A one night stand on the phone

Sunday, 15 January 2012 - 9:30am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Sudhish Kamath uses B/W to capture an old world style romance played out entirely in a conversation on a modern-day contraption.

There is a scene in the film Good Night Good Morning (GNGM) where the female lead Moira says that any good film can be explained in four lines. She is talking to Turiya Omprakash, a stranger she met in a bar on New Year’s Eve, whose favourite film is The Matrix. Naturally he’s stumped when he tries to give the gist of The Matrix in four lines.

GNGM, however, can be explained in four simple lines. Gang of four boys seek girl’s attention. Girl ignores them. Boy glances at girl’s hotel room number on the key-card and calls her up later. They have a conversation that lasts the entire night.

The film itself is not just a simple love story, however. It raises a number of questions in your mind. Are one night stands only about sex? Do you have to see a person to fall in love? Can a simple conversation traverse the contours of an entire relationship? Sudhish Kamath, 34, obviously thinks so. His film is a ‘talkie’ in the style of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset by Richard Linklater.

The inspiration
Kamath looks up to Billy Wilder and Cameron Crowe for inspiration. “I have watched Crowe’s films on the lowest days of my life, so there is a personal connect to each of his films,” he says. In one of Crowe’s films, Elizabethtown, there is a nine-minute phone call between the lead characters which is turned into a musical montage. In one of GNGM’s initial scenes too, when the protagonists open up to each other over the phone call, there’s a musical montage. It’s his homage to Crowe, Kamath says candidly.

Another oddity about GNGM is that it is shot entirely in black and white, except for the flashbacks which are in colour. The romance is very 50’s and “old-fashioned” in look and feel but made relevant for today’s times. “We wanted to show that old-fashioned romance still exists but you would need a surreal setting for it,” says Kamath. The music, mostly jazz, adds to the old-world charm.

The plot is as simple as it gets. Two strangers meet on New Year’s Eve in New York and end up having a long phone conversation — he, in the car on his way home, and she, stuck in transit in a hotel room on her way to India. The conversation spans the entire night and they go through eight stages of a typical relationship — ice-breaker, honeymoon, reality check, break-up, listening, friendship, and finally, confusion. The movie ends with another phone call, leaving you to draw your own conclusions.

Test drive
Good Night Good Morning started off as a joke. “A friend had just bought a camera. He came to me and said, ‘Let’s make a movie’. Given that we had no money, I told him the only way to do that would be if the script demands a low budget. For that the film should either be about two people talking on the phone or three people in a house.” Since there have been other films about three people in a house, Kamath decided to try the phone idea, which he thought would challenge his writing abilities.

To begin with, he asked six of his friends to hook up with six strangers over the phone and record an hour’s conversation. The results were entertaining. One woman led the other party on for a month, “because this was interesting”, before confessing the truth.

Another couple opted to end the phone call and continue the conversation through online chat. One guy, who pretended to be a Mr Know-it-all, Googled all the lady’s questions on rock musicPink Floyd in particular — in order to impress her. Armed with this material, Kamath started exploring different shades of a relationship in his phone conversation script. “When two strangers meet, anything can happen. We wanted to show these possibilities,” says Kamath.

Money, money, money
GNGM has now been to six film festivals, after premiering at Mumbai’s MAMI film festival in 2010. Interestingly, Kamath recently wrote a post on the obituary of small, indie films. “Indie films are dead, usually before their arrival,” he says, brutally. The reasons are numerous — inadequate funds for publicity, people being unaware of the release or preferring to download and watch it. Kamath thinks it highly unlikely that he will continue making films as they sap too much of energy, resources and money. So, with GNGM releasing soon in theatres, will it be a Good Night or a Good Morning for Kamath?

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