Location Diaries: A lesson learned
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film, and this week it is Seethakathi
The trailer of Seethakathi has gone viral, with mounting appreciation for Vijay Sethupathi in the lead role. But the film directed by Balaji Tharaneetharan is special to another actor as well. Gayathrie, who has done a small cameo in the film, also doubled up as an assistant director.
The actor, who recently won an award at the India Film Project 2018 for directing a short film, says that apart from the technical aspects of filmmaking, she learnt quite a practical lesson while working as an AD to Balaji. "Seethakathi was a completely new experience because I worked as an AD as well as an actor on the set. On one busy day, we were shooting at Semmozhi poonga and it was a long shot. So all the ADs were helping clear the crowd and making sure nobody walked into the frame by mistake."
But despite their efforts, a bunch of guys ended up standing inside the frame. To Gayathrie's horror, it was too late before anyone noticed and so the take was okayed with the unknown intruders in the shot.
"Since it was a really long shot, which needed a lot of co-ordination and choreography, retakes were not an option," says Gayathrie, whose next task was to make sure the guys did not leave and stayed in frame for the next few shots for the sake of continuity. "We spoke to them and they agreed to stay. But by the time the next shot was set up, we discovered to our horror that the guys were gone! We went into complete panic mode. We set out in all directions looking for them but we couldn't find them anywhere inside the poonga."
With time running out, they suddenly hit upon an idea. "We got other people with similar colour shirts to what those intruders had worn, to stand in the background and somehow managed to finish the shot."
That day, Gayathrie admits, she learnt a very important lesson in filmmaking. "As an AD it's not enough to know technical details, you need to be able to think on your feet."