It was the first day of Agent Vinod’s shoot in Morocco. They were filming an action sequence on a boat with Saif Ali Khan taking on a king-sized baddie and his goons off the coast of Tangiers.
Director Sriram Raghavan and his cast and crew were fully prepared for a good day’s work, having done a recce by boat and rehearsed the scenes several times over in the hotel.
“What we hadn’t taken into account was that it is one thing to shoot on terra firma, and another in a choppy sea,” reminisces Sriram. “I was on one boat with the actors and a crew of about 20. And there was a larger boat following us with the additional stock and reserves.”
It was a day’s shoot, but after a couple of hours on the tempestuous sea, suddenly, one by one, the unit members started retching and retiring. “Preoccupied with the shoot, I didn’t realise that people were dropping out of our boat and into what had become the sick boat behind us, until I found myself with just the DOP (Director of Photography) and the cameraman, my first AD, Saif and the main baddie, who was a stuntman accustomed to rough weather. With just work on our mind, we stayed on our feet on a rocking boat, but the rest of the team were violently seasick,” recalls Sriram.
However, despite the rather shaky beginning, they managed to can the shots that were needed though there was no additional footage that could be used in the making later. Fortunately, the rest of the schedule in the picturesque North African country went off smoothly. Sriram admits he had to face some communication hurdles initially, since most of the locals only spoke Arabic and French. English was a foreign language, and many of his instructions to the local crew were lost in translation.
“Surprisingly though, the Moroccons are pretty clued in to Hindi cinema and one day, while I was sitting at a café, a local boy walked up to me and started singing a song from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1996). He got 90 per cent of the words right too,” smiles Sriram, who in a scene set in a café, got a local to sit with the junior artistes in the background and sing. “So you won’t just get to see Morocco but hear Morocco in my film too.”