Making of a royal saga with cinematographer Yogesh Jani
[dropcap]”T[/dropcap]he story is about people from royal families who had a glorious past and today they are just living in that glory though it doesn’t exist in reality”, says cinematographer Yogesh Jani as he describes the saga of Saheb Biwi aur Gangster Returns. Creating the royal imagery infused with grey shades of relationships comes with its share of advantages and challenges.
The talented cinematographer shares insights into the making of the royal drama – a sequel to the hit film Saheb Biwi aur Gangster, the experience of collaborating with Tigmanshu Dhulia, shooting in a real palace, being the first in India to shoot on the Sony F65 and more.
How did your association with Saheb Biwi aur Gangster Returns happen?
Tigmanshu Dhulia and I have worked earlier on few projects and my last film with him was Shagird. He asked me if I could meet him, we discussed the film and that’s how I got on to the project.
[pullquote_left]This is the first Indian movie to have been shot on the Sony F65. F65 is very user friendly and most importantly helps you focus more on the creativity and less on the technical aspects.[/pullquote_left]
What was your primary outlook towards the shoot of Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster Returns?
When I read the script and got an idea of the story telling which was about the grey shades and dark area of relationships, I thought that I should portray that interplay of relationships with the mood, the lights etc. The story is about people from royal families who had a glorious past and today they are just living in that glory though it doesn’t exist in reality. So I wanted to maintain the richness, but also show that this richness doesn’t exist as it did in the past. So I have kept it in a very high contrast, shadow and light zone throughout the movie which I believed would complement the story. Also I have tried not to jump from one scene to another and maintained a consistency and smooth continuity throughout the film.
Since this is a sequel, were you required to keep the look similar to the first film?
No not at all. Infact, I had not seen the first part when I went to shoot. I made it a point to purposely not see the first part as it would influence my ideas and I wouldn’t be able to do what I was trying to achieve. Also this movie is a story in itself so even if you haven’t seen the prequel, the storytelling and writing is such that it stands individually.
As the film revolves around royalty, what is the look and feel adopted?
The costumes had a lot of royal colors which we have accentuated. For the background, the glasses of the palace had tints which would let daylight into the rooms and interiors in a very tonal way, giving the film a different kind of glow. It created a surreal atmosphere in the palace and the daylight inside never looked like real sunlight that we are used to seeing all the time. So I’ve tried to use realistic lighting to maintain the surreal zone without going too dramatic or too realistic.
How much percent of the film has been shot on sets and real location?
The entire film is shot on real locations. We were shooting in Devgadh Baria, Gujarat in a palace which was used in the first part also. Most of the shoot was done in and around Baria. We did some shots in Delhi too, which included Mughda’s song, shot in an original fort and also the polo sequence.
What were the challenges of shooting in a real palace?
There are challenges when you are shooting in a real location as you don’t always have access to all the places you would like to shoot in and you have to modify your ways with the location. Also we did one song called ‘Idhar Gire Udhar Gire’ in a room set up where we had huge daylight windows. We were shooting through the day and by the evening I would lose my sunlight from the windows and then I had to create it back. To create that sunlight I had to modify another part of the palace which was a bit of a challenge. Also, schedules were pretty tight so I had to move my light set ups etc very fast which was a little difficult. But my vision was clear and I could guide my team well in advance so that worked well.
Have you shot on film or digital? Which camera have you used and why? What was the workflow of the camera like?
I have mainly used the Sony F65. This is the first Indian movie to have been shot on the F65. It is one of the best among the digital cameras. I’ve shot on several cameras like the Red One, Red MX, Epic and so on but Sony F65 is very close to film and gave me the technical advantages that one needs to get from the machine. The other cameras offer you several technical challenges but F65 is very user friendly and most importantly it helps you focus more on the creativity and less on the technical aspects. We were also using another camera, the Arri 435 and running a Kodak film on that because I had only one F65 existing in India at that time. So I had to match my footage with the film and F65 simultaneously.
I chose the F65 because, firstly it is digital and secondly after looking at its output I knew it is a wonderful camera to use, nice to move around, closer to film in terms of quality and hence I decided to use it.
What kind of perspectives and frames have you employed in the film?
In terms of perspectives and framing, even if I was zooming in to a character I wasn’t going up close and into the face. Throughout the film I have maintained a distance from the characters as they belong to the royal family and I’ve tried to portray how they are full of ego. So even if we had a close up, we were on a longer lens, going closer but still managing the distance.
How have you treated the songs in the film? Please tell us about the color palette- used for the songs.
There are only two lip sync songs that we shot in the film. One is the item song with Mughda that we shot in an old fort. There I decided to go with the elements of fire on my sets. So we have a lot of fire burning around in the form of mashaals, pots of fire etc to create the set up. We used the fire as a source to light up the whole thing so that it creates a warm atmosphere and goes very well with the song. For the ballroom song, I wanted to give it a classic and vintage photograph kind of look. Normally for this kind of a look you adopt the sepia tone but I did not want to do that. I have retained the colors, the skin tones are real, the costume and background colors etc are all real but the overall atmosphere has a vintage tone.
You have worked with Tigmanshu Dhulia earlier as well. How was it teaming up with him on this film?
I have known Tigmanshu from the time he has been doing television. I know him from the days he was working with Shekhar Kapur so we have a nice rapport and understanding. Also since I have worked with him on a couple of projects I know how he looks at his storytelling. So communication was not a problem. He gave me complete freedom to see how I perceive the story and capture it accordingly.
Where has the post production of the film taken place?
The post production was done at Prime Focus. SManoj C.P.K Verma, who is a senior colorist and has done several films like Jodha Akbar, Black and so on, was my colorist.
How much time did the entire shoot take?
We took around 38 – 40 days approximately.