I absolutely loved creating two different looks for Gori Tere Pyaar Mein: Mahesh Limaye
“I chose to go with a two-camera setup because there are many big sequences in the movie which consist of around 200-300 shots,” tells cinematographer Mahesh Limaye who has worked on various Hindi as well as Marathi feature films. On the release of his latest project, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, this versatile lens man talks about the making of GTPM and the major challenges faced while shooting.
What was the director’s vision for Gori Tere Pyaar Mein and what was your initial understanding towards the basic look and feel for this film? What sort of pre-planning and research did you go through?
Punit was completely clear that he wanted two different looks for the first half and the second half. And as a cinematographer, when you get a narration from a director, you start visualizing what he is thinking. So, when I heard the story, I got some visuals and thoughts in my mind since I always try to think ahead of the director in terms of the look and feel of the film. Once he told me the characters and how they are going to play in the film, I created a visual graph with them and that’s how we locked the look of the film.
I absolutely loved creating two different looks for this film. The first is stylized for the cosmopolitan city and the second look is a completely raw and rustic feel for the village setting. The second half is a village in Gujarat that we had to recreate in Film city because of logistics. Though the village has a very stark look it possesses a beautiful flavor. Yes, we pre-planned a lot because when you are shooting in a new city like Bangalore, you have to go there many times to get the flavor of the city and know its people. So, we did a great amount of research because the entire Imran’s family in the film belongs to South India.
What were the prime locations?
We shot for almost a month in Bangalore and then a few days in Bhuj and Wai for some exterior scenes and song sequences. The second half was recreated in Film city, Mumbai where we built two big sets. One is the village and the other one is the bridge set, which Shashank created around a big lake in film city. But, our main problem was to recreate the river water, so we had to rely on VFX for it. The VFX guys, Prasad Sutar and Rana from Reliance MediaWorks did a cracking job and gave us awesome results as per our visualization. Otherwise, it would have been very difficult to shoot on a real location, taking all the actors, junior artists and the whole unit.
I would say, almost 80 percent of the film has been shot on location. However, for one song called Chingam Chabake, we put up a set with a mohalla kind of ambience. Apart from that, the whole village sequence was shot on the location where the entire village was recreated. The village set was a huge outdoor location entailing 70-80 huts and a temple etc.
How did you plan to shoot this film? What were your camera setups and lens choices?
When I got the first narration from Punit, my immediate reaction was that we have to shoot this film on a two-camera setup. So, I shot the entire film on two cameras and both were Red Epics. And the lenses used were Master Primes. This is my fifth film on the digital format, as earlier I shot all my Marathi films like Balgandharva and Balak Palak etc. on it. I like the format because you can play a lot with it. Also, the camera is so small that it gives you more freedom to operate and this is what I love most about Red Epic.
I chose to go with a two-camera setup because there are many big sequences in the movie, which consist of around 200-300 shots in a scene. To achieve that in a limited time frame was a big task for me. Hence, I thought of using two cameras and it really worked for the film. It’s because of this two-camera set up that we finished this film in approximately 80 days, which could have otherwise taken more than 100 days. So, you save a lot of time when you have multiple cameras and the best part is that you keep your actors in their characters all the time. I generally prefer to work like that because I have worked with lot of foreign cinematographers in my early days. And they all told me that don’t let your actors relax for too long between different setups, just be quick and prepared. So, I apply this, whenever I shoot big films or even smaller films.
Can you please mention some specific camera movements that you have incorporated in Gori Tere Pyaar Mein?
In the narrative, Imran and Kareena’s relation comes to a flashback, so we had two different looks for the first half of the film. We thought of keeping a monotone look for it but eventually, when we started shooting, had to take a call and treat the flashback completely differently.
Punit wanted to shoot most of the flashback handheld, but that didn’t work too well hence I decided to treat it a little differently. For many of the scenes from the first half we had both cameras on a dolly. I also used an Optimo zoom for a lot of sequences.
What about the lighting design for the exterior and interior sequences?
Luckily, I have worked with Kareena before, in the film Heroine and also I have shot some commercials with her. So, I knew that the soft light looks really good on her complexion. With Imran, even low light would reflect nicely of his skin because of his great complexion. Hence, for a lot of night sequences, I went a little underexposed because I really wanted to experiment with the village scenes. I never wanted the night village to look the way it does in most Hindi films i.e. overly lit. So, I told Punit that I would make it look very raw and rustic, which will help in bringing out the flavor of those places.
However, when you look at the first half of the film, it is all very contemporary. For exteriors, I mostly used 40×40 and 20×20 skimmer frames. I punched in lights with one 6k or 4k so that the softness comes across on the character’s skin. I also used big air balloon lights for the close-ups. For indoors, I used lots of kinoflos and soft boxes.
Also, I love the look created by my colorist, Makarand Surte who is from Reliance MediaWorks. I just used to show him the references for the scene and he totally cracked the look. Even in the first half, when the flashbacks are going, he added some glow onto their skin, which gives an outstanding feel.
What was a major challenge and how did you pull it off?
There’s a song in the film called Dhat Teri Ki that we shot at Sky bar, which is the most happening place in Bangalore. Also, it was the most difficult location to get but somehow we got a chance to shoot there. It’s like an open-air bar on the seventeenth floor and shooting on top of that building was a big challenge for us. It was the most difficult place to shoot because of its height and we were not allowed to rig any lights. So, I just had to use available light for the faces of Imran and Esha in that song. I used very minimal light and lots of lens flares throughout the song.
Also, the dance floor there was under lit and it kept changing colors. I love those colors and decided to get those colors in my camera. Hence, instead of putting my lights and changing the entire environment, I thought of retaining the actual ambience and just lit the faces of my actors. It was difficult but I think, if you don’t have challenges then there is no fun in doing anything.
What are the key differences that you find between the Hindi film industry and Marathi cinema?
There are many differences between both industries. The major one is the budget because the amount of money spent on Marathi films is like the budget of one song for any Hindi film. So, the budget is really a big issue for Marathi films. But its fun to work on small budget films because the actors are completely at your disposal. Also, when you have limited resources then your creative mind works at a rapid speed and you try to manage more efficiently. So, you have pluses and minuses in every industry.
Though, in Hindi films, you get to work with big budgets and stars but then you have to understand what they like, what they don’t like and which angle, they look good. While in Marathi films, actors completely surrender to their director. However, for the last eight years, I have been doing one Hindi film and then one Marathi film because when I shoot Marathi films, I start missing Bollywood and when I get back to Hindi films, I start missing Marathi cinema.
Tell us about your upcoming film projects?
I am directing and shooting a Marathi film, which I haven’t announced yet but hopefully, by next month, I will have a proper announcement. I have finished almost 90-95 percent of the shoot and only a couple of days of work are left. Most probably, by next year, we will have a release. It’s a film on a different subject and I have been living with it for the last one year. Apart from this, there were few Bollywood offers that I couldn’t take because of my own film but as soon as this film finishes, I will start working on Hindi films.