Making of Heroine with Cinematographer Mahesh Limaye
What was the principle idea that you wanted to employ when filming heroine, as per your discussion with the director?
I have worked with Madhur on four films. Every film was treated differently. In this film, Mahi Arora (Kareena Kapoor) the main character of the film, goes through crazy patches in her life, the ups and downs are very erratic. Being an actor, they live in an environment of ‘light’. I used light-flares in most of the frames. I intentionally chose to show the source of the light in the film as well. I’d shot commercials with Kareena earlier, she carries soft and reflected light very well because of her skin tone. That was the mantra, I used soft light throughout the film, and played with light flares.
How would you define your relationship with the actors in the film?
Oh, it’s amazing! Kareena is such an easy-going actor, I was shocked! When you shoot commercials you have six to eight hours to finish forty seconds of a commercial. When it comes to films it’s a complete different ballpark . Most of the time I wanted to know the kind of expression we want, and which is the best and the correct angle to get that kind of expression out. And so many times directors have certain visions, but sometimes the angle that they’re looking at is not the right kind to get that expression out. This took some time but the actors in the film were co-operative.
Madhur is such a great director, he has given me complete freedom to take creative calls, and to set up a shot. The actors are so supportive, like Kareena, when she’s doing a serious scene, she’ll look at the camera and would ask me ‘How was it?’. If I felt that with the correct face angle the expression could come out well she would happily do it again. So if the actors are so supportive you feel more comfortable around them and vice versa.
How conscious were you in terms of framing – were there any references that you were looking at, what was the thinking process?
I watch a lot of music videos; I love watching music videos because they tell you the story in few minutes. The way it’s been designed, stylized, and the way they use colours. Since I have become an independent cinematographer I’ve been following music videos rather than films. That’s how I do my homework. With camera angles and lighting, in this film I did a lot of variation. [box_light]In the second half, I’ve used a lot of tilt-and-shift lenses to get the character’s mind-set especially on Kareena.[/box_light]
What are the different lenses that you used for the film?
For this film I shot on Cooke S4 and Optimo most of the time. The entire film has been shot on two cameras. Because the character is such, with the second camera we always covered her emotions, her mindset and psyche, throughout the film. If you see the film there are a lot of tele-shots. I showed it [her mindset] through visual references of videos, and a lot of times we’ve gone soft and come back to sharpness. The things we’ve done are different. All the time the camera is moving. The camera is like a character.
We shot on Arri 435. And 10% of the film was on Red MX.
Please share your experience shooting on the Red MX and its challenges?
I treat it [Digital] as a medium, rather than comparing it to film. Digital is a very different medium, and once you know the plus and minus of it, it is very easy. The only thing is, like with any art you have to master it. As we shoot more and more we discover its drawbacks and its advantages. I’ve shot two regional films on Digital, on Red MX. The recent one that I’m shooting is a Marathi film with Red EPIC only in available light. We’re shooting on the streets, in bars, in lots of different places. The story is about encounter specialist cops. It’s a little different; it’s completely crime-based and raw. I thought of shooting digital because I can really push the visual quality to the limit.
What would be your greatest challenge during filming Heroine?
Lots actually, because so many times you want more time to do rigs, but somewhere you have to control yourself. While shooting the title track “Main Heroine Hoon” we had just two days to finish the song, and I was going through a lot of video referencing. Remo who choreographed the song came up with an idea and he showed me some Madonna videos which were shot black and white and were very stylized. We shot on DSLRs and the entire fifty-by-fifty platform was black acrylic. So what do you do there? I played with colours. Being an art student colors play a very important factor. When I was shooting that song I was going back almost twenty years. It was amazing! There was a lot of stress because we had to finish such a good-looking song in two days. It was a difficult task but we did it. Remo has done a killer job on that song.