The Shaukeens is a very contemporary set up – Amalendu Chaudhary
In a chat with Pandolin, Amalendu Chaudhary talks about his association with Abhishek Sharma, the treatment adopted for the film ‘The Shaukeens’ and the overall experience of this project.
How did your first Hindi film happen? Why did you agree to The Shaukeens?
I’ve done Marathi films like Harishchandrachi Factory and Gandha, which got me recognition. Director Sachin Kundalkar whom I’d worked with on Gandha was making a Hindi film, Aiyya and he asked me to join him. That is how I got my first Hindi film. During that period I met Abhishek Sharma as he was looking for a DOP for the sequel to his film, Tere Bin Laden. After a year, we met again to discuss another concept that he wanted to make. However we finally shot the sequel to Tere Bin Laden and during that time Abhishek got another offer, which was The Shaukeens. He asked me if I would be interested in joining the team as it looked like an interesting project with a different set up. And I agreed, as I was very comfortable working with him. So we met for one concept, shot another and the movie (The Shaukeens) that released is the third.
Since the film is a remake of the 1982 Shaukeens, did you’ll draw any visual references from the original?
Absolutely not. A film is always connected to a particular time period and The Shaukeens is a very contemporary set up. If you see the earlier Shaukeen, the cult classic by Basu Chatterjee, the set up is totally different. From that period till now, everything has changed so there was no referencing.
Abhishek was very clear with what he wanted, whether it was about the characters, their look or get up, he was very specific about everything. And I generally keep my mind open and as I see the locations, the characters, the script and then the look and feel slowly start evolving in my mind. Post that I share it with the director. So when we went for the recce and I saw the particular bungalow, I told Abhishek that this was the house we should select, as it was very beautiful and exactly what we are looking for. I also told him how I had visualized the look of the film; the space for the shoot etc. He really liked my ideas and we went ahead with it.
What were director Abhishek’s expectations in terms of cinematography? How would you describe your association with him?
Abhishek wanted the film to look bright and contemporary and asked me if I had any particular look in mind. I wanted it to look colorful but at the same time it shouldn’t look too glossy or have too much saturation. We did not want it to have a ‘video’ feel. Since technology is digital now, we as cinematographers miss the look films used to carry, in a way. Sometimes because of the sharpness and the grading the film starts looking very sharp, the textures go away and everything becomes too glossy, so one needs to be little careful about that. Associating with me in this project was senior colorist Ashirwad from Prime Focus and we achieved the desired look.
Abhishek is a very good director with an amazing sense of humor. He is also a very good leader and takes everyone with him. The way he carries the unit makes things less stressful. Also he is very particular and meticulous in the way he functions right from the focus of an image to the minutest details in art direction. It is always great working with him.
In terms of the overall look, what is the color palette and tone used and why?
Overall we wanted the film to look a little realistic but bright keeping the genre in mind. Also we have stuck to pastel shades even for the art design. Overall Mauritius is a beautiful location and after we finalized it I felt that we should have a coldish look to the film. The sky and the sea carry a blue palette so the film has ‘blueness’ to it rather than a warmth.
What camera and lens pack have you worked with? Have you largely used a single camera or a multi camera set up?
I’ve used the Sony F65 with Master Primes and Optimo Zoom. We have used multi camera set-ups in some places for rigging and some important sequences.
How did you’ll zero in on Mauritius for the shoot? How much of the film has been shot on sets vs real locations?
We chose Mauritius firstly because we wanted an international location and it has beautiful beaches with a lot of water sports and other activities. Also it is a little alienated and away from the regular destinations like Bangkok and so on. That is the reason that it is incorporated in the film as well. We did recce other places too but finalized Mauritius because it an unusual choice and is visually stunning.
We have shot 90-95 per cent on real locations. For instance even in Delhi we have actually shot at Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazaar and India Gate. There are no sets as such except for a few songs.
Please elaborate on the lighting design adopted for this film?
It is an outdoor film but there are a lot of things that are happening inside the house as well. The indoor sequences were more challenging to shoot as compared to exteriors. The bungalow was entirely wooden and had several restrictions in terms of lighting and also for set construction and decoration. It was a challenging set up but was also fun to work in such a space. I personally love lighting and consider it to be one of the main things to set the mood and the palette. We have largely worked with Par lights.
Tell us about the making of ‘Alcoholic’. It also involves an underwater sequence, how did you capture that?
It was a two-camera set up where one was handheld and the other was on the Jimmy Jib. Overall the focus was on using the space and set up in the song well and do a few interesting things too. I used mirror patches on Akshay and Lisa to create an interesting visual pattern on them. I basically wanted a bright patch as a visual break and a flare that comes and goes, something that isn’t obvious but looks good visually.
The underwater sequence was shot in the ocean itself and was one of the toughest days of the shoot. My assistant and me shot inside the water and I immediately had to rush to take a few shots of the sea, the yacht etc. from a seaplane as well. So it was a hectic shoot but quite fun. This sequence was shot with a Canon 5D.
How did you’ll go about shooting the sequence where a sofa is suspended from the Helicopter? What were the key challenges while shooting this scene?
We had a series of meetings before this sequence was shot. This portion is shot in South Africa and we had an extensive meeting with the person handling the rigging part of the sequence. Once we were there we also had a meeting with Akshay Kumar as well as it was not an easy sequence since Akshay and Lisa had to actually sit on the sofa. And they have shot without cables, it’s not like they have used cables and erased it in Post. But Akshay made every one comfortable. I’ve shot the sequence from a crane as we needed the height to see the ocean behind and I zoomed out to capture the helicopter.
How was the overall experience of working on The Shaukeens?
It was great. The production was very supportive and I had a great time working with the actors. All of them, Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor, Piyush Jha and Akshay Kumar, have tremendous experience and it’s because of them that the whole film was so enjoyable.
Tell us about your team. How long did it take you’ll to shoot?
I had a very good chief assistant, Suraj Khurade. My focus puller, Chandra, was also fantastic. Vivek was my gaffer and my second unit cameraman, Rishi, shot a major portion. Prime Focus has done the VFX.
We shot approximately for 50 days.
Lastly, is the approach towards shooting a Marathi film different from that of a Hindi film?
The approach is not different, you approach a script the way you should. The main difference is the budget. Also whether you have a big star or not makes a huge difference. Finally it is upto the director on how he approaches the film.