When director Ram Kamal Mukherjee first approached Manisha Basu for the role of an ‘intimacy supervisor’ in his film Seasons Greetings, she wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. “This (assignment) came as complete surprise but I took it up as a challenge because anything new excites me,” says Basu in an email interview. Previously associated with Gracy Singh’s dance troupe, it was Basu’s friend Saikat Das (associate director on Seasons Greetings) who put her in touch with the film’s director. And it was the initiative of both the director Ram Kamal Mukherjee and producer Aritra Das to get this kind of assistance on their film set.
“In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we thought it was essential to make our film set as safe as possible. And once I was going through the film’s scenes, I thought it was absolutely crucial to have a consultant on the set. Which is when the director and I came to this decision of hiring Manisha Basu,” said producer Aritra Das over the phone.
So, is there a degree or a course that has certified Basu for the job? “No there are no special courses to become an Intimacy Supervisor. You need to be sensitive and sensible enough to make your actors comfortable while they execute intimate scenes,” says Basu. “She (Basu) comes from a good family, and that’s all I needed to know to hire her” says Das.
“I would sit with the lead actors Celina Jaitly and Azhar Khan and choreograph the love-making scene keeping their comfort in mind. Ram Kamal would include me in his meetings with cinematographer Pravatendu Mondal and we would discuss the exact camera placement and movement regarding the scene. My job was to ensure no physical or mental harassment of the lead actors. No one was allowed to use abusive language during this particular scene,” Basu describes what a day on the film set would look like. “We asked the supporting crew to leave the room during the intimate portions of the film. The only ones who stayed were me, the director, the cinematographer, Basu and Celina’s staff apart from the two leads,” said Das.
An intimacy supervisor has the power to stop filming, if he/she gets a sense that either of the lead actors are uncomfortable. According to Das, the intimate moments are meticulously choreographed so that both actors are fully aware of the camera angles. “It’s always the director’s prerogative to draw the line. Being a choreographer and a woman I keep myself in the position of an actor and share my thoughts with the director. We have our arguments but a scene is always locked with mutual consent,” says Basu, going on to add that a professional could stand to gain anywhere between Rs 25,000 to Rs 1,00,000 per day, depending on the scale of the film.
Seasons Greetings is Celina Jaitly’s first film since Anees Bazmee’s Thank You (in 2011). Interestingly, the film’s crew is the same team behind Esha Deol-starrer Cakewalk, another film featuring an actor returning after a hiatus. Did a short film really need an intimacy supervisor or is it just a stunt to gain some pre-release mileage?
Whatever the intention might have been, there’s no denying that such a role would definitely help to keep a check on predatory behaviour on a film set. Seasons Greetings might or might not have an ‘intimate scene’ worth writing home about, but the film has invented a new job title for Bollywood and made it a (relatively) safer place for those at the bottom.