Amit Vachharajani, local producer, goes behind the scenes to narrate how this huge series production took shape
“Filming in rush hour at CST station and setting up the big production village on platform 18 were the biggest challenges,” recalls Amit Vachharajani, whose company Backpack Films were associated as the local arm for this mammoth production.
(Left to right) Zahabia Lacewala (make-up); Amrita Singh (production assistant); Charvee (production runner); Kevin Pinto (sound recordist); Robert Llewellyn (presenter); Anita Rani (presenter); Akbar Khan (production assistant), Dan Snow (Presenter); Amit Vachharajani (local producer); Kinjal Pandya (BBC India assistant producer). Pic/Kevin Nunes
His company had worked with international documentary film crews for over a decade now, and in the past, had also worked for many films for BBC. “When Amanda and Lisa were planning this series, they got in touch with me having heard good things about us.
It was exciting to be trusted with a complex project like this. We shot for over five months with a lot of detailed planning and research, as well as coordination with the Central Railway officials and the CPRO Narendra Patil’s team,” adds Vachharajani, while recalling the experience.
As the local producer, there were challenges galore, he tells us, reminding us that Mumbaikars are a curious lot; “Every third person would come and ask us, ‘Kiski shooting chal rahi hai?’ As it was a public space we had to politely answer hundreds of people every day which could get exhausting after a while.” Vachharajani recalls how the multi-camera set up in a super-busy railway station was the most challenging.
“We had set up a production ‘village’ on the CST station — a live edit suite with wireless communication, cameras, make-up vans, a production office, porta-toilets and a catering unit which served three ready-cooked meals a day to a crew of about sixty people,” he shared about this huge operation that was akin to a feature film production on a functioning railway station.
“We were thrilled that it all went off without a hitch,” he reminisces. Since the crew was filming on real running trains and near tracks, safety was a major concern. “Getting the camera crew and the presenters on board the local train at rush hour was another big challenge. We had to make sure everyone got in safely and also that we got some good shots,” cites the Mumbai-based producer.
“Though most of the filming was at the station, we also shot some great locations — which the average commuter doesn’t get to see. We shot at many hidden corners of the station, and saw some beautiful details of the station’s architecture,” he reveals.
Few areas that come for special mention were the Wadi-Bunder workshop where the coaches are cleaned, Matunga Central Railway workshop where coaches are repaired and painted, the automated laundry at Wadi-Bunder and at the Bhusaval Zonal Training Institute.
“It was an amazing experience to see the behind-the-scenes operations of one of the biggest railway networks in the world. When we travel by trains, we don’t realise how many people it takes and how much effort goes into running a busy station like CST and a rail network like the Indian Railways,” he signs off.