The rhythm of storytelling with Garry
Garry BH, who has carved a niche for himself as an editor with films like Kshanam, Goodachari, and Evaru, talks to us about his works.
Long before Garry became popular for his pacy editing in films like Kshanam, Goodachari, and Evaru, his life went through three stages, just like the three act structure of a film. In the first segment, he graduated with a degree in dentistry, but before he took it up professionally, he realised that his passion was photography. graduated with a degree in dentistry. However, he never took up the profession because his passion was photography. And then, his passion led him to learn the basics of cinematography. Ask him about how he ended up becoming an editor, Garry says, “It’s not something that I planned to do. It was more of a necessity while working on my videos and photographs. When my friend, Ravikanth got an offer to direct Kshanam, he called me to join the team. Initially, I was part of the camera department, but then, right from the script to the post-production, I was part of every discussion. Ravikanth had earlier worked with Adivi Sesh on Kiss as the editor, and when he became a director for Kshanam, I volunteered to be part of the editing team. After working on the edit, we showed the film to Sesh’s brother (Sai Kiran Adivi) and he asked a lot of questions about why I had edited a few shots in a certain manner. I had answers to all his questions. That’s when he remarked that I’m not an operator, but an editor. An operator will follow the instructions which he’s told by the director or someone else from the team, but an editor is inherently a storyteller, who shapes the flow and rhythm of a story.”
In less than four years after he began editing feature films, Garry has worked on 13 films, many of which have been thrillers. His most recent film, Evaru, starring Adivi Sesh and Regina, was a critical and commercial success, and Garry says that it’s also one of the trickiest films that he has worked on, so far. “Unlike Kshanam and Goodachari, Evaru isn’t a thriller. Evaru is more of a drama and there’s a lot of mind games between the principal characters. To sustain the drama at certain times and yet make it feel racy isn’t an easy task. It’s an extremely verbose film, to begin with. The story begins on a high note and it unfolds at breakneck speed before it slows down. There are elaborate sequences which focus on only on Adivi Sesh and Regina talking to each other. However, I can’t make it look boring while editing the film. I’ve worked with both Sesh and director Ramji in the past, and thankfully, all of us were on the same page about how the story must unfold. Ramji did a fabulous job in terms of choreographing the movements of the actors in the midst of their conversations. That helped me to find room to edit even the more verbose parts,” Garry says.
One of the sequences which the team struggled with, while editing, was a scene where Regina’s lawyer calls her to inform her that he has landed in Coonoor. “Since the scene comes quite early in the narrative, we couldn’t reveal their motive, and the two characters talk to each other quite a lot, we kept wondering if we were doing justice to it while editing it. Another scene where we had a lot of discussions was when Regina pushes Murali Sharma from the hilltop. It was more about what should be the length of that particular sequence. When it comes to a thriller, my primary objective is to not let the audience think too much while they are watching the film. Before they realise what’s happening, there needs to be another high moment in the story. Kshanam made people take notice of what we had done, and post the success of Goodachari, it was essential for us to keep the tempo high with Evaru too,” Garry says, adding, “I’m happy that the filmgoers too are appreciating the craft of filmmaking these days. Every time I read or see people talk about how racy the film is, I know I did something right. But I can’t take solo credit for any of this. It’s teamwork at the end of the day, and it’s important that each one of us deliver our best.”
Ever since he made his foray into Telugu cinema, Garry confesses that he relied a lot on the knowledge and wisdom of his peers and acclaimed technicians with whom he had worked with. Soon after he edited the trailer of Ghazi, Garry had a chance to interact with the film’s editor, Sreekar Prasad, and the conversation between them led Garry to change the way he works. “Sreekar Prasad spoke about how he and Mani Ratnam do script editing even before the film is shot, and it was quite intriguing because I had never done it before. After the conversation with Sreekar Prasad, I tried implementing it on a couple of films that I was working on, but it just didn’t work for us because the vision was different (laughs). One needs a lot of experience and wisdom to decide how a film will shape up post the edit, and this is where legends like Sreekar Prasad and other veteran editors stand out,” Garry says. However, the initial setbacks didn’t stop him from offering his suggestions during the shoot of his next film as an editor, Naga Shaurya starrer Ashwadhama, and he says that he’s quite excited about the results. “Usually, when we see how a film is shaping up on the edit table, the editor and director realise that few more shots would enhance the impact of a scene. With Ashwadhama, the team was open to suggestions during the shoot itself and we had elaborate discussions about how I was going to edit each scene, and depending on that certain shots were filmed. All these days, I’ve worked on thrillers, but Ashwadhama is both commercial and content-rich. I’m really excited about it.”
And then, there was Abburi Ravi, one of the prominent writers in Telugu cinema today, who gave Garry a sense of direction about what to keep in mind while editing a film. “Abburi Ravi is my mentor and my guru. In the initial days of my career as an editor, his guidance was crucial for me to figure out what I should be focusing on while editing a film. He taught me a lot about cinema, how a character should speak, how a character’s arc evolves, and what are the momentary highs and totality highs in a story. I’ve to keep all this in mind and then take a call whether I’m doing justice to the film or not. That’s the rhythm of storytelling that I’m trying to capture all the time,” Garry says, adding, “Another person who has had a huge impact on me is Adivi Sesh. He strongly believes in the idea that films, especially thrillers, need to have a heightened sense of realism and keep the audience on the edge of their seats. People say that the thrillers I’ve edited unfold at breakneck speed and it’s true. I don’t like giving an impression of a lag in a scene because people get distracted so easily these days. Another thing which I love doing is rhythmic editing and I’ve worked with music director Sricharan Pakala so much that I don’t need to sync the shot once he completes the background score.” So, what’s the downside to all this? “I’m scared that at some point the story will unfold at such a fast pace that people wouldn’t understand what’s happening. Your brain needs at least 3-4 seconds to grasp what’s happening on screen. I can’t push the audience to their limit either (laughs).”
Some of his best works, be it Evaru or Goodachari, have become popular for their twists in the stories. And Garry acknowledges that sometimes things are so obvious that anyone can guess what might be the big twist in the story. So, what’s the secret to editing a big twist in a film? “It’s not the twist itself that gives you a big high. The trick lies in the anticipation and how you build it all up until the big moment in the film. The key is to keep the people engaged emotionally to that point. We can’t give people a chance to think, especially when it comes to thrillers, and just when they think they have figured it all out, there needs to be another twist or a big moment, which will give you a visual rush too,” Garry says.