“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”

– William Shakespeare

Making of Players

Abbas-Mustan’s latest directorial venture, Players, is an attempt at bringing the popular American heist film, ‘The Italian Job’ to the Hindi film audience. With a star-studded ensemble cast and an archetypical plot, Players is sure to supercharge the hearts of fans. Set in picturesque locations, the film promises to reveal the virgin beauty of New Zealand and the stark remoteness of Russia. Here is a glance into the thoughts of the film’s Cinematographer, Ravi Yadav.

Ravi discusses his approach to shooting the film’s exotic locations. He says, “I go according to the mood of the scene and the location’s resources, that is where the work begins. In this film I had two unique locations. The first half is in Russia and the second half is in New Zealand. We decided to have two different tones in the film. Russia will have a greenish white tone, which Russian films usually have. New Zealand, we kept colorful.  Secondly, I wanted to keep them grandiose yet natural, capturing the locations the way they are rather than styling them. In comparison to my other films I played more with colors on this one. I was looking at the vastness of the 2 locations and worked with their textures. All interiors are shot in Mumbai.”

Like a chameleon, Ravi effortlessly adapts his work according to the Director’s needs, utilizing the material and references. He states, “My work approach completely depends on the Director. I don’t have a personal style. My work will always differ depending on the Director I work with. I completely surrender myself to him and try to grab the feeling and work with it. I still haven’t done Cinematography in my own style. Someday I will”, he smiles. 

Ravi talks about how certain the directing duo were. They knew exactly what they wanted and strived for it. He asserts that “they always have their own conviction. They also wanted to have 2 different feels for the film and were very up to date. They keep upgrading and adapting with new technology. They always have a unique approach for the project.” On being asked about his rapport with the directors he says, “It is give and take. They are very flexible yet stubborn in their convictions.”
Making of PlayersThe shoot was difficult due to challenging conditions and long days in Russia. The rise in expenses and restrictions in New Zealand provided further problems. Ravi voices their travails by stating that “shooting in -5 degree was tough. In Russia we have 23 hours of daylight. So we shot for 18 hours, long hours. We were shooting close to the North Pole. You have only 30 minutes of sunrise and sunset. So every day is day. Our technicians are not used to shooting in this kind of weather. So it took us time to adapt to the environment. Chief camera operator – Dilshad – fell sick. In New Zealand, shooting was very expensive and we had many location restrictions. Russia was easier in that regard apart from the cold temperature of course.”

Lighting plays a major role in all aspects of a picture and the theme of a film depends on its lighting cues. Ravi reflects that he “wanted to keep a very high key and played with colors. I used a lot of green domestic tubes, streetlights, beams lights, and artificial intelligence lights. Then I used a soft box to create contrast. I didn’t use any direct light in songs keeping it soft. I always tried to create 3 layers playing with the foreground, mid ground and back ground.” Regarding the stylization of the film he proclaims, “Ambience and compositions are important for stylizing and then you get into lighting and see what can be done. The lens is very essential.”
Bobby Deol
Speaking about the action sequences in the film, Ravi says that there are close to 800 special effects in the film, “we used a lot of the Canon 5D with 18mm and 24mm wide-angle lenses. The experience was excellent and I designed the shots so that they would match with the 435’s grain and lens. I kept everything natural and on native settings.” While shooting stunts Ravi was directed by the stunt coordinator. He states, “we placed external angles, which he liked and approved. I had a good relationship with him. We had multi camera setups and coordination. We always had 5 cameras even for the scenes. 3 – 435’s and 2 – 5D’s individually placed on dolly, jimmy jib, cranes etc.” To shoot the scenes, Ravi always looks at the bigger picture. He says, “When I have multiple cameras, I always concentrate on all of them and their compositions. As a photographer, good framing is very important to me. I spend more time on compositions compared to lighting. I always maintain one stock in the film, never mixing them. I only shot with 200ASA using Kodak vision 3.”
Sunny Singh from Prime Focus colored the film. Ravi proclaims, “For the New Zealand shots he gave a new tone, so the credit goes to him. We usually exchange ideas and then lock in on the basis of what each scene demands and go with the flow.  He has given a greenish tone, which you don’t really make out on screen. I like to crush the blacks in the image and then work from there. Whenever needed I open up a bit later.”
Ravi commends his team, a set of 9 people, “My chief assistant is Dilshad, Arun Prasad is an operator, Albert who is also one of the operators, and then I have one focus puller – Lal from Kerela, five lights – men – Robert, Vijay, Girish, Hussain and Sarfarash. Nagu was there handling the 5d on this film. He is from Hyderabad.”  
Jimmy jib operator – Sanjay Londe
Steadicam operator – Sunil Khanpur

[box_light]VFX – prime focus
Lenses – Master primes, Alura zoom
Camera attendants – from Prime Focus.
Processing lab – Film lab
Camera perf – 3 perf.[/box_light]
As told to Aprajita Sarkar