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From camera to direction

April 07, 2003 18:15 IST

Last Friday's release Yeh Dil is the Hindi version of the Telugu superhit Nuvvu Nenu.Tusshar, Anita in Yeh Dil

It marks the Hindi debut of cinematographer-turned-director Tejaa who commands an unheard of fee for a south Indian director.

Another cameraman from the south is training his directorial vision northwards. Jeeva, who shot the Tamil film Run, is now directing its Hindi version.

In the past, efforts by established cinematographers to graduate to direction have been far from fortunate. Manmohan Singh, who shot many of Yash Chopra's films, directed Tabu in Pehla Pehla Pyar (a remake of Roman Holiday). The film bombed.

Radhu Karmakar, who filmed many of Raj Kapoor's movies, was officially appointed director of RK's Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai. But it is commonly believed the film was ghost-directed by RK himself. Karmakar never picked the directorial baton again.

Legendary cinematographers Subrata Roy (who shot most of Satyajit Ray's films) and V K Murthy (Guru Dutt's cameraman) never got a chance to prove their worth as filmmakers.

Ashok Mehta, widely considered the finest cinematographer in Bollywood, made Moksha last year, which was a critical and box office calamity.

Malayalam director Shaji N Karun is an exception. After shooting for Aravindan, K G George and M T Vasudevan Nair, Karun directed Piravi and Swaham that brought him international renown.Santosh Sivan

In Bollywood, cinematographers who have held their own as directors include Govind Nihalani (Ardh Satya, Drohkaal) and Santosh Sivan (Asoka). Nihalani shot Shyam Benegal's early films. When he turned director with Aakrosh, he was instantly hailed as a major voice in Indian cinema.

Sivan learnt the craft of filmmaking while shooting for Mani Ratnam. His career as filmmaker gained momentum with the acclaimed Terrorist (Ayesha Dharker) and the historical Asoka (Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor). Says Sivan, "As a cinematographer I have to translate the director's vision. But when I direct my films, I combine the visualisation and execution aspects of filmmaking."

Tejaa reportedly gets paid Rs 9 crores (Rs 90 million) for every film he directs. "I never shoot the films I direct. I always get another cinematographer because I know it is impossible to do both. No cinematographer except Govind Nihalani has succeeded as a director while working together in both capacities."

Subhash K Jha