February 28, 2010
Last week I was shooting a short film. One of the shots required a cockroach - live and moving. I am staying with my friend these days and his flat has no cockroaches! So, I asked our cook - Teju ji, to get some.
Teju ji is one of the best cooks I have seen. And he loves cooking and serving, and blushes when you compliment him on the great taste of his food. But apart from cooking, and a basic maintenance of the house, his approach towards other tasks is habitually negative. So, a task as weird as arranging for some cockroaches was met with severe rejection - "How can someone do that?"
I had the option of removing the shot from the shooting script, but I hated to do that. The story was set in an apocalyptic future, and a five second shot of a cockroach was adding so much more meaning to it. So, I urged Teju ji to go and talk to the cooks of the nearby hotels. I handed him a hundred-rupee note and said - "You can get anything if you are willing to pay."
Five of them were obtained a couple of days before the shoot. Teju ji kept them in a Baskin-Robbins dabba, with some food in it. It took us thirty minutes of shoot time to get the desired shot from the arthropods. The camera and light men, along with Teju ji had a blast - trying to make the cockroach behave the way we wanted them to, as my patience was being tested, sitting at the monitor. I didn't get the perfect shot, but I decided to give up trying.
A little trick on the edit table, and the shot is almost as good as it was conceived. The cockroach appears perfect. At Rs twenty each, these were perhaps the costliest ones in the millions of years of their existence. And yes, they did show some attitude during shoot. After all, they were facing a motion picture camera. They, already, are stars!