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Suraj Gunjal : In Conversation With A Video Editor

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As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, photography?
I’m from middle class family, my father has a small mechanical workshop. I remember he used to take us to the theatre. I watched films like “Hum saath saath hai” “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” “Hamara Dil Aapke Paas hai” etc… But my parents thought that we should watch films for 2 or 3hrs only for entertainment. They were strict and never allowed me for cable connection as it would have spoilt my studies, so I used to watch films only on Friday Saturday on Doordarshan. My mind was always thinking about the scenes, dialogues, action sequences and dressing styles when I would watch films. That time I was not aware about the director, editor & other crew, who work on films. I always thought that actor is the one who makes films & curious to know the life of actors, so at the beginning that influenced me towards cinema. I was fond of photography though not aware about the word “Photography” but I just enjoyed getting clicked and click others. I just knew that it captures memory and we can preserve that memory for long time, always thought that there is some similarity in photography and films.

How did you first become interested in film editing?
When I was in 3rd year of my graduation in Software (B. Tech), I made a short film for college competition and it got appreciated from teachers & friends. I shot that film, edited and directed it. I edited that film using moviemaker software. I was not aware about full concept of editing but I enjoyed the process when I put the shots one after the another and created some meaning and that was the time when I felt that I was in a wrong field. Then I decided to join film school exactly second day after my graduation. I moved to Mumbai for direction course where I met cinematographer Nadeem Khan (Cinematographer from FTII), who told me that its better if I go for editing as I possessed technical background. I had heard that technical people easily get jobs and that is very important if you want to survive in Mumbai. Then I joined editing course with direction dream and that was a right decision & when I started working with filmmaker Onir on his films that was when I got hooked to editing.

What steps did you take to train yourself?
After small course in editing I felt that I’m not going to survive with this limited knowledge, so I decided to go to FTII and SRFTII. I tried twice for both but never appeared for it. Later I attended Film Appreciation course in FTII which taught me how to take decisions in my field. After that I got job in Prime Focus as an Online Editor for 3D films. I worked on films like Immortals, Ra-One, Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows. I learnt a whole new concept of stereoscopic films & how 2D film got converted in to 3D. Meanwhile I got a chance to edit feature film called “MLA”. After editing that film, I felt that I was not ready yet & I decided to assist industry people to gain more knowledge. I met Onir, worked with him for films like “I AM” “CHAURANGA” “SHAB” as an associate editor. I also worked with Suresh Pai for “Ankhon Dekhi” & Dibakar Banerjee for “Bombay Talkies”. I simultaneously started working on my own projects. 
I always used to go for film festivals. I think this is the way you learn a lot, get a chance to meet new people, watch world cinema and you actually understand the impact of cinema. It always motivates me and of course Youtube is Guru for nowadays.

Have you assisted anyone? How does it help one?
Yes, I assisted Onir and Suresh Pai. In that case I always felt lucky because Onir is Editor & Director and Suresh Pai who is from FTII, where I always wanted to join. I had started assisting Onir on his film “I AM”. I wanted to be a director so I felt I got proper opportunity where I could learn both the things. I assisted Suresh Pai for “Ankhon Dekhi” which was a golden opportunity. 
I learnt very important things from both, like how to be patient on edit table, whether as a person you are patient or not. This is what I had heard in theory lectures. Onir knew that I wanted to be a director so he always used to tell things in that way. Assisting always helps. 

How did your first film project come about? Tell us something about experience.
I did a film MLA in 2012, where I shared name with another editor so I consider my first project as an Editor is  “Pagla Ghoda”, 2016 Directed by Bikas Mishra. That project came to me because earlier myself and Bikas Mishra worked together for a film “Chauranga”. He was the director of that film & I was assistant editor & promo editor for the same. Things were falling at the right place and he gave me chance for this project.  

What are your inspirations?
To get connected with people who are honest in their field, get to know experiences of people, attend film festivals, solo traveling and visit my hometown with long intervals.

Is film editing intuitive or is it something you learn?
Intuitive, earlier when I was in college I use to make small videos. That time I was not aware about editing, it was intuitive. Later I learnt it and got to know about all editing grammar. 

What part does risk-taking play in your work, if any?
Of course, risk is always there from first day of edit to the release date. After shoot editor is the only person who handles all post production process. He has to backup all rushes (Original video) & project files. He can’t take the risk of losing rushes or project files that he has spent days working on. 
Also, editor is the one who again tells or writes the story using his own technical knowledge and if he fails to do it then someone has to pay for it. People say good editor can save the director from suicide but I think good editor can save the producer from suicide. 

Do you think the audience is perceptive about an edit? What kind of feedback do you get from non-film maker audience for your work?
Yes, I think nowadays because of new cinematic experience audience have started talking about editing. After screening I often heard people saying that story was lagging because of edit, film was good but it was lengthy, they discuss about effects, cuts, colors. 
I think when audience discusses the film on edit level then that’s a bad news for editor. Because of changing technology people get to know more about it.

Film Technology is continuously changing. Do you think it affects you as an editor, in the way you want to tell stories? 
Yes, sometimes, technology is such a thing where you unexpectedly get to know new things and you adopt those things in your work, it helps a lot, same way sometimes it creates new challenges. Like, it has made editing tools easy. Today everyone learns it. People direct their own stories and they start their own creative edit. After that they come to editor with their first cut (sometime they say they need only operator) & then editor starts his work in midway from the provided first cut. At this point of time it is very difficult for the editor to think fresh and new on the project because the first cut has already blocked his mind with re-telling their story once in the script and another with your own edit, I have seen such cases. If the director has editing knowledge then the case is different.

Favorite films or editors?  At least two of them?
My Favorite films are Khosla Ka Ghosla, Love Aaj Kal, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Before Sunrise/Sunset, 127 Hours and editors are Suresh Pai, Namrata Rao, Walter Murch, Thelma Schoonmaker.   

Any hurdles you have encountered in your journey. Things that are blocks in a achieving your vision while working on your film.
Health problem. Because of excessive sitting I faced back problem and I have taken break for long time now. I am back again on my track. I never faced any another problem other than this.

Do you often get all that is in your wish list or is it hard bargain every time?
Yes, I get all that is in my wish list but sometimes I have to bargain for it and who doesn’t?

Advice for the editor?
Don’t make your own edit style because that doesn’t work. 


What is in the kitty now?
Working on ad films & documentaries, soon starting new project but still untitled. 

Any memorable blunders?
Mistakes happens when you are a beginner but I don’t think I did any memorable blunder    

Dream project?
To edit my own feature film.

Who do you want to take out for dinner?
Golshifteh Farahani

What are you listening to right now? And most recent book? And Movie?
Reading Hitler and busy with watching TV Series “Narcos”




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