Aastha Khanna, the nation’s first licensed intimacy coordinator on making a protected area for actors on set and why she’s put collectively a collective for India
In 1985, Saagar was within the information for a lot of causes. It was director Ramesh Sippy’s first romance after Shakti (1982), Shaan (1980) and Sholay (1975). It was additionally Dimple Kapadia’s comeback movie, reverse her Bobby co-star, Rishi Kapoor. It additionally occurred to be the film with an allegedly inadvertent topless scene.
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The story goes one thing like this. Rishi Kapoor’s character, Ravi, sees Mona (Kapadia) for the first time as she comes out of the ocean. Not fairly coated in foam, Mona wraps a towel round herself, which slips for a second. ‘The towel slipping was an accident’, ‘We didn’t realise the cameras had been rolling’ — these had been the explanations trotted out on the time, nonetheless not explaining how the body made it past the reducing ground. Fast ahead to 35 years later, submit #metoo and with intimacy coordinators now on movie units, how would this have performed out?
Know your rights
“I probably would have done the exact same thing visually, but in a way that Dimple ma’am would have felt safe,” says Aastha Khanna, India’s first licensed intimacy coordinator, who ventured into the area final lockdown. “An important part of intimacy is for performers to know their rights. If there was an accident on set which was shot, it should be deleted. However, if the director and actor feel the shot works aesthetically, they can take a decision to keep the scene,” she explains.
Earlier this week, when actor Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You) devoted her BAFTA to intimacy coordinator, Ita O’Brien, it highlighted this new breed of on-set professionals. The second season of American drama The Deuce was the first present to have an intimacy coordinator, Alicia Rodis. There is also Elizabeth Talbot for Bridgerton and Amanda Blumenthal (Euphoria).
The deep dive
Khanna, 26, says she learnt about intimacy coordinators when she was researching a workshop on intimacy for a movie that she was an AD on (but to be introduced). When she couldn’t discover an intimacy coordinator in India she wrote to the Intimacy Professionals Association (IPA), a worldwide company based by Blumenthal. “When they said they had never trained anyone from the South Asian community, I thought I could give it a shot,” says Khanna who utilized for the intensive 20-week coaching programme that price round ₹4 lakh. “We were taught to look at intimacy coordination through different lenses as well as basics like how to navigate a film set, how to read a contract, the different protocols and processes,” says the artiste, explaining that she additionally learnt about scenes that may be categorised as intimate, learn how to break them down, and many others.
The course known as for a deep dive into gender, sexuality and variety, says Khanna. “There is training in inclusion, sexual harassment and conflict resolution. We were taught mental first aid for minors and adults, medical first aid, advocacy and how to have non-violent communication.” While she can’t speak in regards to the reveals she has labored on (nonetheless in manufacturing), Khanna reveals, “I have worked with a few studios, with Netflix on a couple of shows and Dharmatic on a feature and a show. I am looking forward to working with Amazon Prime.”
Internationally, parallels are drawn between an intimacy coordinator and an motion director. “They do that because the pay is the same and so is the concept. An action director ensures the physical safety of the artist, while an intimacy coordinator looks out for the physical and mental safety.” The cash, nevertheless, isn’t nice. “We are working on it. I have founded a collective of intimacy professionals in India. We are launching a website that is going to have guidelines and workshops,” says Khanna, who likes to match her position to that of a choreographer. “The choreographer executes the director’s vision, doing a beat-by-beat breakdown of steps, expressions and emotions. A choreographer also liaises with different departments to ensure the right costume and make-up is used.”
In a dance rehearsal, she says, the performer isn’t in costume, and equally, nobody is taking their garments off in an intimacy rehearsal. “It is a dry run to figure out positions. Just as a choreographer understands the strengths of the performer, an intimacy coordinator should know what the actors are comfortable with and design the scene around that,” says Khanna.
- The instruments of her commerce characteristic boundaries, like an L Guard, the cup utilized by cricketers to guard the crotch. “Since it is a hard-case silicone, any form of arousal non-concordance that happens on sets, can be prevented. It can be a Pilates ball like this,” Khanna says, brandishing a nine-inch ball. “I inflate it a little bit and place it between the performers but it also gives enough flexibility to create a thrusting movement. There are other kinds of barriers like a silicone posterior, modesty garments and pasties for breasts. Pasties are available for different skin tones including green for post-production, if the actress is okay with side nudity but not full frontal.”
- Khanna tells me that no firm in India particularly does intimacy or modesty clothes. “Some things you can get at high end lingerie stores but the sizes and skin tone don’t match. I take samples and get them made myself. Others like the L guard or pilates ball, I buy online.”
Unlike a dance choreographer, nevertheless, an intimacy coordinator normally doesn’t design an intimate scene. “If they want to show heterosexual oral sex, it would be written from the perspective of where the lens and camera are going to be. That is when I come in and have a conversation with the director to create a storyboard,” says Khanna, including, “I do not always choreograph the scene but I do need to know what the choreography will be so that I can liaise with the different departments to make sure that the safety gear and costumes are correct. Last minute changes on set become very difficult to handle.”
Life on set
Her day begins with determining the scene and placement. “I check in on the performers, give them hygiene kits and do a run-through of the scene, establishing boundaries and comfort levels. I go through the costumes with the designer. I read the script once more to make sure I have all my bases covered.” When the scene is to be shot, after lighting and digital camera set-up, she requires a closed set. “We run through one dry rehearsal of the space. The actors disrobe or get into a specific costume, a hair and make-up touch up is done and then shooting starts.”
It is then that she will get the actors “into the zone” by telling them, ‘You are going to take care of and support each other, through this scene.’ “I insist the actors tell each other their safe words so they can call a timeout at any point of time.”
Returning to Saagar and the ‘80s, the time of rain dances in white saris, how does Khanna navigate the male gaze? “I give the director a clear idea of what the scene is going to look like. As long as they are aware that they are operating from the male gaze, it is okay, that is their vision. I don’t want directors to feel that an intimacy coordinator is policing them. I am an activist in my own time. On set I am a professional.”