Raanjhanaa is emotion driven, not technique driven – Vishal Sinha
[dropcap]”T[/dropcap]he challenging part of shooting a film like this is that it is so high on emotional content that if you try to do anything else; you are stealing from the emotional aspect of it, ” says ace cinematographer Vishal Sinha elaborating on the essence of Raanjhanaa, which hits theaters this Friday.
Vishal, who has a versatile filmography to his credit including titles like Bhoot, Ab Tak Chhapan and Allah Ke Bandey amongst others, showcases his artistic acumen, creative insight and expertise in this romantic film. He speaks to Pandolin about the treatment meted out for Raanjhanaa, capturing the emotional quotient, keeping things real and the simplicity involved in the making of the film.
What kind of approach did you want to adopt for filming Raanjhanaa?
It’s a simple story about three simple people and the complications within it. Aanand Rai is a very simple person and does not like to go overboard with the kind of visuals you do. He doesn’t believe in overshooting. So the way the shot break down or the camera taking happens is guided by the simplicity in which he is saying the story and the shooting style comes out of that. The color palette was mainly taken care of in the art direction stage itself by our production designer, Wasiq Khan and art director, Tariq Khan. We essentially kept Banaras just the way it is and enhanced just a little with a couple of flags, some flowers and so on. We didn’t try to add any colors purposely.
Since there were two cinematographers on the film, could you tell us about the parts shot by you?
I have shot all the childhood and all the sections that do not have Abhay Deol. Abhay’s sections were shot by Natty (Natarajan Subramaniam).
What percentage of the film was shot on Panavision Genesis and how much on Red Epic? Which lenses have you used?
Essentially around 85 per cent of the film is shot on Panavision Genesis. In several places we had multi-camera set ups, high speed shots and so on which were done on the Red Epic. We used Panavision Primo Prime lenses which are the flagship of Panavision lenses.
What was your treatment towards the framing and camera movements in the film?
The camera movements were completely dictated by the requirement of the scene. We weren’t trying to show off camera work and the trick was very clear; if you don’t need it don’t use it. In many instances we started a scene by doing an interesting entry into the scene; every time I would do a scene I would ask the AD where is the scene coming from, the scene could even be coming from the flashback or any other sequence. In many instances to show a lapse in time, you do the first movement very interestingly to show that you have come into the shot. It was basically all emotion driven techniques and not technique driven emotions. There are times when we have gone handheld or tied the camera to a boat and traveled with somebody, used handheld on a scooter and so on.
How much of the film is shot in Banaras and in Delhi? What kind of locations have you’ll shot in?
The film actually travels; it starts from Banaras and goes on to Delhi. There is about 60 per cent of Banaras and 40 per cent of Delhi. We shot on all actual locations and did not have even a single set. Aanand wanted to stay true to the visuals that he saw in Banaras and that is the essential reason why the film looks the way it does. Banaras is a nice colorful place, the stone has its own texture, the temples have their own beauty, color, contrast etc. so we have captured it all as is.
As you were shooting on live locations in Banaras, what was the shooting style adopted?
The locations appear complex but they are actually very simple. The reason being, the kind of villages and lanes where we shot have houses that are old constructions. The architecture at that time was far more evolved and all the houses were of one kind, made of one color, stone etc. so it makes things very simple to shoot. Also I have shot several films in Banaras and am acquainted with the lanes and hence the shooting was simple. Plus the people are very friendly, if you ask them to not look into the camera they will not look. So you can blend it all together smoothly.
What are the various sources of light that you have worked with in this film?
The film starts off with a happy part so there is a happy lighting set up. Wherever the film leads emotionally, I have tried to maintain the same kind of lighting. For instance, if we were shooting in the afternoon and it was a morning scene, if the sun came from a certain side, we lit the entire place from that particular side. It gets difficult because the sun is constantly shifting and you might not be lucky at every location to get the right light. But the idea was to make sure that we replicate natural lighting at any given time.
For the Raanjhanaa title track, there is a night dance sequence and I did some research to understand the kind of lighting that is done during the Rath Yatra. When they do the street performances, halogen bulbs are used so we have gone and recreated it as it was. We spent two days ensuring that it looks as real as the original thing. In the film we have used regular lights like HMIs, Tungsten lights and so on, nothing special.
How have you treated the songs in the film? Were there any difficulties faced while shooting the songs?
None of the songs are shot like songs, they are all narrative. So in essence, Raanjhanaa starts with ‘Tum tak’, goes on to ‘Raanjhanaa hua main tera’, ‘Tu mun shudi’, ‘Nazar laaye’ and ‘Piya milenge’. If you were to see only the songs back-to-back, that is the story. The songs have just one or two signature dance steps otherwise they are mainly taking the story forward. Hence there was no difficultly in shooting them as well.
What are the techniques used to capture the stunts in the film? Which was the most challenging aspect in the entire film?
Every stunt requires to be shot from a certain point of view in the way the film is narrated to you. There are several stunts in the film and Dhanush is so agile and wants to do all of it by himself. We got him to climb an approximately 2000 year old temple and that was a little difficult to shoot as the temple was higher than an 8-10 storey building.
But there were no major difficulties as such. When a film is written so brilliantly you don’t need to think about what you have to do, it is written from a particular point of view and needs to be shot from that point of view, it makes my work easier. And Aanand is so simple in his style of filmmaking that makes everything brilliant. The only challenging part of shooting a film like this is that it is so high on emotional content that if you try to do anything else; you are stealing from the emotional aspect of it.
How was your association with the cast and director Aanand Rai? What was his essential brief on the film?
Sonam has done a brilliant job in the film. As far as Dhanush is concerned, he has proved himself with National awards way before we can even talk about him. Swara Bhaskar and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub are outstanding. Aanand is by far the nicest human being I’ve ever worked for. The film was so clear; it was three people’s life and their point of view. The main thing about the film is that it starts out being a boy’s fascination for a girl and it ends by being a boy’s fascination for a girl. It’s just one emotion that you need to hold on in different forms, of where the story is, you cannot digress from that. Technique was the last thing on anybody’s mind, it was all emotion driven.
Where did the post production of the film take place? Can you please name your colorist, gaffer and associates?
The camera and the DI were by Prasad Film Labs. Robert Lang was my colorist and he is absolutely fabulous. His involvement was beyond my expectations. Another key person is Arvind at Prasad Labs whose contribution is exceptional. My gaffer is Robin Adhikari and my associate cameraman is Narayan Yadav. They have both been with me in all my films and are the backbone of the work I do.
Photo Courtesy – Eros International.[box_light]Raanjhanaa, directed by Aanand L Rai and produced by Krishika Lulla under Eros International releases on 21st June, 2013.[/box_light]