13\3 PMGP – Beginning

It was a 180 sq foot ground floor flat that I had purchased during my early days in Mumbai. It was just a stopgap arrangement, before I moved on to a bigger flat. I had planned to stay there for exactly two years. It took me more than thirteen years and a whole lot of persuasion to get out of 13\3, PMGP Colony at Mahakali, Andheri (East), Mumbai.

Initially, when I brought the place, well-wishers had warned me that the number of the house was unlucky. But for me, the purchase was a huge accomplishment – acquiring a roof akin to making a film. In fact, my friend and classmate from the film school, Rajiv Katiyal did comment in jest, ‘Ram could not make a film, so he purchased a flat’.

Yes, technically it was a ‘flat’. It had a living area, a tiny kitchen space and an attached bathroom cum toilet. Back home, my relatives were surprised and even impressed! This black sheep of the family had the presence of mind to buy a flat and that too, within a few years of moving into the city.

But only I knew that this ‘flat’ or ‘house’ that I owned was actually called as a ‘Kholi’ or a small tenement, in local language. Seven such ‘Kholi’ies existed on each floor; each building had four flours and there were seventeen buildings all together. Each of these ‘Kholi’ies must have housed at least four to five members of a family.

Rajiv himself had bought one such ‘Kholi’, in the building next to mine. So had cinematographer V Naravayan and writer Ashok Mishra. And then, there was documentary filmmaker Paromita. Within a year or two, I could see a lot of familiar faces around. Most were starting out in the field of media and film – directors, cameramen, editors, actors, dance directors…

We had our own hangouts, the main one being a tea stall managed by one ‘Shetty’. ‘Shetty’, originally belonged to my state of Karnataka and thus was branded as my friend. If I am not mistaken, ‘Shetty’ was an ex-convict and for some strange reason, I thought it fit to keep this bit of information to myself. ‘Budding filmmaker befriends an ex-convict’ – didn’t sound nice at that point of time.

But the ever-talkative ‘Shetty’ was our man Friday. Keys were left with him so that roommates could collect it. The creative types would sit at his place for hours together and ‘think’ over cups of tea. Credit was provided, so was acidity. The only hitch – the man we all called ‘Shetty’ was not a ‘Shetty’, but an ‘Alva’. But for us, the equation was clear. Any hotel owner in Mumbai is a ‘Shetty’.

The TV industry was on the upswing and a few senior filmmakers that we knew of, had got together to form a body called ‘Channel Dosti’ (Channel Friendship). Or so, we at PMGP had heard. The idea, I believe, was to form a media collective. Soon, there was a meeting at my house. It was suggested by my PMGP colleagues that we too should form a body called ‘Channel Dushmani(Channel Enmity). Fortunately, like ‘Channel Dosti’, ‘Channel Dushmani’ too never took off.

But what we did manage to form was a media unit called ‘Dziga Collective’ consisting of fellow FTII graduates. The first and only job of this collective was to weekly sub-produce around eight to ten current affairs programs of three minutes each for Daryl D’Monte.

That meant that we needed at least eight to ten shooting units per week. It all seemed daunting at that time. But believe me, all we had to do was to walk into this ‘Shetty’ joint of ours, and lo, you found the unit that you wanted.

It was as easy as that.

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