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Life & Times of an INDUSTANI: Six Degrees of Separation

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Shiv Kunal, or Fauji as we called him, had always had a mastery over words right from the time he edited the extremely popular Fag Magazine in Doon School. Two and half score and some years later he has written Industani that takes a vice-like grip on the reader from the very onset of the book till the very end, for his journey through life has been nothing but incredible. This book simply defies classification, for it is quite literally in a realm all of its own. For the younger generation, most of whom are millennials, this is an incredible narrative of the country’s contemporary history, even if it is indeed one man’s story!

Major General Jagatbir Singh

Former GOC 1 Armoured Division

The Garhwal Post serializes the third of the six extracts that are virtual trailers, from INDUSTANI as a prelude to the books release on Sunday, 13 November.

By SHIV KUNAL VERMA

Chapter –X

Project Tiger: The New Kid in Town

Who needs film school? It’s a joke, the teaching of all the technical stuff over three to four years. Having seen Prashant shoot, I knew how a camera had to be clamped onto a tripod and ‘stuff’, so with a few tips from Shankar, I started having a ball. I had my still camera, so I figured out what the light was like and then nothing escaped my attention. From sunsets where the sun travelled along in the water with the boat, to mudskippers, various types of crabs, the vegetation, the birds, the people, the deer and the rhesus monkeys foraging on the tidal flats, I got it all. Only thing that eluded me was the tiger!

Just as well, for had I got the tiger also, I have no doubt that Bittu (Sahgal) would have killed me, for everything I had shot was an unmitigated disaster, being horribly over exposed. Having returned to Bombay, I had handed over the film cans to Adlabs and returned to Delhi. Four days later, Bittu, along with Dipti Bhalla were watching the footage as it was being projected in the min-theatre. I am told the conversation went something like this as Bittu held his head in his hands: ‘That… that… that…’ he could not get himself to say my name, and his Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, upbringing was restraining him from using other invectives. ‘Just look at that shot! If only he had his exposures right!’

It soon dawned on Dipti that I was actually shooting without a light meter. It was her turn to look incredulous, while Bittu then looked sheepish. Subsequently, for years Dipti would claim she saved me from being lynched and her appreciation of my camera angles, whatever could be seen, gave me a second chance. I was then dutifully called to Bombay, and Bittu handed me a fancy-looking German made light meter and said cheerfully that I was to leave for Palamau in Bihar in the next couple of days. I insisted on watching the Sundarbans footage that evening and made a mental note that I was approximately three to four stops over in all the shots. As we packed up that night and pulled down the bunk bed that folded into his study wall, Bittu was in a very upbeat mood. He had spent eighty thousand bucks on the meter, and with that fancy thing, I would have no more excuses. After Bittu left, I looked at the gadget, and for the life of me, could not figure out how it worked. No worries, I thought, Shankar would know how to use it.

 

I had simply not had the time to figure out the light metre, so in the morning, as we waited for Field Director R. C. Sahai to arrive, Shankar and I were figuring out how it worked. With the camera mounted on the field director’s jeep, we then headed into the forest. I had yet to take my first shot when we came to a small water body, and I decided to look into the water to see if there were any fish, when… plop! My light meter fell into the water! It was retrieved soon enough but it was completely ruined. Logic suggested I eat crow, pack up the shoot, and head back to Bombay, but then, what the heck, who needed a light metre because I knew I was off by three stops the last time around. So once again I started reverting to the exposures I was getting, arriving at what I thought should be the aperture, and then stop it down three times. It was inverted math at best but then, there had to be a Plan B and I couldn’t think of anything else.