What happens to a dream when it becomes reality?
Does it still exist somewhere, in some ethereal place, waiting to come to fruition again?
Could a fictional narrative capture an emotional state, and the true meaning behind a real, live event with more drama and conviction than a traditional documentary?
These were just some of the questions that arose when I took on the “CITY OF LAKES” project late last year. First, it would become an unprecedented attempt to combine a fully scripted, produced film with a real, live wedding (central to the plot) into one, seamless film. Second, the live wedding and production would be shot entirely on-location in Udaipur, India over a period of nine days. Third, the skeleton crew I would commission would be made up solely of live event filmmakers from across North America, who would shoot the live wedding events and production simultaneously & exclusively on DSLRs, the Canon 5D MarkII and Canon 7D.
The project would require a leap of faith first from Chicago natives, Melissa & Samir, who initially invited me to document their three-day destination wedding in Udaipur, India, while simultaneously considering a Bollywood concept they hoped to premiere at their reception. I quickly realized no concept film could rival the fairy tale wedding they had planned. So after pitching the idea to combine a scripted concept with their wedding film to produce a much more meaningful ‘hybrid’ feature, they deliberated, and finally took the leap. For that, I can’t thank them enough. It then took a leap of faith from my DP & Co-producer Patrick Moreau, who was skeptical, but eager, followed by talented wedding filmmakers Joe Simon & Casey Warren. Rounding out our team was my jib operator, Chris Geiger, Amish Solanki, and Mumbai-based super-producer, Pravin Thakur; a true miracle worker.
“CITY OF LAKES” is as much a documentary about what it means to return to the birthplace of one’s ancestors, as it is an exploration of the Hindu faith, and the rituals of a Hindu marriage. Central to this is the Ganesh puja, which in simple terms, is a prayer over a fire believed to invoke the spirit of Ganesh, a great deity and protector, who can remove all obstacles from one’s path. The puja is performed several times in the film and carries great significance to the plot and characters in both literal and metaphoric ways.
Melissa & Samir had always dreamed of being married in India. We hope this film helps them cherish that dream. But it could not have been without the acting talents of Anubhab Saha, Sharon Chawda and Rushad Rana, who were consummate professionals and a joy to work with. It also could not have been without the support of our sponsors: Canon, who provided two pre-production 7Ds and a host of L-series lenses; Tiffen, who provided all of our lighting; and Cinevate, who sent us much needed gear and sponsored an incredible behind-the-scenes campaign viewable at Cinevate.com.
The challenges were immediate, abundant and frequent. At times, we were certain the film was destined for failure; I wondered if the film was too ambitious to execute. It took the perseverance of filmmakers who deal routinely in making the spontaneous appear staged and constant script re-writes to adjust to the obstacles.
You won’t find many studios ready or willing to post a full length edit or main feature online for anyone to see; and for good reason. Event films are documentaries meant mainly for the people who lived them. But it’s with pride that we share Melissa & Samir’s ‘hybrid’ feature, “CITY OF LAKES,” which hopefully achieves more than a documentary, and perhaps at the same time, more than a scripted film.
There is a final question we hope you’ll find difficult to answer as you watch our film. In more ways than one, try to answer:
What is real?
Thanks for watching,
Pacific Pictures presents “CITY OF LAKES”
Starring Melissa Kumar, Samir Shah, Anubhab Saha, Sharon Chawda & Rushad Rana
Written & Directed by Kevin Shahinian
Produced by Kevin Shahinian & Patrick Moreau
Line Producer Pravin Thakur
Director of Photography Patrick Moreau
2nd Unit Director Joe Simon
2nd Unit Steadicam Casey Warren
Film Editor Kevin Shahinian
Jib Operator Chris Geiger
Set Photographer Amish Solanki