So here’s what the common man in India knows about a particular film. They know the name of the actors, directors and the films music directors, if more than one. Add a few singers if the song is a blockbuster hit. For the audiences, that’s what cinema is all about. But the real people who make it all happen are the technicians. Few of them and the most crucial individuals are the editors and the writers of the film. Enter Ashmith Kunder, the latest of the combinations of the two mentioned designations. Though he’s cut celluloid for some of the best in the business, chances are many film lovers wouldn’t even recognize the name Ashmith Kunder in a lineup of one of Bollywood’s most creative film editors. Farah Khan’s brother in law and Shirish Kunder’s brother is just what he was born with. But what describes Ashmith, is his passion and his belief, that a bad day in the cutting room is still better than a good day on any other job. UK’s Harrow Observer columnist and Bollywood Hungama‘s London correspondent talks to the writer of Tees Maar Khan and the editor of Lamhaa on industry’s lost identity and much more.
You’ve edited quite a few films before, so what’s so unique about the edit of Lamhaa?
The script of Lamhaa is the result of extensive research. The director had lots to say about the issue of Kashmir and the entire film was shot using 2 cameras. Though the film is based on real issues it is ultimately fiction and a Sanjay Dutt starrer. So I had to maintain a realistic edit structure and at the same time keep it stylish, edgy and fast paced to keep the audience engaged.
I have written Tees Maar Khan with Shirish Kunder
Many filmmakers say that a director has to be a great editor too. You think so and why?
Steven Soderbergh, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Takeshi Kitano, Robert Rodriguez are just a few names who are directors and editors. Do I need to say more?
Which of the films in the recent times has changed the way you look at editing?
It has mostly been the work of above-mentioned directors.
You’ve turned to writing too. Tees Maar Khan, a good debut to start off with?
I have written Tees Maar Khan with Shirish Kunder and it is directed by Farah Khan, who is one of the most successful directors in the country today. I couldn’t have asked for more. Of course it’s a good debut to start off with.
The makers give credit to a Lyricist who has written 4 songs, but never to an Editor who has contributed to 120 mins of the film
How important is it to write and then edit? I mean, while writing, do you often see the edit in your mind of the particular scene you write?
Absolutely! It’s a great asset for me that I can edit as well as write. The script which I’ve written is extremely crisp and to the point even before the shoot commences. It then facilitates a clear frame of mind to know what you want to edit in that scene.
As an audience who watches world cinema, which Hollywood films have inspired you over the years till date?
It’s rather impossible for me to name a few films. As a creative person, I and the many others, who watch world cinema, we learn, absorb and evolve from everything that we witness on screen…be it Hollywood or Haryanvi!
Why do you think writers don’t get due credit in our industry?
It is not just writers; most of the technicians also don’t get any due in our industry. To an extent the DOP gets money as well as billing in publicity. The other technicians are mostly ignored, be it the Writer or the Editor. The makers would rather give credit in publicity material to a Lyricist who has written 4 songs, which makes up for 20 mins in a film but never to an Editor who has contributed to 120 mins of the film!
So what’s the case in the South Indian Film Industry then?
That’s not the case with the south Indian film industry. For example: While I was Editing Kamal Haasan‘s Dasaavataram in Chennai, the taxi driver who picked me up enquired how I was involved with the film. When I told him that I was the Editor of Dasaavataram, he asked me how was that possible as all the films of Director KS Ravikumar are edited by one particular Editor. It took me some time to convince him that this was a special case as Kamal Haasan specifically wanted me to edit the film as it was a very complex one. Imagine a taxi driver, a common man, knows which Director works with which technician. I don’t see that day coming in the Hindi film industry anytime soon.
What are the challenges you face while writing a comic film. What’s the most difficult genre to tap into as a writer?
To be honest I hardly face any challenges in writing a comic film, as my forte lies in comedy. The only challenge is to write the comedy script keeping the budget in mind, as not many big stars are interested in doing comedy. No big stars mean – no budget for execution. Do you think any big star here will be interested in doing something like Austin Powers? That kind of a comedy film requires good budget for execution.
And the most difficult genre to tap into for any writer is one, which does not come naturally to him…. Like for me Horror doesn’t come naturally!
Do you think any big star here will be interested in doing something like Austin Powers?
From editing to writing; what next?
Apart from editing and writing, I am also a sound designer, Visual Effects supervisor and director of Ad films. In the immediate future other then editing, I am also looking at writing some interesting stuff for various other directors.