Zutshi’s high calibre registers in the scenes they play.
Osians: The festival, my first, was a tremendous experience. I could talk to media although Frozen has no stars and Danny could not be present. The film has been asked for by festivals around the world. In India, festivals in Kolkata, Kerala, Hyderabad, and Goa also want the film.