National award-winning cinematographer Sudheer Palsane has a varied filmography ranging from films in Hindi and Marathi to Mishing, Bangaldeshi and more. The cinematographer who has shot M.S. Dhoni – The Untold Story believes that there is a certain beauty in keeping things as they are. And that is the approach he has adopted for his latest film.

Palsane takes Pandolin behind the scenes of the film, sharing interesting details from the making of the biopic.

Sudheer Palsane -

Sudheer Palsane (Credit: Sudheer’s facebook page)

How would you describe the visual treatment adopted for your film MS Dhoni?  

Very real! Like the man himself, honest and down to earth. Not attempting to beautify deliberately. There is beauty in (keeping things) ‘as is’.

Neeraj is not bothered by cosmetic beautification of the image

What were director Neeraj Pandey’s requirements from the cinematography? Having worked with him earlier as well, how would you describe his style of working?

Neeraj’s script is very strong. He writes himself and prefers a direct approach. He’s not bothered by cosmetic beautification of the image. He works with all the departments of the film very personally and closely. Location recces, look test, costume test and VFX test etc (homework and pre-production) are meticulously followed. He knows how much to shoot and stop. He isn’t greedy about the quantum of footage. His requirement is that of focus, alertness, intensity and concentration.


As it’s a biopic, what elements did you cover in your research? 

The research included the formats of television cameras that existed since M.S. Dhoni came in the scene. The production designer Sunil Babu and his team had an elaborate list of properties, background ads, newspapers, vehicles etc from the 80s onwards. The same goes for Falguni (Thakore, Costume Designer) and her team with costumes. The details of each costume and kits from every match was a task.

The palette evolves with his journey from Ranchi to Kharagpur, coal mines, Calcutta, Delhi, BCCI Bombay and to the world

Does the film’s color palette change as per the changing times in Dhoni’s life? What are the predominant colors?  

I knew that whites and greens are going to be strong. We didn’t push much as we were at the mercy of a lot of locations, which we couldn’t have controlled. The palette evolves with his journey from Ranchi to Kharagpur, coal mines, Calcutta, Delhi, BCCI Bombay and to the world. The texture evolves from a rustic small town to the sophistication of the mega cities, five stars and BCCI.

M.S.Dhoni the Untold Story -

Still from M.S.Dhoni – The Untold Story

Did you visit and shoot in actual locations related to Dhoni? Also what cricket grounds were chosen and why? 

We shot in Jalandar, Delhi, Aurangabad, Ranchi, Kharagpur, Jamshedpur, Calcutta, Pune, Cape Town and Mumbai.The grounds and other locations were followed very meticulously but for the ones where we could not get permissions.

Alexa is great with highlights (stadium flares) and greens (grounds)

What camera and lenses have you used? 

AlexaXT, Cook 5i series and Angénieux zoom

Alexa is great with highlights (stadium flares) and greens (grounds)

What was the camera set up for the cricket sequences like? 

We used two Alexa bodies, rarely a Red Dragon for a drone shot, Go-pro and 5D Canon. Neeraj prefers steadicam.


Could you also talk about the lighting design for cricket sequences? Overall in the film what kind of lights have you worked with? 

We once used a balloon light for the the ground. All the local night cricket was lit by local lights.

Knowing the game surely helps but it is not a limitation

How important is it to understand the game to capture the proper angles and moments?  

Knowing the game surely helps but it is not a limitation. This game is so widely covered and the young generation has grown with it. In fact, Dhoni’s joining the Indian team is very close to the explosion in TV coverage. It’s covered mostly with great tele-lenses predominantly from beyond the boundary, steadicams, bird’s view etc. in television. Here we could shoot from the ground with different lenses.

A still from the film

A still from M.S.Dhoni: The Untold Story

What challenges did you face in shooting this sports-based film? 

I guess capturing the spirit of a sport apart from the game. It’s to do with boundless energy, potential, capacity, focus, prep, skill.


Were there any aspects that you have consciously focused on through your camera work?

 The focus was on how to get the scale because the story is ruthlessly real.

What kind of VFX work was done for this film? 

Apart from the obvious effects, VFX and colour correction has become more integral a part of cinematography today. Even a normal unsuspecting image can have a significant creative contribution. One has started thinking differently incorporating other possibilities.

Could you also introduce your team for this film.

I have been lucky to have had a great team. Baikunta and Pratap were my chief assistants. Satish, Sanjiv and Bibhuti were kind of focus pullers. The very popular Ashirwad Hadkar (Prime Focus) was the colourist and Keith Devlin worked as the VFX supervisor.

Besides Bollywood, you’ve also shot various other regional films such as Bangladeshi film Meghamallar, Mararthi films like Gabhricha Paus & the upcoming Katyar Kaljat Ghusali and the National-award winning Mishing film Ko:Yad. How does shooting films in various languages benefit you as a cinematographer? What are your takeaways?

It is like discovering the world, different people, their stories, music, food, traditions, celebrations and tragedies. It’s fascinating as well as enriching.

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Sudheer Palsane
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