ON A MARCH AFTERNOON, a ragtag film crew of around 15 were gathered on a dusty road in Najafgarh, in south-west Delhi. The focus of the scene they were shooting was a makeshift tea shop that had been set up on one side of the road; on the other, cameraperson Janu Bhawaria and his assistants adjusted their equipment to get the perfect shot of two characters, named Kareem Chacha and Raju Prince, trading repartee at the shop. Their efforts were complicated by the fact that they had no external microphones; the actors were forced to shout their lines over the cawing of crows and the roar of aeroplanes passing overhead.
But it wasn’t just audio that the group had to struggle with. This was a public road, and every few minutes, a car would drive by, passing through the shot. Members of the crew stood by the side of the road, gesturing frantically at every vehicle that approached, to wait for them to complete the shot. None obeyed. After almost an hour, the crew managed to film an uninterrupted take of the scene. They then shifted the camera, reflectors and other equipment into an adjoining farmhouse for the next scene on the schedule of the movie—Wanted Don, directed by Nasim Ahmed.
I first met Nasim one evening in September last year while wandering through the narrow, grimy lanes of Khirki Extension in South Delhi’s Malviya Nagar, and came upon a DVD shop in which young boys were glued to a television screen, on which played a Hindi-dubbed version of SS Rajamouli’s 2007 Telugu hit, Yama Donga. The walls of the shop were decorated with an array of posters of Hindi movies I had never heard of: Mere Watan, Bewafa Dilruba, Mrityu Gardh. Designed in blazing yellows and reds, these posters featured protagonists in sunglasses, holding guns; villains with thick moustaches; and nubile young girls. I bought a DVD of Mrityu Gardh, the title translated on the cover as “The Place of Death”. The credit on the cover read: “Director/Producer/Script: Nasim Ahmed”. Shameem Ahmed, who was watching over the shop at the time, told me that Nasim was his elder brother, and the owner of the DVD shop. He was also the protagonist of Mrityu Gardh, who, on the cover of the DVD I had just purchased, had blood-coloured paint dripping down his left temple.