Cinematographer Himman Dhamija has an enviable list of titles to his credit ranging from documentaries to full length films. His latest film, Daawat-e-Ishq recreates the magic of a Yash Raj romance and is filled with visually delightful moments. The  proficient DOP takes us behind-the-scenes of this film.


What was your approach and treatment for the shoot of Daawat-e-Ishq? What were Habib Faisal’s requirements in terms of cinematography?

For Dawaat- e – Ishq the cinematographic treatment envisaged was to keep it real yet amp the reality a bit to give it a consistency with the YRF brand. Our (Habib and mine) main concern was that the cinematographic approach should be sympathetic to the characters and the camera as well lighting techniques should be as invisible as possible.

Yash Raj Films is known for their visually pleasing romantic films. Did you have to keep any specific elements in mind while shooting the film to maintain similar standards?

YRF has a specific aesthetic and as a DOP one has to balance what the studio’s expectations are with what one feels is right for the film in relation to where the director and DOP are on their cinematographic journey.

Please tell us about the camera and lenses that you have used. Have you largely shot with the Steadicam or handheld?

The cameras used were Alexas shooting RAW. We used camera support systems that we felt right for the scenes. A lot of the film is shot on the Optimo Zooms where the camera is tracking, zooming and the iris is also being operated. There was a lot of Jib work once again on the short Optimo zoom where we are moving, zooming and operating Iris. This technique was often used as people moved within the shot between spaces either physical or emotional. There was a fair bit of handheld and some steadicam as well. I think there was only one scene where the camera did not move.

Having shot in cities like Hyderabad and Lucknow how have you incorporated the beautiful locations in your visuals? 

With location shoots the important thing is to not fight the environment. One is there because the environment has something to offer so accept it with grace and embellish it to suit your dramatics, is the policy we followed.


You’ll have shot on a number of real locations. How have you worked with the light?

Once again with locations – they will have an interplay with the light that exists and it is about recognizing that. Once that is done, it is about moulding it to suit the needs of the emotional content of the scene that one is shooting.

In terms of the indoor shots at Tariq’s restaurant & kitchen, what was the lighting design like?

Tariq’s restaurant was on a set in Film city. The lighting philosophy was very simple. Mukund the production designer and me discussed the fact that Indian streets are generally embellished by the individual tastes of the people who are occupying the space. They will create lighting and decoration to suit themselves, with no regard to the neighbour or the community. Yet there will be a social thread that will bind it into a character to give the communal space a flavor. So my brief to Mukund and his crew was to follow the pattern of an anarchy of ideas with regard to lighting sources, I gave the same brief to my gaffer so that the place became quite over the top with real lighting sources and a multiplicity of ideas. All I had to do was come in and keep the ideas that worked as a cohesive social construct and remove what was not working.

Food plays an important role in the film. Any particular shooting techniques/ camera work used to shoot the food showcased in the film?

The food in the film once again had to be real, accessible and delicious and therefore it was important that it looked good but was not overly glamourized.

Was there an overall strategy for the songs of the film in terms of the tonality?

Songs are used to sell the film as well as work through a heightened emotional space to move the story along – therefore on them there was a slight amping of tonality.


Please tell us about the making of the song ‘Mannat’. 

Mannat was shot over a number of days and in many locations – it is the love song of the film and as such had to be romantisiced. Camera set ups were based on keeping a sense of motion through the song as Gulrez and Tariq’s relationship is taken to different levels culminating with them falling in love. The feel had to be gentle, hyper real and memorable – therefore the entire song was shot in slow motion. For the car shots a lot of jib work was involved and the car was towed by a tracking vehicle on an A frame.

There is a chase sequence in the film with Parineeti. Could you tell us how you went about shooting it? Was the camera mounted on any particular rig?

On the chase song we treated it much the same way as the rest of the film, we used what was right for the location and as a result we used the Jib, Dolly, Zooms, Handheld, Steadicam on legs and on a hard mount.

Any particular sequence or song that was extremely challenging to shoot? And how did you manage it?

Shooting in Haideri Kabab was extremely challenging and fun. Exploring the bi-level nature of the restaurant and moving the camera in one shot between the floors was fun and selling the set, as a real space in an unreal song was a challenge. It was the time when the entire crew had the maximum collaboration which is always fun.

Where was the postproduction of the film done? Who was your team? How long did the shoot of the entire film take?

The digital colour correction was done at Reliance Media Works with Nayak Ji as the colourist. The entire shoot of the film took 96 days and the team was Jitan Harmeet Singh as chief A/C and B cam operative, Anil Deviah was the Gaffer, Romeo Fonseca was the A cam focus puller, The Jib operator was Rakesh and Maya was the Boom swinger. Lenny was on the steadicam. Rafiq Bhai and Shankar were the dolly grips. There was also a whole lot of crew who came on for specific jobs, as is always the case in a collaborative process.