The Great Rickshaw Race – India (Asian Academy of Film and Television)
The idea for this movie flashed in my head during a late night excursion home on a three wheeled rickshaw with my Bhutanese friend, Sonam. It was pitch dark in the late night after a fresh rain. Unsafe by any standards. A car made a uturn without seeing our rickshaw. Our driver was alert and pulled a hard 180 turn. We got up on two wheels and I though for sure we would topple over. The driver pulled us out of it and continued pedalling us home. I admired his skill and hard pedalling. A perfect image on which I could base my fiction “The great rickshaw race.”
Everyone loves a great race. When an announcement for a rickshaw race is nailed to a tree at the local chai hangout, three characters from diverse backgrounds begin to prepare in their own uniqe ways. The race brings out the conflicts, drama, and human emotions of each driver as they pedal their hearts out to win the grand prize…a new Rickshaw, and more importantly the fame of being the fastest rickshaw driver in the neighborhood.
The first challenge of making this movie was getting permission for using the neighborhood streets for a racetrack. I finally had my friend, Sudesh, work his magic with the neighborhood chief. There is a subtle art of persuasion and relationship building here in India. I am watching the professionals in action whenever I can. The first trick is speaking the language of the officials in charge. The second is figuring out who you may know in common. The third is having some sort of treat (booze, money, cigarrettes ready). My friend worked all his tricks and we finally got permission. He even gave us two security gaurds to help manage the crowds. The second challenge was the heat. Yet the neighborhood has a nice park and many trees so we were able to continue working for 8 hours. I had rented six rickshaws and coordinating them all to the scene was time consuming. Yet when I Yelled, “Silence on the set” everything seemed to fall into place and the race was on. My camera man rode on a rickshaw and took action shots from the front, side and back. We broke a few spokes on the wheels but fortunately no more damage was done. Our female lead, dressed as a boy, rode the rickshaw wonderfully for the first time. When we sped the racers up by 250 percent in the editing room, it was almost believable. In the end, “The great rickshaw race” won best short film and due to the collaboration between the sound, light, camera and acting teams, I won best Director.
What a great finish to the three month production/direction and tv journalism course at the Asian Academy of Film and Television. http://aaft.com/