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As you watch the slick, fastpaced scenes in Dev D, you’re mesmerised. This is because of the work done by Aarti Bajaj. Well, part of it is-Bajaj, one of the few women editors in Mumbai, was responsible for editing the movie.
Aarti Bajaj, 37, is a passionate and strong-headed woman. It was her love for films that made her rebel against her family, at the age of 21, and move from Delhi to Mumbai to pursue her dream of working in films. Today, she is well known in the film industry for her blockbuster work: she was the editor of Love Aaj Kal, Jab We Met and Aamir, apart from her stunning work in Dev D.
How did you become an editor?
My dad threw a fit when he heard of my decision to head to Mumbai. But I told him I would run away if he didn’t let me go, so he reluctantly gave in. Her father is now proud of her for standing by her decision, and for all that she’s achieved by herself.
What did you study? How did you get work?
Fascinated by films like Vittorio De Sica’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Bajaj decided to do a course in film and video production at the Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai, in 1994. “I decided films were where I want to be.” Internships with veteran editors Bardroy Baretto and Shyam Ramanna had her captivated by the editing console.
“I just fell in love with the whole process of rewriting a film at the edit table.” With experience, she began doing independent work for various ads and music videos. It has taken her almost eight years to establish herself as an independent editor.
Tell us more about your work?
With her first film, Paanch, which remains unreleased, she began a journey. She is now one of the most sought-after editors. Her resume boasts of some of the biggest names in the industry, including Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Kashyap and Nikhil Advani.
“I am very easy to work with. And I live my work, which is why most directors repeat me in their films,” she says. Bajaj says she enjoys working on all kinds of films-from dark ones, like Black Friday, to lighter love stories, like Love Aaj Kal-she has a soft spot for films which are based on relationships and real characters. Like Geet, in Jab We Met. “I enjoy working on films that have more rooted characters, ones that everyone can identify with.”
How would you describe being a Film Editor?
Editing is not an easy job, Bajaj says. “Editing can be strenuous, with each film taking six months to one year of work. Although it’s a technical aspect of movie-making, it is an equally creative affair.” Editing, in Bajaj’s words, is the art of deconstructing and reconstructing the entire film at the editing table. “It’s the journey of taking the written to the visual. You retell the whole story and take the director’s vision a step ahead.” An editor not only makes the cuts and chops, she needs to understand the script and use the visuals to rewrite it all over again.
Every single edited piece is a work of passion for Bajaj. “I like to live the film. Every time I’m at the table, I find one character which will drive the film for the day or even in its entirety.” It’s the creativity and not the size of the film that appeals to her. “The budget may be small, but the concept and the creativity on display simply bowls you over.” The script is all that drives her as she puts in place the scenes and shots.
“At times, even films with the smallest budgets have great ideas in them and are great to work on.” With more women taking to the technical aspects of filmmaking, the industry, too, is becoming more accommodating. Besides, changes in the Indian society over the past decade have seen more women entering B-town. “Parents are much more encouraging these days and daughters don’t need to fight for their career choices,” Bajaj says.
There is something else Bajaj does exceptionally well: juggling her demanding profession with being a mother. Bajaj’s organisational skills have helped her balance work and looking after her nine-year-old daughter, Aliyah.
Despite lengthy projects, she still manages to find time to pursue her passion for photography and travel and treat her daughter to a great meal. “I don’t cook often, but when I do, I make sure it’s a great meal,” smiles Bajaj, who takes her daughter to the editing studios now and then. “Aliyah has helped me deal with tough times. We now manage our lives very well; she not just cooperates, but also encourages me to work hard.”
And Bajaj isn’t complaining. Her passion for films and editing allows her to overcome any obstacle. “I’m madly in love with my work. I don’t mind watching my work even 200 times, till I feel it’s perfect.” Then, once she has completed a film, she detaches herself from it completely.
“Once the film is locked, I don’t think about it.” Bajaj looks up to famous international editors Thelma Schoonmaker and Walter Murch for inspiration. “I like the approach and sensibilities of Walter Murch, as he is also a sound designer and infuses his sense of sound into his editing, which completely enhances the feel of the film.”
Now, with Karthik Calling Karthik up on screens, Pan Singh Tomar, starring Irrfan Khan, coming up, and Rajkumar Gupta’s next in her kitty, Bajaj is exactly where she wants to be. In her own words, “Passion can take you places.”