A period film always has its challenges – Sameer Arya
[dropcap]”T[/dropcap]here is a different charm about shooting on real locations,” says ace cinematographer Sameer Arya whose film, Shootout at Wadala, hit theaters this Friday. Set in the era of the 1970’s, when Mumbai was starkly different from what it is today, Shootout at Wadala dramatizes the encounter of gangster Manya Surve and is largely shot in real locations in the city.
Having lent his fine eye and skilled camera expertise to films for almost two decades, Sameer speaks to Pandolin about the making of this action-packed gangster flick. He shares the treatment meted out, the process of capturing the high-octane scenes, the distinct looks adopted for the songs and how they overcame challenges faced while shooting a period film of this caliber.
What was your primary approach towards the treatment of Shootout at Wadala? Is the film treated as a sequel?
It’s been treated as an independent film altogether. It’s a franchise but it’s not a sequel. Because that was one incident that had happened at Lokhandwala and this is another one at Wadala. We did not draw any references from Shootout at Lokhandwala.
Since the film revolves around crime and action, what is the look and feel you have created?
We have tried to maintain a look that is from the 1970’s to the early 80’s as that is the era the film is set in. It’s a gangster movie so we have treated it a little high contrast and grungy instead of going the regular or cosmetic way. The eye candy or cosmetic way would have been completely wrong for this film and hence we did not go that way. We even framed it quite differently.
What kind of camera angles and framing have you employed in the film?
We have not used regular framing. For example, sometimes what happens is that when the look of a particular character is on the right of camera, then you tend to balance that person on the left of camera. But in our film, there are many times when we have balanced the character at the right edge of frame, whichever side the look is. We have done a lot of odd frames and several low and top angles which are usually not used for the kind of scenes we have done.
[pullquote_left]It is always very challenging to shoot sequences which require the camera and the subject to run/move at high speeds. I have used a lot of handheld as it gives the edge that was required for this film.[/pullquote_left]
Where has the film essentially been shot? How much percent of the film has been shot on sets and real locations?
There was hardly anything on sets; most of it is on real locations in the city. We have shot in Dongri, various slums and so on. There is a different charm about shooting on real locations. So Sanjay and I had decided that we should go and choose real locations.
What format has the film been shot on? What lenses have you used?
It is shot on digital using the ARRI ALEXA. We have used Ultra Prime lenses.
Since it is a period film, what is the essential lighting design employed?
I have gone into a high contrast zone with the lighting of the movie. Even for the day sequences, which are usually regular and bright, we have consciously created dark foregrounding and background. This is quite regular and evident in night shots, but we have done a lot of it in the day as well. This was mainly to maintain and create the mood of that era. Also being a gangster flick, this kind of look enhances the entire sequence.
The film involves a lot of fast-paced chases and action sequences. How have you shot them? What kind of equipment has been used in these shots?
It is always very challenging to shoot sequences which require the camera and the subject to run/move at high speeds. I have used a lot of handheld in this movie to give it an edgy look. Even when I was sitting on a motorcycle chasing another car or an actor who is running, I had the camera in my hand. Handheld gives the edge and that is what was required for this film. We have used some rigs including the motorcycle rig but largely it was all handheld. For instance, even when the camera was in the car it was handheld, not always on a rig.
[pullquote_right]A sequence which looks very easy but was very challenging to shoot was the police van sequence where we shot in a 1970’s police van which was around 10 ft X 5 ft. There is some heavy duty action and dialogs that set the mood of the film.[/pullquote_right]
Each of the three item songs in the film has a very distinct look. How have you treated them? Was there any specific color palette you had in mind?
Usually people go the regular route with just one song. But we were lucky to have three such interesting songs. At all times we had to keep in mind that it was a film based in the 70’s. Today we have several fabulous lighting equipments but we couldn’t use it as they were not available in the era shown in the film. So the sets and the lighting had to be designed accordingly. So with Priyanka Chopra’s ‘Babli Badmaash’ we have gone retro and it has come out fabulously. Then we did the ‘Ala re ala Manya ala’ which was treated in a completely different manner. It was set in a dhaba which was not like the regular dhaba. We treated this song in a warm zone and so the lighting too was more warm and soft. The third one with Sunny was ‘Laila’ which is also her first item song. So we had to dress her accordingly and have also lit her differently.
What were the challenges faced while shooting the film?
Whenever you’re shooting a period film it becomes more difficult than the regular subjects which are done often. That is essentially because you have to keep in mind several things in terms of what was used during that time, the backgrounds then and so on. We were shooting in Mumbai and did not want to rely too much on computer graphics. So we did a lot of research. Though a period film always has its challenges we overcame it because of our intricate and extensive pre-production.
Which was the most enjoyable or complex scene that you have shot in the film?
There are quite a few interesting scenes in the film. One scene which was very exciting to shoot was a train sequence which is an escape scene with John and Tusshar. Another thing which looks very easy in the film but was very challenging to shoot was the van sequence with Mr. Anil Kapoor and John. We have done around 15-17 shots in a 1970’s police van which was around 10 ft X 5 ft. There is some heavy duty action and dramatic dialogs in this sequence that set the entire mood of the film. It was all shot in the van and was extremely challenging and exciting.
[pullquote_left]At all times we had to keep in mind that the film was set in the 70’s. Today we have fabulous lighting equipments but we couldn’t use it as they were not available in the era shown in the film. So the sets and the lighting had to be designed accordingly.[/pullquote_left]
How was it teaming up with Sanjay Gupta?
I was very excited to work with him. Sanjay is a pleasure to work with. He is directing a film after so many years so I was looking forward to working with him. He is a great asset to our industry and working with him was one of the most exciting things for me in this movie.
What kind of VFX has been used in the film? Who has done the VFX?
We have done some VFX because of the period of the film. For instance, we were shooting on the streets in Mumbai and the background in the 70’s was totally different as to what it is today. So we had to ensure that no skyscrapers were visible in the background and that no buildings which have cropped in the last decades were seen. And avoiding them in the camera was not always easy. So there were times when we had to digitally remove them. The VFX is done by FutureWorks.
Where has the post production of the film taken place?
The post production was also done at FutureWorks. Rahul Purav was my colorist and he has done a great job.
How much time did the entire shoot take?
We finished in about 55 -60 days.