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Ijjodu - Our 'step' into cinema...
- Geetha Ballal, Bangalore

April 28, 2010

For most of us, who use English as a language for all communications, IJJODU seemed like an alien word. After many an argument, we finally find that Ijjodu - meaning duality/two - was a film directed by MS Sathyu, an eminent filmmaker, and that Nritarutya was to choreograph and dance for the title track.

In the blink of an eye, everything around me seemed to buzz with excitement. "Now, turn your hip a little more," "hold that pose, now smile," "where's the file I saved yesterday?", 'you think this shade looks better on the eyes?", "I think red is the colour for costumes," "brighten those eyes - it's for the camera!!", "did you get those plaits?" My routines never got bored ever - research on what costumes to wear, what accessories needed to be purchased, what kind of 'look' to be presented, amid hectic rehearsals - each shot conceptualized, changed, focused, changed yet again.... It had to be perfect; after all it was our first movie.

The day arrives when my company and I have to travel to the location - the beautiful temple of Lakshminarayana in Belawadi - a village near Hassan. Our schedule for the coming 3 days was to finish the 5 minute title track, covering roughly about 40 shots. But first, I pick up my set of brush and paints, yes, paints, to finish up some unfinished leaves and lines on our stark red leotards.

Early next day, I wake up to loud knocks on the door and shouts from the production manager at sharp 4.30am - that's the way he likes waking his 'crew.' As we prepare for the first shot, rehearsing the movements, trying different angles with the camera and setting the lights, I am amused to see curious onlookers, who thought we were famous film personalities; few who dared, asked us our names and details of the film. I would often look at them and smile only to receive howls of laughter and sniggers in return... Sigh! So much for congeniality.

I would often find myself lost in the depths of this beautiful temple - delicately carved pillars, serene looking courtyards, brilliantly sculpted figures on the walls, above all the jet black idols of the Gods and Goddesses adorned with colourful flowers and the sweet smelling incense giving a heady feeling...

I bring together my concentration to the task at hand - we had to give our best in the hot sun, be it delivering complicated lifts with ease, moving perched on the slippery roof tops/gopuras without looking scared, hanging upside down on narrow stairs, rolling over a hundred marbles and not flinching, hanging from a shaky pipe, spinning plaits wildly without hitting anyone... the list is endless.

The heat of the place added more woes to my tired and tanned body. At times, when others were in a shot, I would collapse just about anywhere to catch a siesta.

One has to be innovative instantaneously; what works from the mind's eye may not always work from the camera. I was curious to know how the shots looked, whether the thought and concept of my choreographer was translated or not. How did the composition look? Did I do a good presentation? Well, I must say I'm quite proud to see the result of this very exciting shoot. What's more, the movie has been specially screened at prestigious film festivals like TIFF (Trishur International film festival), OSIANS film festival, Delhi, and Panorama-IFFI (International film festival of India).

The shoot has taught me a lot of things, patience being one of the prime most. As I waited for the shots to be set up, positions of lights being changed, shifting spots for better shots, trying out variations of movements, or just waiting for my turn in the shot with the costume and makeup intact, I realise all of them work towards getting the BEST, nothing less!! There may be another chance - to go back and re-shoot what didn't work, but this moment, the feeling of the first shot, the first shout of "action" will never come back... It will forever remain a memory in my mind....

Geetha Ballal is a primary dancer and Associate Director of Bangalore based contemporary dance company Nritarutya. She is known for her patented acrobatic stunts and currently works towards training the Youth team, Mysore, in creative body-conditioning.

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