Chennai Express is different from any other film done by Rohit – Dudley
[dropcap]”A[/dropcap]ll the action shots in the film are real, the cars are real and so are the blasts,” says cinematographer Dudley about the making of the highly awaited film,Chennai Express, which releases today. Rohit Shetty’s films are known for their larger than life action and stunts and Dudley is the man who captures it all on camera. His filmography boasts of several blockbusters including All the Best: The fun begins, Singham and Bol Bachchan, each remembered for their unique style and treatment.
In a tete-a-tete with Pandolin, Dudley tells us about his collaboration with Rohit Shetty, the extensive location hunt for this film, the distinct treatment adopted for the songs, capturing the action as it happens and how Chennai Express is different from the other films that Rohit and he have done.
Let’s start with your collaboration with Rohit Shetty. You’ll have worked together on several films. What was Rohit’s brief to you for Chennai Express?
This is the first time that Rohit and Shahrukh Khan are collaborating so we planned the film in such a way that it is different from any of the other films that Rohit has done. Be it shooting style, quality, treatment or look, we wanted it to be different. This is also one of the first films for which Rohit has done a location recce for almost two months as the film also demanded particular kind of locations.
[pullquote_left]We traveled almost all over India to get the right locations.Finally we shot in Wai, near Pune, Rameshwaram, Munnar, Hyderabad, near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Goa and Hyderabad.[/pullquote_left]
What was the thought behind the look and color palette of the film?
We discussed the look and came to a conclusion that the two villages which are shown in the film should be treated differently. So each village had to have a distinct look. Also the film is not a sad or grey film. It’s a simple, emotional drama, a feel good film. So we have used vibrant colors and the look is bright and colorful.
Where has the film largely been shot? While doing the recce for the film, what were the key criteria in choosing locations? Were you’ll required to design any sets for any particular scenes?
We traveled almost all over India to get the right locations. We did a recce of Ooty, Madurai, Rameshwaram, Alleppey, Kodaikanal and many other places, all major locations which fit the demand of this film. We wanted to depict a South Indian village which had to look visually good. In the film we have shown two villages, so we had to differentiate the villages, one had to be like a hill station and the other one was regular. In order to get that differentiation we had to recce extensively to find the appropriate locations. Finally we shot in Wai, near Pune, Rameshwaram, Munnar, Hyderabad, near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Goa and Hyderabad. We had to design the sets for both the villages and were very particular that look wise one village shouldn’t be similar to the other. So the villages were designed accordingly.
What format have you shot the film on? Can you tell us about the camera set up for the film? How much of steadicam and handheld has been used?
We shot on film using the Arri 435. We used a two-camera set up throughout the film. For all the action sequences we have used a multi-camera set up comprising 4-5 cameras. In this film we haven’t used much of steadicam and handheld as compared to our earlier films, just used them for some action sequences. The camera movements too are different from other films.
[pullquote_right]Balloon lights are used to light up vast areas and are especially helpful in night sequences spread over vast areas. They help to light up the entire area evenly.[/pullquote_right]
Please tell us about the lenses and framing used in this film.
I have used the Cooke S5/i lens. It’s a new lens and you have to wait for almost a year for the delivery. It’s a handmade lens and one of the best ones which was specially called from abroad for this film. In Chennai Express we have largely used telephoto lens for most of the frames because the output is very nice and wide lenses were used rarely.
What was the lighting design adopted for Chennai Express? Have you largely shot with available or artificial lights? Who was your gaffer?
For the outdoor shots we have used very less lights but for indoors, lights were used depending on the scenes and the mood required for the scenes. For one particular sequence, which is an emotional sequence between Shahrukh and Deepika in the village and also the song – 1234, we have used balloon lights. Balloon lights are used to light up vast areas and are especially helpful in night sequences spread over vast areas. They help to light up the entire area evenly. Apart from this we have used regular lights. My gaffer on the film was Raju. He is a very nice person and handles the shoot in a very systematic manner.
For the song ‘Kashmir to Kanyakumari’, was it a conscious decision to have an extremely colorful backdrop? Since it was a large set up with several elements, how did you light it?
Since this film is based in the South, we wanted to incorporate all elements of the South Indian culture – the costumes, the animals etc. We wanted to collect all the South Indian costumes to give it an authentic and grand look as all the costumes are very colorful. We have also used traditional costumes like the tiger dress, Bharatanatyam costumes and so on. It was a little tough for the Kathakali dancers as it took them around 5-6 hours for the makeup. They used to get up and start their make up at 2-3 am in the morning so that they could be ready for the shoot by 8-9 am. We have largely shot the song with natural light. Since it was shot in Munnar we had good soft light and could shoot it well.
[pullquote_left]It’s a one take shot, if you miss it, it’s gone. Though we use 4-5 cameras, the main camera has to capture the thing correctly because you cannot repeat it. There are no VFX used for these shots. [/pullquote_left]
How did the concept of the song ‘Titli’ come into being? Can you take us through the technique of shooting it?
The concept was purely Rohit’s idea. Since it was a romantic song he wanted to shoot 48fps, slow – motion. Farah Khan choreographed the song and she is famous for slow motion songs and was also excited about the idea. So we shot it accordingly and it’s turned out beautifully. It wasn’t challenging to shoot as such because these days technology has made things easy but it’s a little difficult for the artists. For instance, the voice will be double the speed so they have to match it accordingly and so on.
Action and stunts are a key part of Rohit’s films. Have you used any special rigs during the stunts? What techniques are used to capture Rohit’s trademark style – the blasts / overturning cars etc. What is the role of VFX in such stunts?
We have used rigs throughout the film wherever necessary but haven’t used anything special, just the regular rigs. All the action shots in the film are real, the cars are real and so are the blasts. There is a person sitting inside the car and it is challenging to shoot. It’s a one take shot, if you miss it, it’s gone. Though we use 4-5 cameras, the main camera has to capture the thing correctly because you cannot repeat it. There is no VFX used for these shots. You have to be completely focused. Since we have done these things earlier in so many action films we don’t face that much difficulty but it’s still a challenge.
Which was the most challenging/interesting scene to shoot from the entire film?
We did a huge opening sequence for Deepika’s father’s entry in a place called Dudhsagar waterfalls near Goa. It was the most challenging shoot of the film. We used to travel 2 hours by road and then an hour by train to reach the destination. We would shoot only few hours a day because there was only one train and if we missed that there would be no transportation. The train too stopped for only 20 minutes at the station so we had to load and unload in that much time. Also we were around 300-400 people so everything had to be done quickly.
How much of VFX has been used in the film? Where was the post production of the film done?
We have used VFX in the film in some scenes where we created village extensions and so on. The post production was done at Red Chillies Entertainment and Reliance MediaWorks.
What was the shooting schedule like? Who was your team – camera operators, assistants etc.
We shot for almost 125 days. My associate was Vinod and assistants were Raj, Kartik and Vijay.