Shooting Sadda Adda on location. Photo courtesy Harvey Glen.
Harvey Glen was thrilled when he was approached to shoot writer-director Muazzam Beg’s feature film Sadda Adda, which is Hindi for “Our Den.” The film centers around six men who have just finished school, and all live in one house. It follows their journey through life–some fun, others tragic–but all a reflection on the struggles that young people go through to reach their goals.
“After reading the script and knowing that producers Rajeev and Tarun Agarwal had a huge amount of trust in me, I was incredibly keen,” says Glen. “I met Muazzam Beg in Mauritius on the initial scout and immediately could see his passion for the film, which was totally infectious. I knew it was going to be something incredibly special and I had to be part of it.”
Since the film details the emotions of heartbreak, death, torment and success, Beg and Glen decided to treat each scene individually. “Most Bollywood films are very colorful and slick just because that’s their nature and what the traditional genre demands,” says Glen. “Muazzam was keen to break away from that and give the film a more ‘European feel,’ as he puts it. This allowed me to light for the individual situation and emotion.”
Glen showed Beg Black Swan (shot by Matthew Libatique, ASC) and Love and Other Drugs (shot by Steve Fierberg, ASC) as references. “I thought he might have found Black Swan’s style a little too extreme but he loved it,” says Glen. “We didn’t go as dogma, but certain scenes–like the suicide of character–allowed me to experiment with the look and feel without falling into the trap of a cliché. I also wanted him to see the beautiful light shot in the apartment in Love and Other Drugs.”
When discussing format choice for Sadda Adda, Glen, who has primarily shot digitally, said the producers were adamant about shooting film. “The producers said that a film in India is only considered a ‘real’ film if it is shot on 35mm,” says Glen. “This was music to my ears!”
Glen tested a variety of stocks and chose KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219, KODAK VISION2 50D Color Negative Film 5201, and KODAK VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 5213. His camera package included an ARRIFLEX 435 Xtreme and an ARRIFLEX 235 for some car chase scenes.
For lenses, Glen chose a full set (10-100mm) of ARRI Master Primes for their sharp resolution and image quality. “On any one day I could use the full set of lenses depending on the emotion of the scene, location and situation,” explains Glen. “On practical locations I did use wider lenses to establish the scene, but tried my best to compress them as much as possible—generally backing up against walls. I also carried an Optimo 24-290mm for long lens work. This was especially helpful when we were picking up shots of our characters in crowded Delhi. I could essentially hide behind something and pick them out. In India, crowds gather very quickly when they see you filming.”
Over the course of production, the filmmakers used a dolly, ride-on crane and Steadicam, as well as relied on some handheld work. “We did whatever felt right for the scene,” says Glen. “On one particular steamy scene where one of the two main characters ends up kissing, I persuaded Muazzam that handheld was the way to go. Although this wasn’t the traditional treatment we discussed, we ended up shooting the whole scene in one single take.
The post was entirely done in Mumbai at RajTaru Studios. There is almost no CGI except for a dream sequence that was shot greenscreen in Delhi.
Glen says he was surprised by how quick it is to shoot on film. “We had a HD IVS video assist that provides a reasonable monitoring picture, but I found I never needed to refer to it. I could light solely from my meter and eye, which when shooting digital is not always the case. I think this dramatically speeded up the shoot, but also added to the craft of cinematography. I think our final shooting ratio ended up being 4:1, which is quite remarkable. In the digital world people are so quick to shoot rehearsals or endless takes, and with film you do not shoot until fully lit and everyone is on their A game. I love this discipline, which I think you will only ever find with film.”