It’s not often you hear a song that can bring you to tears and shake something deep inside you. Even rarer to watch a music video so intimately constructed and so breathtaking in its simplicity. The new music video for Prateek Kuhad’s cold/mess beautifully captures the raw, emotional ups and downs of a relationship – the effortlessness of a first love, the pain of heartbreak, and everything in between. Starring Zoya Hussain and Jim Sarbh, the visually striking video left even Kuhad with goosebumps.
The video was made by Jugaad Motion Pictures, a close-knit team of people whose friendship, warmth and passion show through in their work. To get a closer look into the making of this video, Homegrown talked with writer/director Dar Gai and cinematographer Aditya Varma, whose sincere reflections on the filmmaking process and creative journey are as delightful as the video itself. Both Dar and Aditya spent a good portion of the chat graciously complimenting and admiring the work of their colleagues, all of whom have worked together on many projects before.
“Everyone just trusted the process. So much was happening so fast. I wanted to keep that kind of French independent film approach to the camera, a fly on the wall technique. There were so many intimate scenes; you need to almost have blind trust for the director. I think Jim and Zoya are the only people I know that could pull this off. Most of the scenes you see are first takes. If you thought their chemistry was incredible it’s because of their ability to feel the emotions and project them so sincerely – they’re incredible actors,” gushes Dar when I asked her about her experience directing this video.
Dar is a Ukrainian filmmaker who’s been living in India for the past 7 years. She directed Namdev Bhau (with Aditya as the DOP), which premiered at MAMI earlier this year, as well as Teen Aur Aadha (which starred Jim Sarbh and Zoya Hussain too). Both Dar and Aditya were thrilled when they were approached by Prateek Kuhad – easily India’s most popular indie singer/songwriter – and right from its conception the video was meant to be a deeply personal, intimate undertaking. Although they initially had some concerns about whether they could pull it off, it was their producer, Dheer Momaya, who ultimately gave them the courage. “What kind of a filmmaker are you if you don’t take risks?’ he said to me, and it just stuck,” says Dar.
The video opens with a tender scene where Jim and Zoya share a lemon tart, and gradually moves from the happier moments shared by the couple to letting the cracks in their relationships through, bringing out their insecurities and fights. “It’s a toxic relationship, but it’s not about someone bad or someone good,” says Dar. “It’s just about two normal, good people who just can’t be together. You can’t explain it logically. You can’t put it into words. They’re just in a transition in their lives where they’re toxic for each other, pulling each other down and down and down.”
“What I never wanted to show is why they can’t be together or who is wrong in this relationship. Because no one is wrong and that’s not the point,” she continues. “There’s five different scenes of Zoya leaving, with five different clothes and five different bags – it’s the stages of their love unfolding. For me it was such a strong visual tied to my personal experience that I think a lot of people would be able to relate to.” In fact, many people have shared their stories, appreciation and even fan art with the team. The video has close to half a million views on YouTube in less than week.
“We shared a lot of really intimate details of our personal toxic relationships. It was really about finding and ensuring those small moments made it in the film,” adds co-producer Hari Mina Bala.
Dar tells me about wanting to keep the video concept focused on simplicity despite being told my many other industry professionals to try out something more complicated. “It’s such a complicated emotion, such a complicated energy between two people, there’s no need to further complicate it with a narrative,” she says as she describes the care with which she wrote the opening lemon tarts scene. “A little off in either direction and it would have been too cheesy,” she chuckles.
The soft palette and nostalgic feel of the visuals complement the song’s moving lyrics, and adds to the overall emotional experience. The film is shot entirely on a 16mm film camera – which, other than having very few modern functions, is incredibly heavy. Aditya tells me about the excitement he felt when he found out he could shoot on film, having never had the opportunity to do so before.
“It was a very special shoot because I am a huge fan of Prateek’s – he’s an absolute gem who I admire so much – and I’d heard the song way before I knew we were doing the video. The concept was very simple, but to get that simplicity was very difficult. There was no monitor on the camera for others to look at what was being filmed – everyone was relying completely on my own vision. It was crazy. Most of the shots were handheld, the camera is so heavy that no one else could carry it. I did the storyboard as I would if it were a digital, so I included many close-ups. But I didn’t realise on the 16mm I had to be so physically close to the person, every time. We lit up the shots without knowing what they would even look like – despite all my calculations of aperture and stuff. Yeah, it was difficult,” Aditya laughs.
He goes on to tell me that he also edited the video, and as the person who actually filmed it too, making decisions to cut even the most beautiful footage was a challenge. He was, however, extremely happy with the end result and all the effort that went in. “The song is filled with so much emotion. I went through a bad break up myself and I saw it in the video,” he says, remembering how the first cut gave him both goosebumps and tears. “We all came up with our own experiences and put that in the script. It was all in those little details – it was just amazing.”
If you enjoyed reading this, we suggest you read: