Onsite at TEDIndia: Q&A with producer Bharath

Posted by: Emily McManus

Bharath.jpgBharath (his full name) was the local producer of TEDIndia, a calm authority figure in the middle of a large, international, multilingual crew. After the conference wrapped on Saturday afternoon, he had time to talk about the massive job of getting TEDIndia up and running.

How did you get connected with TEDIndia?

I’m basically a filmmaker. I do corporate films for my bread-and-butter, and I make documentaries for my own creative satisfaction. We do documentaries about Buddhism, comparative religion, literacy; we go to villages and make motivational films aimed at illiterate people, to send their children to school. And I make films for Infosys; I’ve been working with them for about 10 years. Infosys recommended some vendors, the TED team met with some others, and I was lucky they decided to go with me. That’s how I got into the loop. TED was an important thing in India, and Infosys felt we should have people there who can deliver. They said, Can you take over the whole thing? I said, Sure, why not, let’s do it.

When did you get onsite to start work on TEDIndia?

We were here from October 26th, but most of the stage pieces were getting fabricated outside the Infosys campus, so we just brought them in and started rigging them up. We put in about 3 months of preproduction.

The thing about most of the Hollywood teams that I work with, and I tell them this right from the beginning: Working in India is different. In the sense that, (a), the number of people involved will be much more than elsewhere, and (b), it is not as mechanized. To put up the Simulcast, for instance, we didn’t use cranes. We have them, but we don’t use them all the time because we have so many people. And it’s generating employment and revenue for ever so many people. It’s kind of mind-boggling for Westerners to come here to work, because they look at the sheer number of people and they get petrified. But that is my workforce. Those are my cranes, you know, those are my forklifts.

Once you get into production, you realize the way this crew works. At a stage when you’re discussing contracts and schedules, you’re looking at the number of hours of work and number of days you’ll put in, but once they get into production, all that is out of the window. We’ve been rehearsing til 11:30 and 12 o’clock in the night, and the teams haven’t batted an eyelid. They’ve been here. And they’re back again at 6 in the morning. It’s a really good team.

It’s interesting that you come from a film background; TEDIndia is live theater, but it eventually lives on as a film. Was it hard to make the transition?

No, in fact. Big productions are the same, irrespective of what it is. It’s how organized you are, what kind of a crew you have, what’s your relationship with your crew members, what kind of harmony can you build in your team, and how they deliver. Irrespective of whether it is films or events, I believe that for any group of human beings to work together, you need to have that basic relationship between each other. And that’s what I have thrived on so far. I make films for the Air Force where the teams are much larger than this, the cameras are much larger and more in number, and it was not difficult at all.

What was probably, I wouldn’t say difficult but what was new, was the kind of multiple formats that are used, and the scale. The scale of projection, the scale of image processing. These were different, but technology is available, equipment is available, help is available.

One of my favorite moments of pre-TED was watching you and your mixer screen the first test footage from the cameras with TED’s video team. The whole team was thrilled by the quality; you especially seemed to be enjoying the moment.

I think for every artist, irrespective of whether he is a painter, a filmmaker, a sculptor, I think the curiosity is in seeing: How does the product look? Do I have a beautiful frame that other people will look at and appreciate and enjoy? And I think that is the ultimate satisfaction. Nothing can complicate that. Not money, not awards, nothing can complicate that. If people tell you your stage looks good, your frames look good, that’s the ultimate satisfaction.