Location Diaries: The long and shot of it
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film, and this week it's NOTA
Telugu actor Vijay Deverakonda makes his Tamil debut this week with director Anand Shankar’s NOTA. The energetic Shot Number song from the film, featuring Vijay dancing in a pool, went viral recently. The shooting for it, however, was no cakewalk for the actor. Not by a long shot!
The song was originally planned to be shot in one long, single take. Vijay had to dance inside a pool with 70 dancers surrounding him, at a theme park. He had rehearsed his steps briefly the day before. Not very fluent in Tamil, Vijay wanted the lyrics too, in order to be well prepared. However, he was told the lyrics would be provided only during the actual shoot, but was assured that they would be brief, easy-to-learn sentences.
He found to his dismay that this was far from true. “The lyrics were quite long and I didnt have enough time to learn them. Since I had to hold a camera near my face in the song, it was imperative for me to get the lip sync perfect. So I had to quickly prepare to make sure I got the pronunciation right.”
Under Brinda master’s watchful eye, the dancing began, and for some steps, Vijay had to dance underwater. In the process, he inadvertently swallowed a lot of water. “Several kids and families had been inside that pool before us. We were all wondering if anyone had peed inside the pool, but we had no choice!” he says with a laugh.
Shooting 70 dancers in a single take also proved challenging. “Many times we got it perfectly till someone missed a cue right near the end! So we had to start all over again from the beginning. It was most exhausting. We kept glaring at Anand for conceptualising such a tough song.”
The director, meanwhile, began to notice that strangely enough, whenever he left the room, things ran without a hitch. So Anand actually stood outside the room the whole time and would enter only when he heard claps of a successful take.
Eventually, they realised it was just too ambitious an idea and that the song could not be shot in a single take as planned. So they resorted to a little cinematic trickery. “There are a few hidden cuts in between. I want to see if audiences can spot where those cuts actually are placed,” says Vijay.