While the actor was still getting suited up, the photographer headed down the stairs towards the main studio where today’s action would take place. The photographer was asked to leave his personal possessions in a secured storage room that would be locked shortly. He laid the clothes he’d put on that morning over a chair, as though he were putting himself to bed. He would now assume another role. He was called Stewart and wore a badge bearing his new name. The room was filled with metal flight cases. “Tezz, costumes Anil Kapoor” was written across one of them. Clothes hangers, police uniforms, props. The photographer left the room, his photography equipment in his rucksack on his back and tripod in hand. “You can’t take that equipment into the studio. It’s forbidden to take photos on set,” said Mansoor, responsible for the extras. “Why not?” asked the photographer enraged. “Because it’s secret. Nothing from the film can be released before the film is out. Even the name of the movie is secret.” And yet they all knew this picture was going to be called Tezz. The photographer decided not to enter into a discussion, so as to avoid drawing attention to himself. He’d get his chance later in the day. He left his rucksack and tripod alongside his sleeping alter ego and double-checked that the door would be properly locked. The photographer followed Mansoor through a series of shabby corridors and rooms with electric cables strewn across the floor. They followed the trail of cables that were leading like tentacles towards the motherboard, nervous system, and electrical hub, near the main studio.
Stark spotlights lit a large green wall with white markers. It was a socalled green screen, which allows filmmakers to replace the green background with other images during postproduction, whereby complex locations can be edited together. A second space had been built in the middle of the studio space. A room in a room, suspended with ropes from the ceiling and supported on each side by wooden constructions. The photographer peered inside through a window. It was the window of the control room from which today the actors would be following the trains as they moved across the panel in the form of led lights. One of the lights was the train carrying the terrorists: a moving bomb. The photographer was instructed to enter the control room. The voice of the director, Nair Priyadarshan, echoed through the loudspeakers. He gave instructions to the technicians and actors. There was a concentrated atmosphere. There were at least fifty people on set. The photographer was guided to the other extras. The set was comprised of three rooms. The first was a large control room set up with dozens of computers and a control panel displaying a schematic representation of the British railway system. Separated by a glass door was an adjacent cafeteria, with refrigerators, microwave ovens, and coffee machines. Several scenes would also be shot here. Finally, there was a large conference room with a meeting table. The desk of the director was also situated in that room. There was a photograph of his kids to demonstrate that he was a loyal family man.
It was in this last room that the extras were assembled. “You’ll be called when we need you on set,” Mansoor shared with us. The sharply dressed supporting actors gathered around the meeting table. The photographer sat in among them. The room itself was pretty dark, colored led lights flickered on the wall; around twenty dvd players, stacked up on one another against the wall, were there to give the illusion of some kind of complicated security system.
A number of water bottles had been set on the table for the extras. And soon they were also offered coffee. Conversations slowly started to pick up. It was a diverse bunch of Westerners aged between twenty and fifty. There were people from Australia, a couple of Germans, one Brit, one Dutch person, two French, one Danish, one Austrian, a Swedish couple … and two Belgians (in the meantime the actor had also arrived). They were all set to play the role of security workers for British Rail. And they all looked “very English.” It was strange to talk to each other in this artificial setting. It was difficult to place one another because they all looked the same—and equally ridiculous. Presumptions based on how someone was dressed or how their hair was styled were out of the window. They examined one another, with an undertone of empathy and solidarity. The only distinctions that could be made at this point were between males and females, young and old.
Mansoor entered the conference room with two other men. They scanned the room and subsequently picked out three extras. The Austrian, the Dutch person, and the female half of the Swedish couple was asked to come onto the set.
The photographer looked at the space, its appearance was really quite “real.” He wondered what the hell he could photograph here. And even if he knew, he didn’t have his camera with him … Previous tension made way for doubt. He came to the realization he was unable to work with this space. It was too dark, too full, and too real. He would have to come up with something else.