Director Abhishek Chaubey described his next, Sonchiriya, as a film about “dakkus with existential issues”. Starring Manoj Bajpayee, Sushant Singh Rajput, Bhumi Pednekar and Ashutosh Rana, it revolves around a group of bandits in Emergency-era Chambal. It appears to have been a difficult shoot, if the trailers depicting the dusty ravines and sweltering heat are anything to go by. The cast spoke about the challenges of shooting in these harsh conditions:
Manoj Bajpayee: These are adjectives that will never apply to to the ravines – good, nice, beautiful, magnificent, awe-inspiring. You really feel like dacoits can come from anywhere. Structure-wise, the ravines are such that the dacoits could live (there) for 20-25 years, operate from there, while the CRPF is patrolling the other side. They wouldn’t find them. That’s the kind of terrain we are talking about, that’s the kind of life we are talking about. They were quite brutal, but at the same time, they were quite lovable, larger than life. In that sense, this film is very close to an American western.
Ashutosh Rana: Usme jo extreme weather shoot kiya humne, extreme cold, dead cold. Till 1:30 in the afternoon, we were not able to shoot a single shot because of the cold and fog. It was not like that for just one or two days. It was like (that) at any time. (here was also extreme heat, like 50 degree temperature. Extreme cold se cut to extreme heat. 45 to 50 degree temperature mein jo aap kapde pehenne hote hai the, jab aap remove karte the, aap dekhte the ki aapke skin kapde ke andar se burnt hai. Aur isme poori unit takriband 200-250-300-400 log jo hai, lagataar door door tak aap dekhenge sirf aur sirf zameen hai aur aakaash. Ek ped bhi nahi. Jo shade milte the, woh ravine ke hi milte the. Pata laga ki uss heat mein ek din fire hua. We were shooting and suddenly we saw fire. Within 1o seconds, saari cheeze jal rahi hai. Hum log bhaage, camere wamere leke, saari ki saari cheeze leke. There was also rain.
Bhumi Pednekar: I remember people would fight for a little shade. You would see the unit members between cut and action trying to protect themselves from the sun.
Abhishek Chaubey: Apart from the heat and the cold, there was also a lot of dust to contend with. There was so much dust that when you’re sitting on the sand, you literally fall in. What usually happens is when you’re shooting a movie and you say, ‘The shot is ready,’ a mirror comes in front of the actor. But in front of Sushant, when you say, ‘The shot is ready,’ he’ll take a heap of dust, put it on his face and say, ‘Now I’m ready.’
Usually on film sets, if you’re the director, if you’re one of the actors, you have a plastic magnet on your backside because there’s a chair running behind you. Here, people would just take their own umbrellas and sit on the mound because everybody was supposed to be very dirty, unwashed.