A horror movie is incomplete without a powerful visual impact, which creates fear and suspense in the audience. And this is what cinematographers like Manoj Soni do; they breathe life into characters and spirits, keeping you at the edge of your seats. After working on movies like Housefull 2 and Kya Kool Hai Hum 3, Soni ventures into the horror genre with Vikram Bhatt’s Raaz Reboot.

According to Soni, the only reference point for the movie was horror itself. In a candid conversation with Pandolin, Soni gives us some interesting insights on the color palette, lighting design, and his experience working with Vikram Bhatt.

Manoj Soni - Pandolin.com

Manoj Soni

Working with a director like Vikram Bhatt who is an ace at the horror genre, must have made things interesting. What were his requirements?

It was a great pleasure to work with Vikram Bhatt; he is a brilliant director, technician and above all the best human being that I have ever worked with. During the course of the movie we developed a very good rapport. We had great tuning; we would discuss whatever ideas were in his mind and how I could deliver them. We would talk about the different angles that we could work on. He would then give me the freedom to light up the location or the scene and he also let me decide the timing of the scenes. That is the kind of freedom that he gives people that he is working with and that is why the outputs are so good.


What colour palette have you worked with to amplify suspense and fear? 

Since it is a horror film we wanted to give it a cold look. Every aspect of the movie, from the costumes to the background to the location, everything was subtle. This eventually brings out or amplifies the horror element in the movie.

Every aspect of the movie, from the costumes to the background to the location, was subtle

Manoj Soni - Pandolin.com

With Vikram Bhatt (Right)

When you see the trailer, there are mostly empty streets and places where there are hardly any people, what were the requirements from the locations?

Vikram Bhatt actually traveled to Romania because when you are writing the script, you have a vision in your mind. Romania is a gothic city and also a city known to house Dracula, so he wanted to base the film there. When he went and saw the location, he was very excited, in fact, he called me and told me that we have got the perfect location for the movie. And when I went and saw the location, I loved it and I am sure that there is no better location for this film than Romania.

I am sure that there is no better location for this film than Romania

Which camera and lens pack did you use and why? Also what was the set-up that you adopted?

Throughout the movie we have adopted a two-camera setup. We have shot the movie with ARRI ALEXA XT. For the chopper shots we have used a drone.


Manoj Soni - Pandolin.com

With Vikram Bhatt

In a horror film, how important is the play with light? What lighting design have you worked with?

I didn’t want a lighting design that was clichéd or typical, something that you normally see in horror films. I wanted to shoot it differently. For the house I wanted to give a contrasting lighting design while the night sequences are really under-lit. This highlights the scary aspect of the scenes better. This was a challenging location, there was no space for fixing lights on top, but we managed to maintain the mood and consistency of the lighting.

I didn’t want to give a lighting design that was clichéd or typical

Raaz Reboot is your first horror film, how different was the experience as compared to the other films that you’ve shot? 

In horror movies, the camera movement is extremely important. The slow movement of the camera brings more excitement and thrill to a scene. On the other hand, a comedy or a romantic movie has to be bright, nice, and glossy and the actors should be properly visible; there are no dramatic angles as such. Whereas in horror, the camera placement is extremely important because with one shot alone, the audience should be able to feel that something is going to happen. Also, luckily because of the choice of location, we had space for the slow-movement of the camera. In comedy, the camera moves at a normal speed.


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