- Sarthak DasGupta, Director
When I started to write the' ...Butterfly...', there was no butterfly in it. I was going to call it The Burnout. The idea dealt with the urban ambition epidemic and its sad outcomes. I realized I was only willing to observe and document just one side of the issue. A friend pointed out to me this legend of the butterfly and I immediately found the ground on the other side of the issue that I needed to explore. This search for the butterfly brought in the attempt to go beyond the problem into the realms of its possible solutions.
All around us we hear stories of India being a big emerging market and even growing up to be a powerful nation. We have made a difference in the world through the power of our ideas. The film tries to capture that unique Indian spirit. It's not esoteric and complex. It's a simple story of discovery in present day India.
There was a reason to base the film in Goa. The Goa state of mind is simply unbelievable. Thousands of people land up in this state searching for a place to getaway. I've known of several who have come back with a sense of peace and a promise. Goa is not merely a tourist destination; it's a pilgrimage to the modern Indian. The attraction is not merely the typical beach and shack joints. It's the unique combination of a people who live life in their own terms. Live like they want rather than live like they should. Our attempt was to show Goa not as a fun place, but as a place where catalysis' happen. Besides, Goa is also the place, where according to the 'legend', we have the Carodiguez valley where you find the butterfly.
Aamir Bashir and Sandhya Mridul, who play the leads, were fantastic. Since the film is primarily targeted at an educated, intelligent global audience we had an exhaustive casting procedure to identify these two hugely talented actors with a refreshing and original style of acting. We needed people to be real up there in the screen. This story is not new age in the perspective that it's understood nowadays. Typically, new age means getting a new hairdo, designer clothes and funny accents. Our intention was to let the characters speak for themselves. Aamir played it down. Sandhya played it up. Both are believable and lovable. I couldn't have had any better actors for the characters.
Barry John and Koel Purie spruced up the casting most beautifully. Barry has been an acting teacher for decades having trained some Indian superstars like SRK and Meera Nair. I was apprehensive to approach him to do the role of the old man. He read the script and agreed in 24 hours. On hindsight, I can't think of any other person who could have done the character with so much understanding. Koel came in much later. Koel's character only had references in the original script. But later we felt it was necessary to understand that character more than what was explained. She walked into the project as if she's been always in it. Shooting with her was a breeze. Extremely intelligent and perceptive, Koel very quickly made me forget that she was not written in the original draft at all!
We had a small crew and we were constantly moving. It was a massive logistic exercise to be on track. The whole process of shooting was a humongous task to be managed by a relatively small crew and in a small budget. We would move on leaving a place to a new destination, not knowing what to expect there. Cars from the caravan would take a wrong turn, get lost, with no signal in the cell-phones at remote locations in Goa, and then again land up at the right place in the right time. The film in itself had a huge will power to get made.
Parth Arora, as an Executive Producer, is a Director's delight. Also, him being a buddy, helped. We had toyed with the script for a long time before we had finally got the requisite money to go ahead and shoot. So for both of us, each passing day gave us many corresponding days in the past to look back at when we had tried to live the shoot many times over, on paper.
We shot right from outside the precincts of Bombay, to all the way to Goa and in Goa. We only had some landmarks as vague references to the locations where we would stop and shoot. So Parth, Shanker (my DOP) and I would have three different ideas of how the scene is going to be framed or how will it look. And what we finally got was how the film wanted to look itself.
We shot hand-held most of the places. The fact that we wanted the frame to breathe like a human being and the fact that there was never enough time to lay a track (for example), lent to each other well.
Shanker would brace the heavy 35mm camera up on his chest with bare hands and no other harness and just go on shooting. It was his idea to have frames that look obscure and subtly disturbing to lend to the angst the characters are feeling on screen. Hence you will often find faces that are not 'beautifully' framed in the traditional sense of the term.
The trauma of chasing the lucre and retaining your sanity is quite a difficult thing to handle. But treading the same path with love in the heart and a dispassionate indifference to the sense of success probably makes the journey enjoyable as well.