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IFFI 2018: Sreekar Prasad explains how Manto, Kaminey and Mangal Pandey were edited

The ace explained why the Aamir Khan-starrer Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005) took him the longest time to edit.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Blessy Chettiar

Editor Akkineni Sreekar Prasad, explaining his process of working, said he finds himself involved right from the early stages of a film's production.

Sreekar Prasad was speaking at a masterclass titled ‘A Cut Above the Rest’ at the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa with National award-winning director Utpal Borpujari.

Sreekar Prasad edited Nandita Das’s Manto (2018), which was released in September. Starring Nawazuddin Siddique as the writer Manto, the film explored his tumultuous relationship with society and his thought-provoking writings, especially short stories, that mirrored society at its ugliest.

“It is imperative to get the narrative right and for that it helps a great deal if the editor reads the script," Sreekar Prasad said. "Contrary to the practice a few decades ago, I now find myself involved right from the early stages of the production of a film.”

Speaking specifically about the placement of Manto's stories in Manto the film, Sreekar Prasad said Das wanted to integrate the stories of the writer and this happened at the scripting stage itself.

“The thing was whether to go conventional and tell the story or not to reveal it," he said. "At the end of it, you realize it is a Manto story. So you feel it’s like a story and not a disjointed event. How it goes from the main story to this past real story is without warning. But when you come back, you realize she [the character] is reading that story. It gets into a space where you tend to understand, but you don’t actually spoon-feed the audience." This, he said, was a conscious decision taken right at the beginning of the project.

Sreekar Prasad has edited films in 17 Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Assamese, and worked with several directors in these different industries.

Every story has its own pace and an editor must adapt: A Sreekar Prasad at IFFI 2018

He also spoke of how Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005) took him the longest time to edit. “Mangal Pandey was shot in a huge space," he said. "It had creative participation by a lot of people. It took a lot of time to complete the process and, after a point, none of us was very satisfied with the way it was shot. It was also shot in two languages, but released in only one. That’s why it took a lot of time to edit.”

Among the Hindi films he has edited are the recent Pataakha (2018), directed by Vishal Bhardwaj. Earlier, he edited another Bhardwaj film, Kaminey (2009), which traced the story of twins played by Shahid Kapoor.

Interestingly, Sreekar Prasad joined the Kaminey project at a later stage. “Kaminey was an interesting experience for me," the editor said. "It is a two-character film. When you have two stories running parallel and the genre of the stories is vastly different — one is slow, while the other is action-packed — the proportion seemed wrong somewhere."

Also, the director had shot a very good and very expensive sequence in the end on which a lot of money was spent. "When it was put on top [at the beginning], my first feeling was that it wasn’t necessary," the editor explained. "Then the twin characters come on. There were too many confusions in the beginning itself. But they had spent crores to shoot it, so they didn’t want to let go."

Sreekar Prasad then suggested that the sequence be moved to the end for some focus screenings which happened in cities across India. "Those who watched it had the least amount of confusion because they could quickly get into the film," he said.

The film's makers saw his point and Kaminey was released without the sequence. "It became a deleted scene because it was brilliantly shot," he said.

Sreekar Prasad said such changes happen during editing and there are constructive arguments within the team. “Everybody is looking to make the product better. It cannot be an ego issue,” he pointed out.

Sreekar Prasad, son of veteran Telugu film editor and director Akkineni Sanjeeva Rao, has won eight National awards and been in the industry for over two decades. Among his recent works are Hindi Medium (2017, Hindi), Kaala (2018, trilingual), Bharat Ane Nenu (2018, Telugu), Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (2018, Tamil and Telugu) and Sarkar (2018, Tamil).

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