Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wedding Videos

One of the memorable things in  Assamese weddings were the wedding videos.
( Am sure they are there in every wedding but speaking from experience here)

The process started with a briefing to the person in charge at his "outlet".
He would pull out a well worn register and note down the date, venue, time.
And the name of the bride and the groom.

On the wedding day, the cameraman and his assistant would arrive at the designated hour.
Usually on a motorcycle or scooter with a bag that held the camera, the wires and whatever tools they required.
Greeted by a male member of the family, they would sit on the empty chairs lining the wedding hall which would soon be filled with guests. Sipping tea from plastic cups and maybe nibbling a sweetmeat, part of the wedding spread, the assistant would busy himself setting up the camera and the light.

The first shots would be "test shots".
A little girl, dressed up in her frilly dress with matching ribbons in her hair.
A harrowed elderly aunt running around but stopping for a quick smile as she spotted the lens aimed at her.
The young tent decorators stringing up the last of the marigold flowers, under the strict supervision of a cousin brother given that responsibility.

Then the cameraman would approach the room where the bride was nearly ready,  with her close friends and family. The assistant would switch on the bright light, the cameraman would direct the bride to look at a certain angle, smile, gesture to her friends to move closer, pan the room lined with shy camera conscious faces.

As the wedding activity reached a climax, the duo always had vantage position, focussing on the wedding couple and the ceremonies. The veiled bride ( the assistant would call out to an aunt or friend to lift the veil up a little to capture the shy, happy face on the camera), the father performing the ceremony, the groom's family, the sacred fire, the flowers, and of course the guests.

In the wee hours of the morning, after the wedding has finally come to an end, and the chairs that lined the hall were empty once again, the cameraman and assistant would pack up the equipment and make their way home.

Two days later, a family member, usually the brother or cousin who had taken on this responsibility, would come home waving two or three VHS cassettes ( nowadays they are DVDs). The bride, now in her new home, the groom and the entire family would drag chairs, stools around the television. And then the videos would play.

Those were the days when social media had not arrived.
When family albums were for the family.
When videos were just about movies and an occasional song and dance medley.

Being a part of the wedding video was therefore the first public camera appearance.
The video would start off with a super with the names of the bride and the groom.
Rashmi weds Rajiv.
With a cameo of the two together.
The track would start playing.
Mostly romantic numbers from Assamese singers like Jitul Sonowal, Zubeen Garg and many others.
Sometimes Bollywood made an appearance as well.
Dotted with some traditional wedding songs at key moments.

The tearjerker moments would be enhanced by Shehnai strains. Or a sad number about the girl, now a Lakshmi in her new home, bidding good bye to her mom.

The commentary around the room would be about how an aunt did not get enough camera time, or how pretty the bride looked, or the way the guests were relishing the sumptious spread.
Tears would spring up when the screen brought up a close up of the bride hugging her father and the rose bedecked car pulling out of the wedding venue.
A household help would reluctantly push her bamboo stool away to get up and make tea for everyone.

And then , after two and a half to three hours of edited footage, tea and biscuits, the video would end with another shot of the happy couple and a super, "Wish you a happy married life. From Rajul Barua Productions.G.S Road, Guwahati".

Relationships may at times be faded and jaded.
May even break up at times.
But the wedding videos are always a reminder that the weddings in India are also about families.
About vows.
About parents pulling out the last of their savings.
About being made to feel special about the fact that we are stepping into a new phase.

And makes us feel committed once again about love, relationships, weddings.... even if the one on the video no longer exists.