In an evolving Hindi film industry, we shine the spotlight on cinematographers for a closer look at their craft
Cinema sells dreams! But making these dreams come true is a collective effort that involves an army of technicians. Among these specialists is the cinematographer, whose job is to visualise and translate the director’s vision creatively from the storyboard to the celluloid with supreme precision.
Although the director is the primary story-teller, the role of a cinematographer is extremely crucial. We spoke to many high-profile cinematographers and asked them exactly how important their role is. Has cinematography lost its charm and is direction indeed the pinnacle of filmmaking? Also, are they satisfied with the remuneration and recognition they are receiving today?
Cinematography is the art of capturing a story and the director’s vision. It’s just not about looking through the lens; it’s about creativity.
My guru once told me to never say ‘no’ to a director because he comes with a lot of planning on how he wants the film to be shot. Earlier, cinematographers used to turn director because they didn’t get due credit but now; they are recognised and their remuneration has increased too. So they don’t need to take the director’s chair.I have worked on more than 108 films. There are a few cinematographers today who focus less on the director’s vision and concentrate more on the actors look. That’s how they win the actor’s support.
Cinematography is like painting in motion. It’s an expression of your subconscious mind. The cinematographer’s role is extremely important in filmmaking. It’s almost like being an on-location director. It’s like painting someone else’s dream on emulsion through light.
The cinematographer is the one person uppermost on the director’s mind, which is why it’s so important for a cinematographer to be in complete sync with the director. Indian cinema is open to new ideas and new thoughts, and we are likely to see a lot of DoPs turn to direction. It’s not like asking a neurosurgeon to turn into a cardiologist but he can definitely become a good psychiatrist! The cinema environment in India is changing very quickly.
After the director, producer and writer, the cinematographer is the next most-important person in line. The transformation of one medium (script) to another (screen) is done by the cinematographer. He decides the look of the film.In an ideal situation, the cinematographer should study the script and attend the recce of the location. Different elements like lens, lighting and camera movements play an important role in the way a film’s story will be told.
There has been a digital revolution in the last few years and the language of cinema has also evolved. The visual medium has transformed too. There are pros and cons to this. On the good side, there is a lot more freedom to shoot. But this has also invited a certain lack of seriousness when the director says “roll camera, action!” What I mean is people have become lax because they know a scene can be recorded, deleted and re-shot. So, the freedom to experiment has invited less precision.
As a cinematographer, I have a responsibility to understand what the director wants to convey and I have to convey it visually. But when a cinematographer chooses a film, he also needs to believe in the script. You must feel attached to it and it has to gel with your sensibilities.There are many cinematographers who want to direct but producers tell them, “Arey tu toh cameraman hai na, director kyun banne ja raha hain.” They are willing to give assistant directors a chance but not the cinematographers.It’s a bureaucrat‘s industry.
Nowadays, actors have started taking calls on who they want to shoot with, who will make them look good on screen, whichis wrong. When the cinematographer doesn’t agree, they are dropped. We cinematographers know more about camera angles than directors do. When we never tell an actor how to act, how can an actor interfere with our work? The problem in our industry is that we have given actors too much power.