In this series, Film Companion picks movies and shows of the past decade with memorable long take sequences. We get directors to take us through the process of creating these scenes.
Raj and D.K’s The Family Man on Amazon Prime Video is peppered with impressive sequences. The show has three standout long takes, but the most applause worthy one is the 13-minute hospital assault sequence in episode 6.
The scene starts with armed gunmen entering the hospital where Srikanth’s team have Moosa held captive. The gunmen set out to identify the agents and take them out one by one to help Moosa escape, which eventually leads to an all out gun fight through the hospital.
The show’s co-creator and director Raj Nidimoru spoke to me about conceptualising the ambitious sequence, shooting in a live hospital, and the other long take sequence that almost was.
Shooting In A Real Hospital
“What’s crazy about the hospital sequence is that we shot it in an actual running hospital. The entire ward had heart patients, and was two-thirds occupied, so all I was doing all day was making sure that everyone was quiet at all times. We were constantly signalling with signs and whispering during a very complicated sequence.
We designed this sequence to be from the bad guys’ perspective as a way to focus on the danger and massacre that was about to hit the unsuspecting good guys. The experience we wanted to give the audience was as if you were riding a tsunami and you can see your friends in the distance and they don’t know what’s coming. This is DK’s favourite sequence from the series and it was all down to his perseverance. Even when people suggested we cut it into two or three different pieces, he refused to budge.
The location was expensive and we got it only for 2 nights. We had to come up with the entire sequence and rehearse and stage everything on the first night and the next night we had to light everything and shoot. I am really proud of the team because you don’t really pull off stuff like this in one day.”
Executing A 13-Minute Long Take
“On the night we managed to do 7 takes and we finalised on the 4th take. It’s an exciting process but when you’re shooting this kind of sequence, as a director, you can’t even see the shot because it’s a remote camera so you don’t know if you got it right until the very end.
But the DOP Azim Moollan and Action Director Aezaz Gulab did a tremendous job. The gritty part of it is that because it’s a running take, the stabs and fights have to look real and the punches have to land, especially during the bathroom fight when the camera is so close to the actors.
Plus, there were mirrors everywhere which you have to avoid. Mirrors are the bane of long takes. DK and I got very excited about how we can trick the audience into wondering how the camera couldn’t be seen even when it’s pointed at the mirror during that bathroom fight. The actors can also get quite nervous during these scenes because they don’t want to miss a beat and mess up the whole take.
People come up to me all the time and try and guess where the cuts in the shot are, but I guarantee you 75% of them are wrong.”
What If You Goof Up
“Resetting is the shittiest part of the long take. It is the most boring part of the whole thing, it’s almost dispiriting. If you mess up one beat and someone punches someone wrongly, then you have to reset because the blood drained shirts change, and the place gets cleaned up again. That’s why we could only do 7 takes because it takes about an hour just to reset each time.”
The Other Long Take That Didn’t Make It
“The fishing village sequence in the first episode when they’re chasing Moosa was actually also shot as one long take. You follow Pasha, JK, Zoya and the commandos and crisscross between them as they chase the terrorists. It was a crazily done sequence but I had to cut it because it was too long and just wasn’t fitting in the first episode, so we made a very hard call and had to chop it into three sequences.”