She is the youngest editor in Bollywood
Meet Namrata Rao who has edited some of the finest films in recent years
After the director yells "pack up", all those numerous shots and takes are sent to the editor who puts together the entire film.
Namrata Rao, one of the youngest and most successful editors in Bollywood today, has edited hit films like Band Bajaa Baaraat, Ishqiya, Oye Lucky Oye, LSD, Kahaani and the recently released Shanghai. A graduate of Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFT), Kolkata, Namrata shares with us her insights on the art and craft of the cut.
How did you get into editing?
I was always fascinated by films. As a child, I wanted to marry Mithun Chakravarthy; Disco Dancer did it for me! But I got into editing by accident. I studied IT and found it immensely boring. After that I did a string of jobs that included a stint at NDTV. Then a friend was writing the entrance exams for film institutes, and I decided to give it a shot.
I didn't know what I wanted to specialise in and pretty much did an 'Eenie-Meenie-Minnie-Mo' and picked editing. I happened to make a wise bet.
What's editing all about?
How would you define the editing process?
A film is shot, either on video or film. Usually sound and pictures are recorded separately. If it is shot on film, then the film is converted to video and dumped in a computer. We do the same for the sound. An assistant editor matches the two and lines up the shots in the order of the script. Once that is done, I enter.
What is your approach to the editing process?
At two levels -- the micro level of the scene, then at the macro level of the story and film. Actor's expressions, dialogues, pauses, shot magnifications, sounds -- all these are pieces of the mosaic. We put together these different pieces to construct a scene so that it is believable, keeping in mind the drama and internal rhythm of each scene.
At the macro level, we see if these scenes are in harmony with each other and with the story. That's the fun part.
'People who are non-judgmental usually make good editors'
What's a typical day like?
I work 12 hours a day. Once I've worked my way through all the scenes, I watch what I've done several times. Then I take out the rough edges. No matter how I am stuck, all solutions lie in the rushes (raw footage).
What would you consider are the traits of a good editor?
You need to have a keen interest in life and observe without judgment. People who are non-judgmental usually make good editors. Patience is a prerequisite as you end up viewing the rushes hundreds of times. You need to be able to do that and yet not lose sight of the emotion behind it.
You spend most of the day alone with only your film for company; you need to be comfortable with that. One also needs to be aware that an editor is not a creator but a facilitator. We work with the material that the director gets. With that comes a boundary and one needs to be aware of that. You also have to be like a psychologist to the director. I get a big kick out of it.
'Film institutes are very intense places'
Is there special training required?
Training helps in orienting oneself to the craft. For one you watch and discuss films from all over the world. One builds an awareness of all the developments that went into furthering the craft. Besides practical exposure there is a sound theoretical grounding. In film institutes there is also the freedom to learn the way you see fit.
Tell us about your film school experience...
SRFTI has a full-time three-year postgraduate diploma in four disciplines namely direction, cinematography, sound recording and editing. The first year is common to all and we learn all four. Specialisation starts from the second year onwards and much of the project work is on celluloid.
It's pretty hands-on. In general, film institutes are very intense places and SRFTI was pretty intense.
'Films are a very emotional, visceral medium'
What's the best way to get better at it?
Watching films is the best way to learn. Films are a very emotional, visceral medium. We feel them in our body. What you feel is very similar to what I feel. How you and I choose to react to that feeling changes according to our taste and conditioning. So if you watch a lot of films and keep track of those experiences and feelings, you understand editing on an intuitive, emotional level.
What is the difference between editing fiction and non-fiction?
It's a bit like breathing in and breathing out. Documentary is much closer to life. It keeps you on your toes. There is much that you learn from it. You can use these learnings and apply them to fiction to make your fiction more real, more lifelike. Works both ways.
What are your learnings?
The only thing that I've learnt in editing is that there are no rules. You only have thumb rules and guidelines which one has to learn. That's it. Once you get past that stage, just about anything goes. All that matters is that you are able to create the illusion.