Each action sequence in Kick involved detailed planning – Ayananka Bose
“When Mr. Nadiadwala asked me how we should approach certain things, I just told him that he shouldn’t plan too much, his instinct and gut should lead the way,” says ace cinematographer Ayananka Bose. With the soon to release film Kick, the talented Ayananka has added another interesting title to his versatile filmography which includes films like Dostana, Force, Student of the Year, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara and so on.
In a tete-a-tete with Pandolin, he takes us through the making of this high octane, action-packed film and his association with debutant director Sajid Nadiadwala.
How did your association with Kick happen? What prompted you to say yes to the film?
I’ve never chosen my films; my films have always chosen me. And the same thing happened with Kick. I got a call from Sajid Nadiadwala’s office and went to meet him. We spoke, got along very well and I agreed to be a part of the film. There is no elaborate story as such. Secondly, the added advantage was having Salman Khan in the film, like everybody else even I love him, so there were no two ways about it.
What sets Kick apart from the other Salman Khan movies in terms of treatment?
Mr. Sajid Nadiadwala has a lot of aesthetic sense, and has been a producer for 25 years in the industry. So when he was making a film it had to meet a certain standard. His company has always been associated with big films, big names, scale, etc., so when he was directing, it was imperative that we reached a very high quality there. To be honest, when I told people that I was approached for Kick, they told me not to do it, it has lots of action and it’s a Salman Khan film and that no one will know that I have shot it. Such things ensure that when you do a film, you leave a little of yourself behind, so people will also stand and notice. Today in retrospect I think that the trailer has managed to do that. It shows the quality of what Mr. Nadiadwala set out to do and he achieved that. And all this was achieved in a very short span of time.
This being Sajid Nadiadwala’s directorial debut, how would you describe working with him? What was his brief to you for the shoot of the film?
I have never seen anybody who has a better sense and grasp of the medium like Mr. Nadiadwala. He underplays himself by saying that it is his directorial debut but having been in the industry for 25 years, he really knows the ropes. He knows the horse very well, it is just that he never held the reigns before and is finally doing it now. He didn’t come across as a debutant director at any point of time.
I’m an instinctive person so when Mr.Nadiadwala asked me how we should approach certain things, I just told him that he shouldn’t plan too much, his instinct and gut should lead the way. And that has been the best thing that happened to this film. I had asked him how he would like the film to be and he wanted this film to have imagery like Skyfall or Die Hard, if possible, within the Indian parameters and that is what we have tried to achieve.
Is there any particular colour palette that you’ll have adhered to?
We always knew that the film would be shot in two parts, one that was set abroad and one that was set in India. And shooting abroad is always a cool color palette; even foreign films always have cool colors. So I decided that the foreign parts of the film would have a certain coolness to them while India is always warm. So keeping this broadly in our minds we have shot the film.
How did you’ll go about zeroing in on locations for Kick? Please tell us about the locations where the film was finally shot?
Though we did an extensive recce in UK, we never shot anything there as Mr.Khan’s visa had some issues. We shot some action sequences without him but couldn’t do much as we didn’t know if he would be able to join us or not. We eventually went and shot in Poland and the rest of it is shot in India, largely in Delhi.
Take us through the camera set up, framing and angles employed in the film. What camera format did you use?
We shot on Red Epic and had a multi-camera setup at all times. I don’t believe in going out of the way and deciding angles etc. before hand, anything that best suits the film is used. I don’t really care if I have a 12mm or 16mm lens with me, I think I have left those things behind and become a storyteller now. My job is to understand the director’s vision and do the best at that moment that is correct for the vision. That is how I function these days. Even Mr. Nadiadwala would see a frame and the imagery that is coming and if the emotions in that frame were not enough, he would ask for a tighter shot to get the emotions better. Or he would say that this location is so pretty, so let’s try to encompass the location in the scene. It would always be a very healthy discussion on the way to approach a scene.
What was the lighting strategy adopted for this film?
For outdoors, I always try to use as much natural light as possible. Whenever I have the sunlight, I try to mould it. When I’m indoors, I do have my share of lighting that happens. It is challenging to work with sunlight hence the senior cinematographers are better at it since experience teaches you. We have used regular sources of light, nothing extraordinary.
There are several action-packed sequences in the film. What was your approach to shooting these scenes? What are the kinds of rigs/equipment used to shoot such scenes?
These scenes require a certain amount of planning, they don’t happen on their own. You have to give Mr.Nadiadwla credit for having thought of these scenes. Earlier we had another set of scenes but he said that a film like Kick needs bigger visuals. So our action master Anal Arasu came up with this kind of imagery and said let’s do these kind of scenes. We have used standard equipment like Jimmy Jib, Steadicam, Panther Dolly etc. We always shot with minimum 6-8 cameras. Action is not something you can repeat, like a train passing at a crucial moment cannot be done again, so you need a multi-camera setup.
There is also an interesting chase sequence with Salman Khan on a cycle riding through various lanes and jumping off terraces etc. Could you take us through the making of this sequence?
That sequence was shot in Delhi in the heart of Garodia market. It was a mammoth task for the production team. On the first day of shoot as soon as Mr.Khan entered the lane of Chandni Chowk, the place was jammed. We couldn’t shoot for 2-3 hours and then finally we had to rope in the help of several cops and security guards. Mr.Khan had to request people to let us shoot. I had gone with the action master a few days prior to check the locations where we would be shooting. We identified the rooftops on which we would drive the cycle and also identified the rooftops, balconies and verandahs, where we could station our cameras and requested people to let us use their space for an hour or two. That was a massive task and coming together of all the departments – production, art, myself, direction and so on. I had six camera operators and everyone was on walkie-talkie. The previous night of the shoot, I would walk with all my operators and individually tell them their position and the shot that was expected of them. This is the kind of detailed planning that has gone into each of the action sequences. In the Poland action sequence, I didn’t use much of handheld, I had a very zoom in-zoom out kind of approach there. But for the climax of the film I have used only handheld. I shot with two cameras, maximum four, but two were always handheld. It was just the action master, Mr.Khan and me and we would just do handheld. All these things add to the look of the film and make the film look much nicer.
What was your approach for shooting songs? In terms of ‘Jumme Ki Raat’, since it is an elaborate setup, what was the camera and lighting set up like?
Mr.Sajid Nadiadwala has always had a thought process and he ensured that the film has a correct look to the whole thing. Even the songs have a small amount of storytelling and he had given this brief even before we shot the songs. ‘Jumme Ki Raat’ was always seen as an underground song, a little of a grunge space. It was practiced over 7-8 days, and we shot it over five days. We decided to make the set very real, so the lighting was a kind of a challenge. It was made like an underground railway station that you would see in any of the foreign metros. Since lots of things on set were real including the ceiling, I didn’t have enough freedom of lighting from the top, which is usually the case when working on set. I had to eventually rely on the windows that were available for me to light, it was a challenge but it turned out to be nice.
How much percent of VFX was employed in Kick and where was the VFX done?
VFX in a film of this level does happen. You really cannot plan the VFX levels but use it as and when required. Prime Focus has done the VFX.
How long did the shoot of the film take?
We started shooting from February 2014. Films of this size, like Dhoom 3 etc, are normally shot for almost 2 years. We shot a small schedule of Kick at Big ND Studios in December. But we actually shot non-stop only from February.