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As Indians, we breathe cinema. Cinema has been a crucial part of our daily lives. A successful movie is a whole enchilada of numerous ingredients in perfect combination, one of them being “cinematography”. As much as cinematography depends on the vision and creativity of the cinematographer, the technical aspects are equally important and cannot be overlooked. BROADCAST VIDEO PRODUCER takes a look at the high-end cameras used to shoot movies which have really made its mark in the Bollywood industry for its cinematographic angle by engaging into a candid chat with the principal character of the very movie- the cinematographer- the “eye” behind the camera!

Siddharth Diwan- for “Titli”

Titli was shot majorly at a time when shooting on film was almost dead in our country. “When I met Kanu Behl (the Director of the movie), for the first time and discussed the film, we agreed that this movie has to be shot on 16mm...’coz we are talking about a world which is extremely harsh- where there are numerous layers and uncountable textures!”.
“Digital, at that time, wasn’t developed enough to reproduce the flavor and aura of that movie in a way I wanted. Intricate features like cracks on the wall, chipped of paints- all that was not getting captured in the digital and the result was pretty flat and smoothened out. And I believe 16mm has a very individualistic character and a style statement that’s bold and eccentric which can be utilized for a certain aesthetic approach - it is very grainy... very contrasty. ”.
“The process of making others acknowledge our point of view was no child’s play. We pitched it to the producers and they were totally against it. Their first concern was that the production cost would invariably increase which I assured them won’t be the case.”

“Throughout, I maintained a very democratic approach about it. I wasn’t adamant saying that this is the only camera I want to shoot with. I wanted them to see for themselves what I could and approve of my choice.. which, thank god, eventually happened. So we decided to run parallel tests with three different types of camera with completely different credentials at a very similar looking location. We took a RED camera, ARRI Alexa and ARRI 416 16 mm and shot in all three with the exact set of conditions. After looking at the results, we unanimously decided to go for the 16mm camera. In 16 mm, I could literally see every gradation of it- every grain and texture I desired. The kind of world shown in the movie was as important as the people living in it. So it needed a special treatment and detailed attention.” Other economics- like the convenient size of the 16mm (it fits very easily in locations where space is an issue), also was taken into consideration. The lens predominantly used was Ultra 16 lenses by Carl Zeiss. “The lens is mostly about how we humans actually visualize the world. We didn’t plan to dramatize too much with the camera movement and the way we are looking at the characters. Instead, we want to be standing and observing what the characters are doing.”

“I never really cared about the‘brand’- for me it has always been the kind of work I want to be associated with. It begins with the understanding of the script and the world that you are trying to create. For me the whole idea of cinematography is to conceive this world how do you want to place a character in it. Once you are clear about this, the technical part is very simple”

Manu Anand- for “Fan”

“Fan is a movie very close to my heart. The movie was shot primarily in RED Dragon camera and the lenses we used were Master Prime lenses. We did an extensive testing with many different cameras. This movie, in particular, has a lot of VFX work associated with it. And somehow for various reasons, two of them being its form factor and resolution, RED Dragon was working out really well for VFX and the look of the film. There was a lot of running around with the camera and numerous handheld shots. The convenient size of this camera helped us be very efficient.”
Being a camera neutral person, Manu Anand believes every camera has its own advantages and disadvantages. “Looks can be achieved with any camera. It depends on the script- on the treatment- how we are shooting the film.” Unlike many others, he doesn’t like to mix and match cameras. “We always shot on RED Dragon and never mixed cameras. We would predominantly shoot with two RED Dragons and for few action sequences, we involved a third one.” Someone said, “It’s not the camera- it’s the eye behind the camera.”

“The Eye is very important. I believe one shouldn’t let technical aspects solely overpower what really matters- your own vision. There is a whole buffet of cameras out there in the market. But every effort is reduced to naught if you lack a ‘good eye’ and of course when every aspect of the movie is in sync, only and only then magic is created on screen!”
For him, cinematography means through light and lensing and shadow and composition, helping to communicate the emotion of the scene. “It depends on the script- it depends on the treatment- on how we are shooting the film. A good DOP can work around a camera’s weak and strong points. My job is to help the director convey the emotion of the scene. Every composition conveys a different emotion.”
“I feel, cinematography should be invisible at times- though you are seeing it, it’s not demanding attention. There’s a famous story of Satyajit Ray, the director, and Subrata Mitra, the DOP of a timeless Bengali movie. When Subrata da saw the edit, he said dada, you removed that beautiful shot and Satyajit Ray apparently replied yes, I had to. It was too beautiful. It was so beautiful that people would only remember that shot and it won’t gel with the movie. This is what I mean when I say that at the end of the day, the story is all that matters. ”
Being asked where does he want to see cinema in the next 10 years, he says,”Our audience is becoming very discerning about the content of a movie. Stories are getting better day by day. One should be a good storyteller first- should have the power to engage their audience. One thing I really hope happens is that all films should be given equal opportunity. I hope people watch small films also and not only big and extravagant ones in the theater!”

Mitesh Mirchandani- for “Neerja”

This beautiful and inspiring biopic was shot primarily with the camera ARRI Alexa XP. “This camera was pretty small and convenient to carry on our shoulders- which was the demand for the movie. The camera was well balanced even without the rig. Another unique feature of the camera which attracted me was its latitude factor because that helped me achieve the intrinsically detailed look I desired.”
The lens used was the Hawk CC Anamorphic lens. The reason behind this choice was that it flawlessly created the vintage look of the 80’s. “The lens is a perfect blend and just the right balance of vintage look and one that’s soothing to the eyes.” Being asked to describe his relationship with the camera, Mitesh Mirchandani said, “Camera is just a tool- how we use it, is what matters. For me, a movie should be content- driven and I am very happy that in today’s world, different contradistinctive films are being made and all such kinds are being accepted. This is a market to explore your creativity and capabilities and one should take advantage of that.”

When asked to comment about what is cinema to him, he said, “Cinema is becoming more about virtual reality day by day. There is so much of exposure- we can see‘anything and everything’- we can replicate our exact vision in mind with the help of technology, and that part is pretty exciting! I believe, right now, it’s going in the right direction and I hope it continues doing so. I just want the future of the cinema to be in a place where there is a general acceptance of all kinds of films irrespective of its budget.”