The one word which you could use to describe Pratha Narang is versatile. It has been a few years since Pratha has been working in the entertainment industry and she already has several notable projects to her credit. As a creative artiste, she has dabbled in a variety of things. Working in different departments, she believes, has helped her get a well-rounded understanding of filmmaking. Some of the projects she has worked on, in different capacities, include ‘Half Full’, ‘Little Things’, ‘Upstarts’, ‘Mirzapur Season 2’ and ‘The Last Hour’. In this interview, she talks about her eventful journey in the show business, important milestones, producing ‘The Viral Wedding’, the challenges involved in shooting a show during the lockdown, exploring different facets of filmmaking, collaborating with Raj & DK, dream of becoming a full-time wildlife photographer and more.
You have been a PR professional, editor, DOP, drone operator, photographer and a producer. How does one define you?
I am like a production house in one person. When you are working in a certain field, it is extremely important to know about every aspect of it to understand how things work. For instance, it is important for a director to know to what it is like to work on the edit table. If you do not know that, you would not be able to direct. I know so many directors who have had arguments with their DOPs (Director of Photography) about the lighting but the fact that is that the DOP knows how the lighting is going to look like after the DIY. Sometimes, people start advising people without knowing anything about that particular area. If you want to get somewhere, it is important to have basic information about everything. It becomes all the more important if you are working in a creative field.
You got into photography when you were in school. Was that the first step towards you being drawn to creative arts?
Photography was the only thing accessible at that point of time. I grew up in Mumbai. I always wanted to be a journalist or a veterinary doctor. I have realized that as you grow up, things just fall into place. I took up a job in PR because it was close to journalism and accessible to me at that time.
You also worked as a teacher in a small village for some time.
Yes, I worked there as a teacher for quite a while actually. I also taught at the Bhakti Vedanta School when I was very young. I used to be their art teacher. My stint as a teacher helped me understand children better. Years later, I was supposed to shoot a documentary for the Australian University in India. They have a particular technique of teaching art to students. It was incredible to see how the method of teaching is evolving. I could speak to the children and ask them the right questions because I now knew how the mental framework of kids worked. All these experiences have helped me tremendously in my career.
‘The Viral Wedding’ was the first time you worked as a producer on a show. What made you decide to produce a show on your own?
There are times when you do not know what you are. I could not call myself a DOP as I could not shoot it. I had to give specifications like “I don’t need a room that has white light, I need the one which has yellow light”. It was a challenging shoot. As far as the overall look of the show was concerned, my expectations were slightly higher. But with the kind of time frame and resources we had, I think we did a great job. The show went on air twenty-two days after we first started working on it. It was a lot of fun. We did not know where it was going while we were making it. I was newly married. I was talking to Raj sir and he said “why don’t Shreya and you do something?”. I spoke to Shreya and she was really excited about the idea.
Lockdown happened there days after you got married. Is that how got the idea for the show?
Yes, the inspiration for the show was my wedding. At that time, the freshest thing in our mind was my wedding. We wondered if I had got married five days later, how would my marriage have been. It started as a joke and it turned out to be a show. We had a discussion at around 7-8 p.m and two-three hours later, Shreya said, “I have something, please read it”. We shared the draft with Raj and he gave some really good feedback. There was no major casting as such. Most of the actors who worked on the show were our friends.
In an interview, you stated that the director duo Raj & DK have been like mentors to you. What is that one important quality that you picked up from them?
They are very gutsy. That is one thing I have picked up from them. Sometimes, you have an idea but you don’t know if it’s going to work. You wonder whether it’s too absurd and if people are going to make fun of it. Raj has been that one person who says, “so what it’s weird, if you like it do it”. We had no clue where ‘A Viral Wedding’ will go. I have worked so closely with Raj that I know how every department works. When we started working on the show, he encouraged me by telling me, “you know the basics of everything, so you can handle everything while being at home”. I used to sit on three computers at one time. My editor would be sharing his screen with me and we would be on phone all the time. I had a graphic artist working at the same time. If I saw something that was not working out properly, I would give them a call. At one time, I had three screens rolling at the same time. Shreya had a great vision. She knows storytelling and acting. A producer was supposed to help the team put everything together. That’s where I came into the picture. There were a lot of challenges, especially in the post-production process. The FPS of every phone was different. If the SPS changes on the timeline, the timeline gets hung. Matching the lights was extremely difficult. A person will get visually disconnected if there is a jerk in terms of lighting. We could not do a DIY as it is done in a studio setup and not in a home. Working on this project was very different from anything I had worked on in the past.
After managing and pulling off such a challenging shoot, you must be now better equipped for such challenges in the future.
Yes! In those twenty-two days, I learnt more about filmmaking than I did in all these years I had spent in the industry (laughs). I was newly married and had moved into a new house with very basic things. There is an issue with the Wi-Fi and I could not call anyone. I had to use my phone’s dongle. We were a crew of 7-8 people. Everybody was nice enough to work for extremely long hours. The fact that it was so different is what made it special. None of us would have been able to pull it off without Raj. He was the driving force behind this show.
You have worked on ‘The Family Man 2’ as well.
Yes, I have done the publicity photography for the show. I have also done behind-the-scene videos that could be used in PR. I have worked more on the marketing side this time. In season 1, I was more on the sets. This time, I was on the set only to figure what kind of content would be used while marketing the show. I am so glad I could do that as we went into a lockdown after that and could not do a campaign shoot. ‘The Family Man 2’ is going to be an amazing show. Very rarely do you see a better ‘season 2’ of a show but after watching the second season of ‘The Family Man’, everybody will say that it has surpassed season 1 which itself was so incredible.
Is becoming a full-time wildlife photographer still on the cards?
Yes, someday, when I have enough money (laughs). Whenever I don’t like something, I scrap it. Art direction is on the cards. I recently got into script supervision as well. I would like to direct but I will take the plunge only when I feel I am ready for it. Raj tells me, “the day I feel I you are ready, I will loop you in”. Right now, I am just going with the flow.