In Roy the aesthetics are invisible – Himman Dhamija
As the Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Rampal and Jacqueline Fernandez-starrer Roy releases we get renowned cinematographer Himman Dhamija to reveal the photographic secrets that went into capturing this mesmerising and mysterious love story.
In terms of cinematography, what appealed to you about Roy?
When Vicky (Vikramjit Singh, director) gave me the script, I enjoyed the story and also felt that visually it would allow me to pan a space that is very different from what I have been doing in Bombay (Mumbai). I felt cinematography-wise the film would take me closer to some of the work I do in Australia. Also, Vicky was very direct and upfront about the fact that it was his first film so he needed help too, yet in his directness he was clear on how the film should be. As a DOP I knew I will probably get more freedom than some of the films that I have done, as well as the fact that the film needs a certain kind of story-telling. Roy isn’t anything like the usual Bombay (Mumbai) film, even aesthetically. So I knew doing Roy was a good opportunity to practice what I have learnt and practiced in other countries. It was an opportunity for me to do a quieter piece, something different from the usual fare which is generally pacier, brighter and more hyped up.
What exactly do you mean when you say Roy isn’t like a Bombay film?
Aesthetically, we wanted it to be quiet and the filmmaking process, the creatives to be invisible. Vicky wanted me to inhabit the spaces without any artifices. We really jammed on this whole process, and that is the difference between Roy and a regular Hindi film, where they want to see their money on the screen. And to do that one pumps up the colours, the spaces and gets into a hyper real space. As a result everybody’s work is more visible in such films. I always have loved the form of being invisible.
Did you reference any films or visuals while conceptualising Roy’s look?
No. I am probably the worst person to reference because when I go to the cinema I watch films as a film-goer. I don’t really look at them from the point of referencing, unless if someone comes to me with a reference then I will see it. For me references are more about looking at the surroundings and life imbue it in a film.
Visually there is a blue-grey tinge in the film…
It is there throughout the film because we have a film within a film. We have Kabir, played by Arjun Rampal, who is making a film which has Roy, who is played by Ranbir Kapoor. In order to separate the two films we felt it would be great to give Ranbir’s film a little undertone and actually created an artifice with lighting. Also, it is a heist film. We chose spaces that inhabited a cool blue green kind of feeling and also slightly more monochrome than real life. When I say monochrome, I mean the colour palette of what and where we were shooting, the location and design of the location. That’s why Ranbir’s portions are seen in blue. But the film that is set in the background with Kabir and Ayesha, played by Jacqueline Fernandez was kept more real. Their portions are shot in Malaysia, where we hit the monsoons during our shooting schedule. Our philosophy is never to fight the elements as much as possible and go along with the environment. So if it’s a cloudy day and a little cooler, the light is gentler and softer and we just went with that and enhanced it.
What camera did you use to shoot Roy?
We had two films, so in order to separate that two films we thought it would be great to shoot the films on two different formats. Kabir and Ayesha’s portions are shot with Red Dragon and Luma lenses, whereas Ranbir and Tia’s portions are shot on Alexa XT with Hawk V Anamorphic lenses. Another reason to choose these two lenses was that they capture the world in different ways. Hawks have a different perspective than the Lumas. And Hawk lenses are old so the coating is gone and it flares. The images of the film that Kabir is making are a little flaring and softer since the compression is low whereas the reality of Kabir’s life is bit sharper and more colourful.
What lighting set-up did you employ for Roy?
The philosophy was to keep it as simple as possible. The focus is on the actors, their performances and giving them more time to perform than the technical brouhaha of getting it done. Therefore the lights we used were often very specific and some were made from bulbs and basic lights, which are flexible to use. A large part of the film, especially the night sequences, are shot using homemade lights made out of couple of bulbs and white metal sheets, which are moulded along the shape of the lights that were used in Hollywood in the 40s and 50s. In fact even in Malaysia one of the things that we used was a couple of bulbs in a cage, made by the local guys. The lighting was basic throughout the film, whether it was Ranbir’s film or Arjun’s film. The idea was to limit ourselves to a certain package of lights and work within that, no matter how large or small or dark or bright the environment was, and to come up with lighting solutions based on the lights we had.
Where is the film shot? How many days did the schedule last?
We wrapped the shoot in 55 days and shot mainly in Malaysia and a little bit in Mumbai. There has been only one set which is somebody’s house, rest of it are sets of Kabir’s world so I wouldn’t call it sets. The only artifice created was for one scene.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while making Roy?
When one is working in a cultural space which is not familiar, in terms of the availability of stuff, then you have to trust the local production and really get the best from the money that you have. So the challenge was to get the best out of the money we were putting out. But, on second thoughts, I think the biggest challenge was the post production timeline. We finished shooting on December 17th and February 13th is the release date. So we had roughly less than seven weeks for the post-production process. But we managed it.
Who did the VFX for the film?
Futureworks handled their VFX and their brief was keep it as minimal as possible.
Can you tell us about your experience working with Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Rampal and Jacqueline Fernandez?
Ranbir is great to work with and is extremely focused. He is a great presence on the sets and keeps everybody on their toes. He sorts out all his questions with the director beforehand and it is good that you have an actor that is prepared. Meanwhile Rampal fabulously gets in the character and space. That is a completely different relationship because you have an actor who is so committed to the character, so committed to the film and knows Ranbir’s and Jacqueline’s dialogues as well. Jacqueline has worked really hard for this role. She is the kind of person who trusts people and makes it easy to work with her. All were very different people yet a pleasure to work with.
What is your favourite scene from the film?
It’s a tough one. Actually, my favourite scenes are always the ones in which the performances have brought a tear or smile to my face. In this film the two scenes that have touched me are when Kabir tries to hit on Ayesha and the one where both of them are on the beach and she is doing yoga. These were possibly the simplest scenes to shoot.