Kunal Kohli
Director of Hum Tum, Fanaa

Being a student of cinema, I knew that Poland is a hub for cinematographers in Europe. So I knew they would have great infrastructure. Then I put together the fact that, as an East European country and not a part of the first world, the country wasn’t as rich as, say, Germany or Switzerland. Switzerland is very well manicured. I didn’t want that. I wanted a different topography, a realistic topography. I knew Poland would be more authentic for Fanaa than the manicuredness of the First World. They had good equipment and everything because there are so many good cinematographers in Poland. Plus, being a European country, they had snowmobiles, skis, and jet skis. They could slacken out an area where we wanted to shoot, and we could shoot there. So what took us a month to shoot in Poland would have taken us 60 days, or more to shoot in Kashmir or Himachal Pradesh. We were shooting near a town called Zakopane. We were on the outskirts.

The trees were similar. They had ‘chinar ka ped’. They also have a lot of plateaus. We had visuals of houses in Kashmir. So we managed with that. Eastern Europe’s architecture is very different from Western Europe. So we were lucky to find that kind of architecture in Eastern Europe. We gave pictures of houses in Kashmir to the location manager. He managed to find us similar houses. We got exactly what we needed. Poland’s topography and architecture are similar to those of Kashmir. First, we shot the songs fully in Poland. Then we realised they had worn too many layers. So we reshot them.

The Paris section of Hum Tum was shot in Amsterdam because we didn’t have the budget to go to Paris. We bought stock images of Paris and cheated with them in Amsterdam. New York was also shot in Amsterdam. It was very challenging because there are trams all over Amsterdam. Every time we shot the Paris portion, we would have to wait for the trams to leave. And sometimes, in the middle of a good shot, there would be a tram passing by, so we would have to cut the shot. If you go with the vibe of the city, they’re completely different. There’s nothing similar between Amsterdam and Paris.

While writing Hum Tum, I chose Amsterdam because it’s somewhere people generally don’t go. It’s not London; it’s not Paris. So I needed different cities. I’d chosen Bombay as the last city. I had chosen Delhi for her to get married. So one stop in Bombay or Delhi, two cities in India. I knew I couldn’t afford New York, so I put in just one scene. And then I wanted two more cities. So then I chose Paris for her as the place where Rani lives after she has lost her husband because you can just get lost in a crowd in that city. And then I needed a fun young city. That’s when I decided on Amsterdam. Amsterdam is young and fun. One scene in New York, one in Amsterdam, and one in Paris, which is a little more subdued and calmer. Locations should always be dependent on the script, not the other way around.

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