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'Ashok Mehta encouraged directors to try difficult shots'

Last updated on: August 16, 2012 18:06 IST

'Ashok Mehta encouraged directors to try difficult shots'

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Patcy N in Mumbai
Cinematographer Ashok Mehta succumbed to lung cancer on August 15. He was 66.
 
Writer-director Rumi Jaffery, who worked with him on his directorial debut God Tussi Great Ho (2008), pays tribute to the ace cinematographer.

I met Ashok Mehtasaab for the first time on the sets of Prem (1995). Tabu is a good friend, so I had visited her on the sets. After that, I have met him many times. He has directed quite a few films written by me like Chalte Chalte and Mehbooba.

He was the cinematographer for my first directorial film God Tussi Great Ho -- starring Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra. He spead a lot of positive energy on the sets.

Every cinematographer has a unique style but Ashok Mehta was famous because he would never say no to anything, even the most difficult shots.

He was so hardworking that he would do the carpenter's work also if he didn't want to wait.

Image: Priyanka Chopra and Salman Khan in God Tussi Great Ho. Inset: Rumi Jaffery


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'Everyone was scared of him'

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If the shot was difficult, he wouldn't say it's not possible like many other cinematographers. He would simply ask for a break so that he could think of an innovative idea. He would encourage directors to try difficult scenes.
 
There is a famous shot in the film Utsav (1985) that people know him for. He had to shoot a long scene from one room to another. So he made the camera pass through the wall! He cut the wall so the camera could pass through. His work in Utsav is my favourite.

When we were shooting God Tussi Great Ho, we had created Salman Khan's house on the sets. We needed a shot when a crane enters the house. It was difficult because the staircase had a railing. I told Ashokji to forget the shot and use a trolley instead of a crane but Ashoksaab insisted we use a crane. He got a hacksaw blade and like a carpenter, started cutting the railing. Then, he created the shot.

He was a warm person.
 
I have seen both sides of him. Initially, I was very scared of him. In fact, everyone was scared of him. He was a terror. Nobody would go near him, as he was a real Pathan from Kabul, Afghanistan.
 
If he got angry and yell at someone, the whole set would get empty.
 
But when I became friends with him, I realised he was very soft from inside. He mellowed down a lot in the last eight years. He transformed himself. He would tell others not to get angry and make people understand that work will be done even if you don't shout. His anger had vanished over the years.

Image: Rekha and Anuradha Patel in Utsav. Inset: Ashok Mehta


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'He never gave candid shots, he always posed for the camera'

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I remember going on a recce with him to Australia and New Zealand. What I loved about him is that whenever you want to take his photograph, he will look for a tree or a rock, then arrange his cowboy hat, and then pose for the picture.
 
He never gave candid shots, he always posed for the camera.
 
Ashokji told me he had studied in Kabul up to Standard Five. He only knew Persian and Pashto. Later, he came to Delhi, and then Mumbai, and became a canteen boy.

While working in the canteen, he became friendly with a light man. He became a light man and later, a cameraman.
 
He had command over eight languages including Bengali, Gujarati and Marathi.

Image: Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra in God Tussi Great Ho


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