Starring Deepika Padukone, Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi, and Dhairya Karwa in lead roles, Gehraiyaan is the first Indian feature-length film to credit a person as an intimacy director. India-based Ukranian filmmaker Dar Gai took upon the job for the film that has been directed by Shakun Batra. In an interview with Hindustan Times, Dar talks about the role of an intimacy director in ensuring that actors feel safe.
Asked about her experience of working with the actors, Dar said, “It was amazing. I was supposed to come for five days – one week to conduct the workshops and direct the music videos but I stayed there for a month and a half. The hospitality and everyone’s energies allowed us to explore going beyond boundaries. The workshops we did with Deepika and Siddhant were fun because of their vulnerability and childish wonder and that helped a lot on sets.
Sharing the fun she had on set, Dar added “One of our jokes was, every time I would come on the set, Shakun would go ‘Oh my God, thank God you came. Just tell them to kiss. Because I do not want to tell them to kiss.’ And, I would run away. That was our inner joke. And, then when there were intimate scenes, let us say a kiss or a hug, they would shout ‘Where is Dar?’ Because we would first do certain exercises to make it all much more easy and more fun.”
Elaborating on the job of an intimacy director, she said, “Imagine you want to go diving, and you are scared. You are not scared of the water, but with all the equipment, you are not sure what you will see. So, the idea of an intimacy director is that first she/he will explain the route and then come with you underwater to show the underwater world. The idea is to look at intimate scenes, just the way we look at fight or dance sequences. And, by intimate scenes, I do not necessarily mean physical scenes. It can be a strong emotional and passionate scene. Intimacy directors create safety zones for the actors to work and feel comfortable with each other.”
Asked if the ideas of censorship or catering to Indian sensibilities crossed her mind while working on Gehraiyaan, Dar said, “As creators, our task is to create chemistry. Then, how to feel towards the chemistry, is a choice of the audience. What I wanted the most was, that no matter whether it is a shot of a hand touching the shoulder or forehead touching the forehead, the audience must feel the same vulnerability they’d experience when they see any other, much more explicit scene for example. We want to create a world in which you feel the emotion, and that was the main task for us. For me, that (censorship) was not a topic of discussion. For me, it was about how to make the actors feel safe, and how to make everyone comfortable in a way that we still achieve the goal – making people feel things.”
Actors mostly read the script before taking up a film or a show. So, they know what they are signing up for – whether the project requires intimate scenes. Why then, do we need intimacy directors? “That is an important question to address. My example would be an action or fight sequence. When actors read the scene, they know what they are signing up for, but we still call action directors. Whether the actors perform or they call stunt artists, we have specialists on set to make sure our actors are physically safe. Likewise, intimacy direction helps us make actors feel safe – physically and emotionally,” Dar said.
She added, “Suppose there is a kiss scene, but maybe I don’t feel that way towards my co-actor. What if I feel vulnerable, or what if I have anxiety, or what if I do not know how to create that chemistry with my partner? All these questions will be answered and taken care of, by the intimacy director. It helps to take a look from aside the director.”
Asked if Deepika, Ananya, Siddhant or Dhairya had any inhibitions when they started working on Gehraiyaan, Dar said, “I think the biggest inhibition was mine. I was not sure what I would do, coming on the sets. I was not sure if actors will listen to, or were even willing to attend my workshops. A lot of things came from Shakun. He was so confident of my role, that kind of influenced the way how everyone in the crew looked at me, and the importance of intimacy direction in the film.”
“When I first entered my workshop, there was already a lot of trust between me and the actors. They were ready to experiment and try something they haven’t. For example, the workshops that I did with Deepika and Siddhant were different from what we did with all of them together – Ananya, Dhairya. But, not even once, I felt any hesitation from their side. No one was like I do not want to do this. All of them were absolutely equal to each other, in terms of their eagerness to do something new. I guess that was very inspiring for me,” she said.
She further said, “I think our main task was to create chemistry, I know if we are able to find the right keys and press the right notes, then everything will be taken care of. No matter how complicated the scene is, how big or small the scene is. It will work because we have found the source of chemistry. And, we have trained our body and mind towards it. My first few days were to focus on the exercises which will allow Deepika and Siddhant to feel safe with each other, to trust each other. And, once you trust each other, that is when you can push to experiment, in terms of different expressions.”
“Once that was figured I think after my first three days of workshops, I told Shakun listen, you pushed me into this different world, and it kind of just worked. Then I knew nothing can stop them. That also happened because the actors trusted the process and the science behind it. They trusted their bodies and mind. That is very commendable.”