"I was very lucky. Prosit is an extremely visual director." ~ Jishnu Bhattacharjee

Anushka Sharma  starrer, Indian supernatural horror film, Pari: Not a Fairytale directed by newcomer Prosit Roy is receiving mixed reviews since it’s release last week. The film is being criticized for a weak second half, but holds itself high on the grounds of a bold attempt at reinventing horror in Indian films.

The most crucial aspect of making a horror film is achieving the right kind of eeriness without seeming lame and thus the role of a Cinematographer is pivotal in the whole process. We asked the cinematographer of the film, Jishnu Bhattacharjee, about his journey into films, and his experience and challenges while shooting Pari.

Jishnu Bhattacharjee (DOP) & Devashish Makhija (Director), on the sets of Ajji

Jishnu Bhattacharjee (DOP) & Devashish Makhija (Director), on the sets of Ajji

Could you tell us about your journey to films? Were you always interested in Cinematography or did you discover it as an expression, over time?

It was an accident actually, me becoming a cinematographer. I was born and raised in Arunachal and then I came to Calcutta for my higher studies. I joined this three-year photography course there, and I started photography with Black and white film first and then to color. There was a film institute opposite our Institute that used to showcase films on a regular basis. So I started watching films, world cinema there. And slowly I got oriented into a very different kind of Cinema. Those were my initial steps. Large part of the education happened at film festivals. At the Calcutta film festival we used to binge on films.

That’s how I got into Cinematography initially.


Were you earlier a still photographer? 

I was never interested only in stills. I used to love black and white photography. But by the end of second year in college I was entirely dedicated to motion picture. I never again went back to still photography. I was complete immersed in Cinematography.

Cinematography shouldn’t come in between the characters, the Characters are more important, and they have to be allowed to dwell in the scene.

Do you think one can avoid the hassles of lighting a shot now, since we have all these advanced cameras and postproduction options? 

Lighting is not only about lighting a character so that he is visible, it’s about creating a mood and through that telling a story. You have to light up an entire space to bring out the mood of film. Lighting is the most essential part of the Cinematographer’s work. You cannot do without lighting. I cannot even imagine that. (Laughs)


You have shot Ajji before this. Ajji and Pari are both challenging films with respect to the role camera can play in portraying the story and keeping the audience hooked on to the emotions. What is the most challenging thing about this genre?  

It is extremely difficult to get into the psyche of the character, when it comes to these genres. A lighthearted film doesn’t require so much effort, because you don’t have to relate to a character like that. To get into the skin, to understand the character, to light up the character according to the mood of the scene, that is very important and it requires a lot of time and a lot of thought process goes into it to bring out that particular emotion.

Prosit (Director) was very clear that the film has to have moody lighting, it has to be slightly darker and gloomier. So I suggested that we should have this monsoon feel where there is no sunlight, just soft diffused, blue ambient light.

You cannot do without lighting. I cannot even imagine that

Can you think of a shot, in Pari that has been particularly challenging and was very satisfying when you completed it?

One shot in Pari? That’s very difficult to say. There were many challenging shots.


What was Prosit Roy’s vision when he came to you with the film?

I was very lucky. Prosit is an extremely visual director. He is educated about the Horror genre. He is not inspired by the Horror in Indian films that is tacky. He has studied the genre.

His idea was to make it real, more believable. So I thought why not work towards achieving that, towards making it more believable. It’s not very gimmicky lighting, like lighting from under. It was not like that. It was building a mood with the available lighting situation.

So in that respect I got to learn a lot from him about the genre, per se. He had visual references in form of Stills, which were very interesting.

Throughout the film, we decided to keep it real and to stay with the characters. Cinematography shouldn’t come in between the characters, the Characters are more important, and they have to be allowed to dwell in the scene. If it’s a jumpy scene, the lighting doesn’t need to be dramatised. The lighting shouldn’t be scary; the mood off the scene should bring about that change. So that was the main input and we worked around that.


What are you working on next?

I am shooting a light hearted, Romantic film next. It’s very different from Pari and Ajji. Ajji was very hardcore. We were shooting in the slums, in real locations. We had a tough time with lighting, we had to make do with what was available. Pari was in between, we created a lot of the space, so it was in our control. This next film I am working on is going to be much more lighter and nicer, lots of light to shoot with (Laughs).


Also Read: Teaser~ Pari | Anushka Sharma