In Mumbai, a young man literally takes the plunge, diving into a swimming pool fully dressed, holding out a ring to his fiancé. She waits underwater, holding her breath, surrounded by flowers and dressed in a bright pink ball gown.
It’s a scene that might smack of Bollywood, but it’s not all make-believe. The actors are a real-life couple and the scene is part of their ‘wedding movie’.
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Filmmaking is the newest addition to the Big Fat Indian Wedding, with couples making movies complete with scripts, songs and elaborate costumes. These movies are usually centered on them and feature friends, relatives and in-laws in secondary roles, recreating key events in the couple’s courtship (first meeting, first major fight, breaking the news to the families, family reactions, the proposal, etc).
So in Delhi, a camera wends its way along streets in Hauz Khas Village and Ashok Nagar, filming friends and relatives who talk about how the couple first met (they barely noticed each other), were introduced again by cousins, and eventually fell in love.
In Goa, a wedding movie shows a couple smiling and chatting as they walk down a sunlit beach. They’ve finally found some alone time, away from the bustle of the metropolis. On her finger is an engagement ring; the guy has just proposed.
In many cases, there are song-and-dance sequences, with the music and steps usually borrowed from Bollywood and Hollywood but sometimes written by the couple or expressly for the couple by ‘wedding storytellers’.
Some are even shot ‘on location’, with couples travelling to Goa, Jaisalmer and Ladakh for a few days just for their shoot.
Shoots generally last two to three days and the movies are usually about 1 minute to 10 minutes long, with budgets ranging from Rs 60,000 (for something like the Hauz Khas video) to Rs 3 lakh (for movies shot outdoors in locations such as Rajasthan, Goa and Ladakh).
Wedding movies first surfaced in India three years ago and have been getting increasingly popular, as the technology for making them and showcasing them has become more accessible.
The videos are generally released in parts — first a trailer, then a preview and finally the entire film — either just before or just after the wedding itself. They are usually shared via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube or on the couple’s wedding website.
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THE FAIRYTALE EFFECT
“Every couple wants their wedding to look like a fairytale and we try to make that possible for them,” says Akash Agarwal, a Mumbai-based wedding filmmaker who runs a company called WeddingNama. “Some want to shoot the movie at a dream location, even if that means travelling just for the shoot. Others want to capture their love in surreal settings and get ‘out-of-this-world’ shots.”
Where about 20% of clients would go in for a scripted movie three years ago, now more than half want some form of short film to tell their story, adds Aloha Mehta of Ellite Wedding Planners.
Wedding movies are generally offered by wedding planners, who then rope in photographers to plan and execute the shoots. The planners have costume rental services, make-up artists and even scriptwriters and choreographers they can then call upon to help.
Usually, elaborate planning is required in the form of storyboards, styling and equipment. “Drones and slow-motion and underwater cameras are used to make the film visually appealing,” Agarwal says.
The shoot is actually the final stage, says Gala, a wedding movie scriptwriter who runs a company called Seventy by Two- Wedding Stories.
Gala, incidentally, is an IIM graduate who quit a career in real-estate to pursue his passion — photography — and set up his company more than three years ago.
“We sit with the couple and listen to their story. We understand their personalities, likes and dislikes. Once we have all the information, we work out the script. We try to keep the story as original as possible and add just a pinch of drama to make the video interesting,” Gala says.
Rishabh Jain, 25, a businessman from Mumbai, and his wife Aditi, 23, a homemaker, wanted to keep their wedding movie as real as possible.
Shot largely in Goa a month before their wedding in May 2015, it shows how the two liked each other but were not able to spend much time together in fast-paced Mumbai, and how they decided to head to the beach state for some quality time. It goes on to show how Rishabh realised in Goa that Aditi was the love of his life — all of which really did happen. In the movie, he surprises her at the end by proposing.
“That last bit didn’t happen,” says Aditi, laughing. “But Rishabh has this habit of surprising me all the time and so in the video, he surprises me with a ring in the end. The video was released at my sangeet ceremony and all my family members found it amazing. They all said it was like nothing they had never seen before.”