A year in pyjama – that is probably the apt phrase many people can relate to when it comes to describing work-life during the pandemic. Be it IT professionals, artists or journalists – work from home came in various disguises but had one similarity – a year in pyjama.
“How can a host wear a pyjama in her show where she discusses serious social issues!”
Yes, you heard it right. That’s my mom, Manisha Debi. Last year she would repeat these line almost before each recording of my online talkshow. Sounds familiar? Your mother also had or still have the same opinion about your online meetings, sessions or classes! That’s pretty natural. Parents have seen us decking up properly for our workplaces. Wearing pyjama or shorts with a nice top or shirt can naturally be horrifying to her eyes.
Well, work from home was not a regular thing before Covid. And we rarely heard of shooting from home. Shooting at home is something few of us experienced though. Talkshows that featured someone’s home or interviews arranged at someone’s residence is not something unheard of, especially when it comes to news. But that too requires at least a team of 4 people.
Before l get into the process of making a talk show at home and from home let me try to give you a quick idea of a nonfiction unit. (This is just to give an idea, not trying to escape or ignore the federation and guild’s rule). If we shoot a talk show in a studio, we need to first make or arrange the set with the help of the art department and then do the light by the light team as directed by the Director of photography. By the time the host and the guest get ready with the help of a makeup artist, hairdresser and stylist. The directorial team briefs the host and sometimes gives a script, the host does a discussion with the guest before facing the camera.
Generally, a 3/4/5 cam shoot happens according to the capacity of the studio and the budget of the project. There are sound recordist and his team to help participants attaching the lapel mics and capturing the sound. Generally, these kinds of shows have an online editor and edit happens with the flow of the show. So you understand the kind of involvement needed just for shooting. With the lockdown last year we had to operate the entire thing from home.
Let me tell you it wasn’t easy at all, especially for a person like me who can not handle her phone properly forget about handling the whole recording process. And also being habituated with the comfort of working with and being supported by so many people all through.
But this situation made things possible. This unprecedented situation could not stop us from communicating. Thanks to the technology, which was there before the pandemic but we never utilised the way we are doing for the last 1 year. Have we ever thought of apps that are used for meetings that can be used as a tool for recording shows! one had to really learn the techniques of adjusting all the technical parameters and recording, saving, putting it to drive and sharing with the technical team. At least l had a difficult time learning all these.
Aah no this is just not enough. In terms of making the episode as professional, as flawless as possible now comes the work of art director, cinematographer, light director.
Thankfully l have a decent study that could be converted to a makeshift studio setting a little bit of light and a webcam because we can work only with one camera that’s the front camera. That was nicely done by the cinematographer maintaining all the Covid protocols during lockdown last year.
But setting up the backdrop and available lights of the guest, making him or her sit at a camera-friendly place and also looking presentable and giving all the instructions online is not at all an easy task. Here l must thank my eminent guests who cooperated beyond their capacity and laughed at the end of the shooting for doing things in a near-perfect manner.
Now comes the part of getting myself ready. Choosing the appropriate dress (Forget about the pyjama incident for some time), doing makeup and hair and keeping it intact, no l have never done in my life before. Now comes the recording part or the shooting part. Keeping an eye on the internet connection, checking whether things are going steady and the way we want along with hosting the show means carrying on the conversation in the right way, yes playing the part of director…..what else left! Checking the sound and see the recording is done without hitches.
Let’s not get into the long tiring post-production part which also been done online. Target was not to compromise the quality of the product. Along with strong content, we tried to deliver good audio and visual quality. Why l explained the process so elaborately! Because l think not only just the show must go on but it should go on keeping the quality of the product. Technology made things easier these days. And made it visible or reach anywhere and everywhere accessible to anyone and everyone across the globe. Parallelly the person has access to many other contents. Now that we are exposed to technically and aesthetically good quality contents in various languages, we can not be casual about the quality.
So to deliver good quality content, of course, we need to learn and work hard. Nothing comes easy and we can not take our viewers for granted.
Shoot from home isn’t restricted to turning our study or drawing room to studio or news studio but also to set of fiction. I will not go into details on fiction today as it demands and deserves a separate column.
Coming back to the talk show shoot or making the episodes from home, which we continued even post lockdown. We found it convenient and safe for all, even though l started working regularly on the floor. This way l could connect with the guests not only from India but from Bangladesh and a special series on women achievers from both the countries during Durga puja had a great impact on audiences.
Of course, we need to work on the floor with all our team members but now as we learnt the process of connecting someone from the other parts of the country or the world this could be kept as an occasional or need-based option. We must admit that the situation has made us more equipped, more capable and opened the horizon more far and wide.
No am not refusing or ignoring the importance of human touch. But the situation is such that we need to stay apart. I remember in one of my episodes of that talk show, an eminent guest said “How l want to meet you in person and hug you tight.” So true! How much we crave to meet people more after months of isolation, especially if one needs to stay alone. Taking the thread from her words let me tell you how important it is to have a conversation in person, l mean a regular talk show with all the unit members.
Understanding the heart of guest, fathom his or her views, making comfortable, looking at one another, a gentle touch or maybe a hug makes a great conversation which is reflected as a good show. We all want that, we are waiting for that very day. But yes, when the situation doesn’t permit we need to take a different route. We can not forget that we are here to entertain no matter what or how.
Again not compromising the quality as much as possible. Hard task, tiring, physically and mentally, but again the smiling or relieved faces on the other side are the inspiration.
Things changed in between, things will change again but few learnings, these experiences will remain and help me to complain less when things don’t remain nice or comfortable on set. The only thing is l can never wear a pyjama on a serious talk show. Mom is always right.
(Aparajita Ghosh has been part of the Bengali television and film industry for a little more than a decade. She works as an actor, writer and columnist.)
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