Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania is a feel good film that is close to reality – Neha Parti
“When the audiences watch the film they should not feel that they are in an escapist reality, rather it should be easily relatable,” says talented cinematographer Neha Parti about her latest film Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya. Neha has earlier showcased her proficiency with titles like Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 and Bewakoofiyan.
The dynamic and ingenious cinematographer speaks to Pandolin about her film that releases today and shares all that went into the making of this heartwarming romantic comedy.
What attracted you towards Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania (HSKD)?
When I was narrated the story for the first time, I loved the energy of the film and was quite excited to be a part of it. Besides that I got a really positive vibe from Shashank (Khaitan), the director, and felt we would work great as a team.
Your independent projects have largely revolved around light-hearted concepts. Is it a conscious decision to choose films of this genre?
As luck would have it, only light-hearted films have come my way, it hasn’t been a conscious decision to only do such films. Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 had a bit of action that I really enjoyed shooting. I’d love to shoot a high-octane action drama soon.
How was the association with debutant director Shashank Khaitan? In terms of the treatment, what were his expectations from you?
How Shashank saw the film and put it across to me in our numerous discussions was one of the main reasons I wanted to do this film. He wanted the film to look good of course but at the same time it had to feel real. When the audiences watch the film they should not feel that they are in an escapist reality, rather it should be easily relatable. HSKD is a feel good film that is true to the script and close to reality.
HSKD being a young and vibrant film, what is the visual treatment adopted for it?
We knew we were making a film that had to look real and at the same time attach a certain aspirational value to the look and feel of the overall package. The first half of the story has a lot movement in the frame and the actors had fantastic energy, so as design we decided to give them the kind of space their performance needed by keeping the camera static most often. Then as the family gets involved and the setup shifts to a small town, we adapted a shooting style that involved a lot of hand held and dolly movements, hardly keeping the camera static.
Please tell us about the camera and lenses used to shoot the film.
We used an Arri Alexa XT package with the full range of master primes and Optimo Zoom at all times. As and when required we had the Zeiss short zoom.
Shashank wanted to stay with the actor’s performances and emotions at all times. So we’ve ended up shooting most part of the film in teles, including the wide establishing shots.
Where has the film largely been shot? You’ll seem to have largely shot on real locations. Shooting on sets vs. shooting on real locations. Which do you prefer and why?
Though the film is based in Delhi and Ambala in the script, we have primarily shot in Mumbai for almost all indoor scenes and songs. The second half has been shot extensively in Chandigarh. We did shoot a day each in Delhi and Ambala though.
80 percent of the film is shot on real locations. Well, shooting on sets vs. real locations, both have their own charms. When on a real location, the location dictates how a scene has to be lit and shot. The challenge to work as per those limitations and yet achieve what you set out to do, is very satisfying. On a set you create what you have imagined from scratch and that is a very fulfilling and magical experience.
What was the largest set piece in HSKD and what did it involve?
The two biggest sets were for the songs ‘Lucky Tu’ and ‘Saturday’. The first one is a college farewell song and though we used “Intelligent lighting” for that set, we wanted it to look like a real college space, so we used a lot of practical lights to get that feel. For ‘Saturday’ I used a Moon Cube that we made using 24 drum lights covered with 1/4CTB because the space was so huge it needed generic lighting.
Can you tell us about the kinds of lights used in the film and the overall strategy for lighting?
I tried to keep the lighting simple, unobtrusive and true to the spaces. Keeping the lighting simple gives the actors a lot of freedom to move and perform which is key for a film to work. This is pretty much my approach to all my films. I think this particular film needed a more direct approach. To stay more in immediate contact, just to be out there with the actors in the real spaces and landscapes and getting that right was the challenge.
We shot in small cramped rooms, book stores etc. The challenge was lighting up in these small spaces realistically yet with a certain degree of gloss. I used a lot of small box lights we made with bulbs and china lamps with diffusions to keep it soft for the actors’ faces. And used various small tungtens for the background. During day shoots I went mostly with natural light and used reflectors and mirrors to pump it up a bit.
‘Saturday Saturday’ being a fast paced dance number with the whole disco cum hip hop vibe, how did you go about shooting it? Is the song a part of the film or a promotional track?
‘Saturday’ is a promotional song which has nothing to do with the look and feel of the film. We stayed away from the intelligent light (besides a very small portion in the song) route even though it’s a club song. We wanted to give it a grungy, underground feel, which was all possible due to the colors of the set and the actors’ looks.
‘Samjhaavan’ on the other hand is a romantic, melodious track. What was the approach towards the visuals elements of this song?
This track is very close to my heart. Though it is shot very simply, I love the emotions we have been able to evoke with its simplicity. This song is shot with almost no lights except a few reflectors and mirrors here and there.
Any interesting/unique techniques employed to shoot any of the other songs?
We made a conscious decision to ensure that none of our songs were similar to each other in the film. We have three night/indoor set songs in the film and no two look similar. “D se Dance” is played out with only fairy lights, “Lucky tu” has only intelligent lights and “Saturday” is grungy. The three day songs are different in terms of shot taking and colours. We shot “Emotinal fool” which is a high-energy montage song from day one to the last day of shoot. It entailed multiple locations and spaces.
Can you tell us any one particular sequence/song that was extremely challenging to shoot and how did you’ll manage it?
The major challenge was the weather. In Chandigarh it was very unpredictable as it would suddenly turn from sunny to foggy to rainy and vice versa. Every time I would light up the sets according to the sun, by the time actors came and we were ready for the shot, it would turn foggy.
When we started shooting the song “Daingad Daingad” in Chandigarh, it was sunny and hot and suddenly, out of nowhere, it started raining buckets. The song was set-up in a lawn. I have never seen such teamwork as I did here; the entire crew ran helter skelter to cover the lawn, which we managed to save from the rain. Even though we salvaged the situation it was extremely challenging for my lighting crew and me and I’m extremely thankful for the fantastic effort put in by all of them.
Please tell us about the post – production of the film and your team.
I had a great team that’s been with me through my last few projects. Vidhushi Tiwari my 1st Ac, Sarthak Johar my 2nd Ac and my gaffer Nilesh Chaubey were involved in every step of the way. I worked with Tushar from Reliance Mediaworks for DI and he plays a large part in how the film looks considering the weather fluctuations we had to face. The film doesn’t have too much VFX besides basic PIPs and clean-ups.