Cheragh Todiwala is a Mumbai-based film editor. He has edited films like the recently released ‘Warning (3D)’, ’99′ and documentaries like ‘Making of Dhobi Ghat’ and ‘Peepli Live’. He also been the associate editor for ‘Rock On’ and assistant editor for ‘Making of Lagaan’, ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’ and many more. At the time of our conversation, he was working on ‘Gulaab Gang’, ‘Zaalim Dilli’ and ‘What the Fish’.
How did film editing happen to you?
While in high school, I had begun wondering what I would do next in life. I knew I wanted to do something which doesn’t make me unhappy on Mondays. When I was pursuing Grade -11 – Commerce from Ritambhara college in Mumbai, a couple of my friends were pursuing an under-graduate degree in Mass Media (BMM) and I was curious and interested. The feeling that BMM is what I wanted to do started sinking in. I enrolled myself for an undergraduate degree in Mass Media from National College, Mumbai. Ours was the second batch.
While this was happening, my older brother Vicky Todiwala(Cheragh is the younger of two brothers) was aspiring to become an actor. This was the time I had started becoming curious about film editing. Vicky spoke to his friend, Daya Shankar Pandey (he played the role of Goli in the movie Lagaan) about my interest in film editing. He offered to speak to a couple of his friends to take me on board to assist in editing. I was really excited.
So that’s how I met film editor Mr Ballu Saluja and subsequent to a few follow-ups, I got my first opportunity to try my hands at editing. Within 6-8 months I worked as an assistant editor on the movie Pinjar. But I hadn’t learnt much. I began wondering if I should continue on this path. But I had reached the highly competitive film industry and it might not have been wise to return. I wanted to learn more, much more. I began working at nights at another editor friend’s studio (his name was Hemant) so that I could try and learn technicalities of the editing software. They were such busy days. I would finish college, work with Ballu Saluja from 3-9 (Cheragh worked with Ballu Saluja for 4-5 other films), go home to take a shower and then head to Hemant’s studio to learn edtiing basics till 4:30 am, sleeping thereafter in the studio to start off my next day at college for the first lecture at 7:30 am. I have no regrets for the work and efforts I put in. I enjoyed my late night bike rides in Mumbai, the city that never sleeps.
I then began work with Ashutosh Gowariker Sir on Swades. Ashutosh Sir is like a guru to me. There are few people you meet in life who emanate tremendous knowledge and you want to grasp as much as possible. Ashutosh Sir is one such person. It was perhaps the magnetism of Ashutosh Sir that got me motivated to try my hands at direction as well. I got the opportunity to work with Ashutosh Sir on Jodhaa Akbar. I assisted him in researching and writing. I had begun work in the field with no salary and had now reached a 10,000 rupees monthly salary. But I was hurt to have been credited as a production assistant.
I decided to call it quits. I opened a garment store at Raghuleela Mall, Kandivali, Mumbai. I wanted to make money, which I did. But I began questioning myself once again. After a year and a half, this was around 2007-2008, I shut the store, and decided to take some time off. I went on a road trip and met with friends in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi before returning home. Money was over. I received a phone call, an opportunity work on Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Aamir Khan Productions. My salary went back to 10,000 rupees a month once again. It was a beautiful experience and since the production went on for a long time, and I was being paid monthly, I made sufficient income. While working on this project, I interacted with other editors. I worked on spotting subtitles for Taare Zameen Par. Assisted Deepa Bhatia on unreleased film Har Pal. Worked as an associate editor for Rock On. That’s when it sunk in – things are going right and I should hang in there and do my best.
I got my first opportunity to be an independent film editor with the film 99. This was 2009. It was a huge break. I also worked on Making of Dhobi Ghat and Peepli Live. Work and life will go on I thought. Life to chalta rehta hai. I had met the love of my life, Rupal. I wanted to get married. I went on a 45 day schedule for the movie United 6 where I edited on the film sets. Met great people, learnt a lot. I had earned enough for my wedding! I was thrilled.
I worked with Jahnu Barua Sir, who hails from Assam and has won multiple national and international awards. I worked with him on the Assamese film Baandhon. It was exciting to edit a film in a different language. It was one of my fastest edits.Jahnu Sir used to work on analog systems for editing. I introduced him to digital systems and to the Mac. Even today, he calls me when he has a question about the Mac. I would love to work with him again.
My most recent film was Warning a 3D film with Gurmeet Singh (Warning was shot on a 3D platform). The post production editing process for 3D films is time consuming and very different. This was yet another learning experience. I am currently working on Gulaab Gang, Zaalim Dilli and What the Fish. I have also signed a film called Mango just a few days ago – Abbas Tyrewala is the director and Kaleidoscope Entertainment is the production company.
What do you love about what you do?
I love my job. There are no Monday morning blues. I am very busy but because I freelance I can choose my work schedules. I can be there for my family any time they need me.
What are the aspects you don’t like about your role? Or challenges
The current market situation calls for a lot of patience. There are many directors and writers who have started editing on their own. There are many new entrants who find it hard to trust their editors. So, there is a lot changing in the film editing landscape.
What are the skills important for your role?
One has to be patient and technically sound. You have to understand the film directors’ vision.
Please tell us about some memorable moments
While working with Ashutosh Sir on Swades, every Sunday I would go to office when nobody was around and work on editing. I would edit a scene for practice and then delete it before someone takes notice. One such Sunday I was busted by Ashutosh Sir when he suddenly came to office. I was nervous and had to show him the edit of the scene I was working on (The scene in which Shah Rukh is in the train and a young boy comes by selling drinking water – ‘4 aane ka glass’ he says). He loved my edit and incorporated it in the film. I was so happy!
Another incident – yet again with Swades. Production was out-of-budget and we needed some shots for the song ‘Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera Swades Hai Tera’. I gathered all the shots that were not used in the film, nor were they shot for the song and completed the song. This was also incorporated.
Who or what are your inspirations
My biggest inspirations are Lord Hanuman and Lord Shiva. I research Vedic prayers, understand and apply them to my life. Ashutosh Sir was my greatest teacher.
My family has been very supportive in my work. They have let me choose my path, make mistakes and learn. I am glad that my parents are now enjoying their retired life. I am grateful to have a supportive brother, Vicky who always gave sound advice.
I am blessed to have the most understanding life partner.
What are your other interest areas?
I write poetry – http://poetrytosongs.blogspot.in/.
What career advice would you like to give?
Give your best to your job. If you love your job, you can make wonders. Film editing is a field which helps you learn every aspect about film making.
Image Courtesy – Cheragh Todiwala
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