Sohum Shah’s Tumbbad was in the making for six years. While his team had conviction in the project, editor Sanyukta Kaza’s contribution towards the period horror drama is noteworthy.
Tumbbad came to Sanyukta when it was in its last leg of shooting. This, after the film had already faced several production hassles. “The first thing I did when I joined was to delete all of the previous work as I find it easier to start from scratch than to work off someone else’s edit,” revealed Sanyukta in an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com.
“Of course, there were several gorgeous looking shots but they did nothing except looking good. I felt the overall story at that time lacked focus and depth. What helped me was while they were shooting, I could suggest a couple of things. For example, when I was seeing the rushes of the grandmother’s scene where she is dragging the kid in the alley, I felt if we add fire in the kid’s hand that would make the action more dynamic,” she added.
Sanyukta Kaza revealed how she asked the film’s director Adesh Prasad to write the dialogues again after she re-arranged the edit post coming onboard. Recalling the grandmother’s tree scene, she said, “I remember Adesh walking out of the room calling it un-editable. I eventually deleted all the dialogues, found the only useable stable shots and put them in a certain order and then called Adesh and asked him to re-write the dialogues according to the edit. You could say the final draft of the writing began with the editing. Structuring narrative is as much a job of the writer as it is for an editor.”
Tumbbad is inspired by Indian folklore, with human greed being at the core of its plot. The period film is set in British India and revolves around the character of Vinayak, played by producer-actor Sohum Shah who sets out on a treasure hunt only to get trapped in its vicious cycle because of his selfish desires.
Tumbbad plays a lot on montages and symbols. But that wasn’t intended from the word go. Sanyukta explained how she picked up pieces in the edit. “The information comes in bits and pieces at different points in the narrative. I worked very closely with Adesh in making this humongous list of unanswered questions of the narrative and then picking up scenes where they could be cleverly answered,” she shared.
Sanyukta Kaza, who has previously worked on films including Ship of Theseus, apart from projects for digital platforms like Love Per Square Foot and Bang Baaja Baaraat, has also been credited as the Creative Producer for Tumbbad. Recalling how the VFX scenes were very difficult to manage in the film, she said, “All of it was shot with no track marks and a constantly moving camera, which is the exact opposite way you shoot a VFX heavy film. There were 14 minute takes of Hastar moving around randomly making faces as there was no choreography done on location. Thankfully the decision was taken to recreate Hastar entirely in 3D from scratch. It was very hard to make choices because what worked as a film-cut, didn’t always work for the VFX. There were a lot of shots that were not even shot, but we made them in VFX.”
So does Sanyukta feel that editing as a craft is still under-appreciated in Bollywood? “It’s a beautiful craft. I am obsessed with it. If a film works, it’s got a lot to do with story, performances, and editing, in that order. A good story and performances are very visible elements, but editing remains under-appreciated because it can’t be seen. But any filmmaker worth his salt knows how a film can be saved or lost on the editing table.”