When Raavan vied with Rang De Basanti
Ever wondered how a movie unfolds on the screen? Many may not realise this, but a lot goes on behind the camera to bring alive a director's vision on to the screen. And that person is the cinematographer, whose role is very important especially when the movie is a historical one.
Take Kiran Deohans, for example. The cinematographer of films like Qyamat Se Qyamat Tak, Aks, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Jodhaa Akbar and the more recent Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, says good picturisation could make or break a film.
An FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) graduate, Kiran came to Mumbai and began his career as an assistant to then famous filmmaker Nadeem Khan. He later bagged the job to work on Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak on producer Mansoor Hussain's behest, though Kiran says director Naseer Hussain wasn't too confident about him. But that all changed when Kiran bagged the Best Cinematographer award at the Filmfare Awards for the movie. Since then he has gone on to work in many films.
We asked Kiran to pick the top 5 cinematographers in Bollywood today. Here's a look:
Image: A scene from Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey with an inset: of Kiran Deohans
Kiran regards Binod Pradhan as Mr Consistent. And why not? The cinematographer of films like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Devdas and Rang De Basanti, Mission Kashmir and Delhi-6, has outdone himself with every film.
"He is a sheer genius," says Kiran. "Compare his two films Devdas and Rang De Basanti. While the first one was shot indoors with lots of colour, the other one was a fast paced movie with an edgy look.
Kiran says it's easy to see the stamp of Binod Pradhan on the films. "Right from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro to Delhi-6, he has given his own touch to his films," he adds.
Image: A scene from Rang De Basanti with an inset of Binod Pradhan
Anil Mehta is a cinematographer who has been around for more than a decade. According to Kiran, Anil can play various roles at the same time. "Anil can become a DOP (director of photography), a director or even an editor," he says.
Like Kiran, Anil graduated from FTII. He started his film career with Mani Kaul's 1994 short film, Cloud Door. Kiran says Anil has got what it takes to become a successful cinematographer.
"He started with Khamoshi and went on to do Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Lagaan, Veer Zaara and Wake Up Sid. The most important task of a DOP is to create an atmosphere and interpret the mood of the director. Images, not words, capture feelings in faces and atmospheres and Anil has shown that so beautifully in all his films," says Kiran.
Image: A scene from Lagaan and an inset: of Anil Mehta
"Santosh's unique. He lives in Kerala and operates mostly from there. He has done films in so many languages," Kiran says of the cinematographer who shares a very close working relationship with director Mani Ratnam. "The credibility of his work is evident in all of Mani Ratnam's movies.
"Every Mani Ratnam film be it Dil Se or Raavan is full of stunning visuals. Mani's locations are always tough to shoot but Santosh weaves each frame so marvelously that he creates magic on screen. His images are almost picture perfect."
Kiran says that Santosh can shift from art to commercial cinema very easily. "He directed a film Terrorist which was soaked with such sensuality. Only a person of his calibre can pull it of so beautifully."
Image: A scene from Raavan and an inset of Santosh Sivan
Ravi K Chandran
Ravi K Chandran is touted as one of the modern day cinematographers.
"Whether it's a Mani Ratnam film in Chennai or a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film in Mumbai, Ravi's work has always been outstanding and ground breaking," Kiran says adding, "Black set a new benchmark in terms of storytelling. He followed it up with a colourful film like Paheli and Saawariya."
He further adds, "He has a lot of variety which can be easily seen in his recent works like Ghajini and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. He has a unique taste as far as composition and lighting is concerned."
Image: A scene from Ghajini and an inset of Ravi K Chandran
Ashok Mehta is a contemporary cinematographer who has kept his pace with the changing times, says Kiran.
Unlike Kiran, Ashok doesn't have any formal training. "I remember Ashok had to struggle a lot when he came to Mumbai. He worked as a canteen boy and a camera assistant before he got his first break as a cameraman with Aparna Sen for 36 Chowringee Lane," he recalls.
One thing that Kiran likes about Ashok is his experiments with visual styling and camerawork. "The finest work I have seen from him has to be Bandit Queen. I don't think anyone else would have had done justice to such a story. Even in mainstream cinema like Ram Lakhan or Khalnayak, he changed the whole look," he adds.
Image: A scene from Ram Lakhan and an inset of