[dropcap]”I[/dropcap]n the shooting style of this film, I wanted to try new things instead of going the regular way,” says ace cinematographer K U Mohanan about his upcoming film, ‘Fukrey‘. Known for his impeccable style and expert camera work, K U Mohanan has experimented with several new things in Fukrey, used all that was available from cycle rickshaws to electric scooters and as he says, done a lot of ‘jugaad’ work. And the cinematographer is mighty happy with the overall outcome. Incidentally, there is also a song called ‘Jugaad’ in the film.

K U Mohanan speaks to Pandolin about the making of this light-hearted film, his unique shooting techniques, the experiments he tried, why he likes working with youngsters and much more.

K U Mohanan

K U Mohanan

What was the principle thought that you had in mind while shooting Fukrey?

It is a very light script and a very simple story when you look at it. So my idea also was to shoot it in a light manner, more like a documentary. I wanted to keep the camera as a part of the group, as one of the characters rather than shooting it from outside.

Since it is a young and vibrant story, what is the look and feel adopted? Did you choose a particular color palette for the film?

In the initial discussions with my director, I told him that we should not color code the film at all and let it be the way it is. It should be like a documentary film and shouldn’t get into serious art direction, costume direction etc. In my other films like Talaash, Don and so on, there is a strict color palette which is initially fixed and everything is worked around it. The production designer, costume person and everyone else has a close meeting and decide the color palette of the film.Whereas in this film, I felt that nothing should be forced, everything should be kept the way it is. So when you look at the film you will feel that nothing is art directed at all. It is given a very light look and we have tried to keep it as real as possible, that is what I wanted to do.

[pullquote_left]My style in any kind of film is to use the maximum amount of existing light. Even in interior spaces, I always use natural light, whatever light comes from the window and then simulate that kind of a scene with artificial lights.[/pullquote_left]

Can you please talk about the locations in the film? What was the reason for choosing a particular location and what were the challenges that you faced while shooting? 

Fukras is actually a term which is not known to everyone in Delhi also. It is more common with the people who stay in the Yamuna paar area of Delhi. It is used in government schools and places like that. So these boys in the film are also shown from government schools, from the middle class to the lower middle class kind of milieu. So the overall locations are also like that. Mrighdeep was very particular about the locations, he was looking at some down-market kind of areas. Normally when you go to Delhi you see nice, colonial kind of places, but in the film we have totally avoided those kind of locations. Hence we were looking at places closer to Yamuna.

For the terrace sequences we had to check many buildings to get an appropriate terrace, one where everything was interconnected because the character is shown jumping across building terraces to reach the girl. Finding the ideal locations was a time consuming process but since the director is from Delhi he was very familiar with all the locations. He had done all his research and decided which parts of Delhi he wanted to shoot. It was not so tough shooting this film because all the actors are mostly newcomers, they are not very familiar faces so that was a big advantage. We could shoot on any roads, lanes etc. and the public would just look at the shooting with curiosity but would not really crowd the place.

The other challenge we faced was when we were shooting in November, it was very smoky in Delhi. We later got to know that the farmers in Punjab and Haryana were burning a lot of straw and that smoke was coming to Delhi. But we couldn’t wait for the smoky haze to pass, because it is a small-budget film and we couldn’t waste the days nor did we know when the haze would pass. So in many instances I have tried to incorporate the smokiness in the scenes.

We have largely shot on real locations except for some scenes which were shot in Mumbai. We had created a gym setup in Mumbai wherein the interiors of the gym were covered with mirrors all around because we wanted to shoot some particular kind of shots there. So apart from that we have largely shot in real locations. Even some of the shots in Mumbai, though interior shots, are all in real locations.

On the sets

On the sets of Fukrey. (Image courtesy – Excel Entertainment)

What was your lighting setup for interior and exterior shooting? What were your light sources?

My style in any kind of film is to use maximum amount of existing light. In interior spaces also, I always use natural light that comes through the windows and then simulate that kind of a scene with artificial lights. I work with very minimum light sources. Even for night sequences in this film, for example, there is a chase sequence on the Delhi street and I have shot that entire scene only with the street lights . I used the Arri Alexa which has a very good sensitivity in night light so I didn’t have to use any additional lights and I was very happy with the outcome.

What kind of camera movements, frames and angles have been employed in this film? Was it more steadicam or handheld?  Any new equipment that you have used to create a certain effect or look?

[pullquote_right]My idea was to shoot it in a light manner, more like a documentary. I wanted to keep the camera as a part of the group, as one of the characters rather than shooting it from outside.[/pullquote_right]

There are a lot of close-ups and mid shots in the film. New generation directors like and prefer that style. It’s mostly handheld; the camera was on my shoulder most of the times. We had a second camera operating at the same time. Since it is largely a comedy film, we thought that two cameras will help the actor, they won’t have to repeat the same thing again and again. At the same time one camera can cover a wider shot and the other camera could cover a close-up, that would help get a good continuity also. We used two cameras throughout the shoot.

I used very little grip equipment in this film, except for some places like the mirror room in the gym sequence. For that we fabricated an interesting rig so that the camera could move 360 degree and take a track inside. It was moving in a circle in a mirror room. That was a very difficult sequence because wherever you go, because of the mirrors you tend to see the camera in one shot or another. But we managed without getting any reflection. We devised the shot, angled the mirror, and for the 360 degree move, we fabricated a kind of rig that is suspended from the top of the set so that it moves around. We also made a special mirror cage for the camera. It was very challenging, we had around 3 scenes in that space, but we did it quickly in just 2 days. We could do it very fast because it was planned well and we knew how the rig should be. And fortunately what we planned also worked a hundred per cent.

Another rig that we made was one that could be fixed on a scooter. For scenes when the boys were shown riding the cycles through the lanes, the lanes had to be shown very narrow and I didn’t want any tracking car going through the lane. I wanted the camera to go through the lanes properly and it should look narrow also. And we were shooting in sync sound, so we had to use a vehicle which would not make noise. So we found an electrical scooter and mounted the camera on that and used it. There is another scene where the character is running in a lane at night in Chandni Chowk where we used the scooter rig again.

A still from the song 'Beda Paar'

A still from the song ‘Beda Paar’

The film has a lot of chase sequences and running shots of the characters . What techniques have you used to shoot such shots?

We wanted a real look, so we shot it in that matter. Ideally safety should always be considered first. But here we couldn’t do that. There is a sequence where the character is running on the bridge. We shot it in real traffic but it was a simple sequence. In that we made a rig for the camera on a motorbike and it was following the actor.

In the shooting style of this film, I wanted to try new things instead of going the regular way. We have done a lot of ‘jugaad’ work. There is a scene when the boys are moving around on a cycle that was actually shot in a scooter. Sometimes the camera was on a cycle rickshaw, cycle rickshaws are very common in that part of Delhi, and somebody was riding it. I used all kind of things, whatever was available around was used.

[pullquote_left]I felt that nothing should be forced in the film, everything should be the way it is. It is given a very light look and we have tried to keep it as close to real as possible.[/pullquote_left]

What was your approach towards shooting the songs of the film? What technique have you used to shoot the ‘Beda Paar’ number?

The director wanted the songs to be part of the story. He didn’t want the typical Hindi film style where they suddenly break in to a song. There is no lip sync song as such.  In one of the songs, like the one that is shot in the college, he has taken a little freedom and used some creativity because the characters are imagining certain things, so there is a ballerina dance and so on. But otherwise he wanted to keep it all in a real space.

I’ve tried to do the ‘Beda Paar’ song in a different manner. We used a lot of UV paints on the characters and to highlight the UV paints I have used a lot of UV lights. So I shot most of it in UV lights which I have used for the first time in my life. The setup of the song was created outdoors in Aarey colony in Mumbai. I tested the UV lights to see how the camera reacts to the lights. I did some referencing by seeing pictures of rave parties since I had never been to one. I was told rave parties are all illuminated with UV lights, so everything is dark only certain colors are popped up. But if I had tried to do the song in that kind of light it would not look nice on screen because the camera wouldn’t have captured most of the details. So I took freedom to add other kinds of lights to make it look interesting. I used only certain kind of colors, a combination of only one or two colors and not more. You can see that the lights are red/magenta or blue and all other colors are coming from the paint and the props from the art director. Initially I was suspicious about the outcome of the song but it turned out well.

Which was the most complicated scene/song which involved a lot of planning?

The most challenging sequence was in the mirror room, the gym sequence as I mentioned before. It was very challenging. And I’m very happy with the way it came out. The other thing is shooting at night on Delhi streets. Otherwise there was nothing very challenging as it is a simple film and we shot it simply. The difficult thing in a film is to do simple looking work, even if it’s complicated it should look simple on screen. That needs a lot of courage.

With Director Mirghdeep Lamba

With Director Mirghdeep Lamba (Image courtesy – Excel Entertainment)

This being director Mrighdeep Lamba’s second film, how was the collaboration with him? Is he a methodical or spontaneous director? What was his brief to you?

When he narrated the script, I imagined that it should be treated in a simple, closer to real manner. I told him the way I see the film and he agreed with my view since he was also thinking in the same direction. So to start with we were on the same page. We made a basic shooting plan but the treatment and other things were mostly done spontaneously. Since we were working with new actors and it’s a comedy situation, it wasn’t planned much in advance. Infact, I didn’t want to plan it all, just select the location, fix the time of the shoot and then you take the camera and start shooting right away, but that is not always possible.

How was it working with the cast who mainly comprise youngsters and newcomers?

They are young boys and some of them are really very good actors. Like Manjot Singh, who has already proved himself in his previous films, is a fantastic actor. He is subtle and really gifted. It’s always good to work with younger people, be it a director or actors. The advantage is that they are all enthusiastic and energetic, that is what you are looking for in a film.

Where did the DI of the film take place? Who was your colorist, gaffer, grip team?

The post production was done at EFX. My colorist was Jaydev (JD) who is a superb colorist. My gaffer was Prakash Shetty. In Delhi I used cameras, lights and grips from Flamingo films which is owned by K Nandakumar. In Delhi my grip was from Mumbai, his name was Inder Burji. In Mumbai the grip was Bidan Nandi. The gym rig was Bidan’s idea, he is fantastic.

How long was the shoot?

We shot for 50 days.

Fukrey is directed by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and produced by Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar. It releases on 14th June, 2013.