Nuts & Bolts

nutsnboltsIF you’ve stayed through the final credits of a film, you must have wondered about some of the odd-sounding job titles rolling up the screen. A gaffer isn’t someone who supplies the laugh track,and a grip does much more than the image you just conjured up of him.Who better to explain the term than Sanjay Sami, key grip and director of The Grip Works, a reputed grip rental company in the country. The Guru, The Bourne Supremacy, Marigold and Gandhi Vs Gandhi—Sami’s name is attached to all these films. ‘‘We’re responsible for figuring out the detailed logistics of transforming a director’s vision into an actual physical shot,’’ he says. Which, in layman’s language, means the combined task of fixing cameras, lights and other equipment to make a shot possible.

Although the grip crew is made up of technicians who handle different aspects of the shoot, the key grip, along with the head electrician (gaffer) and the cinematographer, form the core of the technical crew that executes the director’s vision. The common impression that the skills of a key grip are tested only in action films is a misnomer. ‘‘A gaffer and a grip work with each other, and if they are good at their job, the final product will turn out to be seamless and their effort will be invisible. You never say, ‘what great grip work’, says Jehangir Chowdhury, director of photography, The Rising.

Anil Mehta, who has shot films like Veer-Zaara, Lagaan and Marigold, says, ‘‘Although the nomenclature didn’t exist in our industry earlier, we always had people who did the work, like crane and track operators. But in the last 10 years, film-makers have become concerned about technical finesse. So there’s a need for people with skills across the board.’’

With many more Western film crews coming to India to shoot, Sami’s brand of service is more and more in demand. But it isn’t just Hollywood and ad film producers hiring a professional grip company. Directors Farhan Akhtar and Honey Irani have employed grips in their films and more directors are looking for an umbrella technical crew.

His current team of eight technicians have been trained solely by him. The crew, all in the age group 25 to 35, recently wrapped up Ashvin Kumar’s The Forest, and a Tarsem-directed cola commercial shot in Jaipur and Jaisalmer, and will be starting on Akhtar’s Don by the end of January.

From The Guru, shot in Delhi and New York, to the Matt Damon-starrer The Bourne Supremacy, shot in Goa, and Tarsem’s upcoming The Fall, which was shot in Ladakh, South Africa and the deserts and cities of Rajasthan, Sami’s crew has travelled extensively with film crews. ‘‘We’ve rigged cameras atop helicopters, dropped them off buildings, made them run from one mountain to another and fixed them on cars, speedboats and elephants,’’ he says. Patrick Crowley, producer of The Bourne Supremacy, recently said in an interview that Sami was one of the best key grips he had ever worked with.

A challenging shot Sami set up recently was for the action-adventure film The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb, due to release this year, in which the director needed to show demons flying off the top of the Amer Fort, in Jaipur, and attacking people on the ground. ‘‘We put up 100 metre cables from across the top of the fort, at a height of 60 feet and hung cameras from them, and then filmed the scene from the demons’ point-of-view, zooming in on their targets,’’ says Sami. And of the other big Hollywood film touching our shores, he says, ‘‘I can’t lay any claims on Shantaram yet.’’

Indian Express, January 29 2006