There is an undercurrent of style flowing through Fan – Manu Anand
Manu Anand is an emerging young cinematographer who has collaborated with director Maneesh Sharma on several projects. Manu prefers naturalistic images, something that any viewer will agree with after seeing his much appreciated work in films like Shuddh Desi Romance and Dum Laga Ke Haisha. Ahead of the release of Fan, easily his biggest project so far, Manu talks about the film and what goes into the method behind the madness that a SRK title conjures up every time it hits the screens.
Please tell us about your background and training in cinematography?
I have grown up all over. I grew up in Kenya and then came back to India and did my schooling from Patiala. I then moved to Delhi where I studied at St. Stephens. I was always interested in photography and used to subscribe to magazines like National Geographic and Life. I wanted to go and study cinematography at FTII but they did not offer admissions that year as it was a zero year there. So I joined Jamia mass communication and did my training. After Jamia I did a lot of photography work and then I assisted Ranjan Palit. I worked with him while he was a DOP and got to shoot the behind – the – scenes of the movie In Othello in Delhi. On the days when we were not shooting I used to just assist him. Then I assisted him on a Tibetan film that we shot in McLeod Ganj called Dreaming Lhasa. I shot a lot of independent stuff after that and slowly I got here. Most of my learning though has happened on the job, the best way to learn anything.
This is your second film with Maneesh Sharma. How would you say has he grown as a director?
It is actually my third film with him. We also worked on Dum Laga Ke Haisha where he was a producer but yes, as a director it is the second film. Maneesh has always been very good with actors, which is something that I observed on our first film itself. But I think he has become more mature as a director, more sure of himself. He has also become a lot more interested in visual telling of the story, so I think that you’ll notice the difference, between his earlier films and this one, of how he has become much stronger in form too and not just content. By that I mean getting the best out of all the departments be it production design or cinematography or others. Basically getting all the details right.
Maneesh’s earlier films had a realistic style owing to their grounded stories but Fan is a grandiose film. How different will this be visually? What brief did you get from Maneesh about the same?
There was no such one brief. It was an evolving decision from the time the film was written to various discussions on it. I wanted to shoot this film extremely naturally. It was important for the film to be as naturalistic as possible for it to be believable. As you know that the film has no song, so the approach had to be natural as well as a bit stylistic, not in an obvious way but in a way where there is an undercurrent of style flowing through the film. The use of light for various characters and lensing of the film too was different. So the look of the characters evolved gradually as the film moves and you’ll also see the different color palettes in the two worlds in the film.
Did you also use different cameras and lenses to shoot these two different perspectives?
The same camera was used for the entire film but yes we had different lensing for different characters. One character was shot a little wide and the other one was shot in telephoto. We also did subtle things like shooting different characters from different heights – little subliminal messages through which we wanted to nuance the storytelling.
Which camera and lenses have you used?
The camera we used was Red Dragon with Master Prime lenses. We did extensive look tests with make up artist Greg Cannom and Mr. Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) since he is wearing prosthetics. We did tests to find the right prosthetics. We also tested to find the right camera which would help the effects and help the film achieve a certain look. So after a lot of testing we finalized Red Dragon and Master Primes.
What was the camera set up like?
We would have two cameras on the set usually but sometimes for action sequences we would have three. But it wasn’t a situation where we would always roll two cameras. Wherever it was possible for me I rolled two cameras to speed up the shoot but where I felt it was important to keep the light equal from all the sides, I kept one camera.
How would you describe the action in the film and what was the approach to shooting it?
We had a very well established action director, Mr. Seyoung Oh from Korea. I felt that I could do justice to the action that he designed, and which Maneesh liked, only by shooting it as handheld as possible. And up-close and wide to make people feel as if they are inside the action and not just watching it.
Was the film shot mostly on sets or did you shoot on exterior locations too?
I think it was a combination of both set and exterior locations. Most of the interior locations are on set but some of the interior locations have also been shot exteriorly. There was some Green Screen work involved too.
As far as we know the film only has the ‘Jabra Fan’ song. How did you decide the look and feel of the song to blend it with the rest of the film? Where was it shot and in how many days?
If you see the song, it is a celebration of a fan and one who comes from the most ordinary and everyday places. So our intention was to keep it as natural as possible. The only thing that Maneesh wanted was the feel of winter in the song. Most of the song was shot on location. We shot some parts of it in Mumbai whereas the rest of the song was shot in Delhi on location. I tried to keep the light down to create the feeling of winter and tried not to make it too harsh. We shot the song in three days. It was a very hectic and ambitious schedule.
The teasers and trailer of the film show both brightly lit joyful scenes as well as scenes where the darker theme of obsession seems emerging. How did you decide the lighting and color palettes of these different parts of the film?
We used a lot of mixed light for the purpose of storytelling. Sometimes the light is bluish while at other times it is bluish-green and sometimes it is warm. To separate two characters we even used different amount of lights on them. I can’t tell you what happens in the second half of the film but as you can tell from the trailer, a transition takes place and post the transition there is a slightly different approach.
Apart from the usual challenges of dealing with crowds on a SRK film, were there any unique challenges that you faced while working on Fan?
Shooting this film was extremely challenging. We finished the schedule in less than 90 days so we shot it extremely fast considering the scale of the film. The main challenge when an actor is playing two different characters is to maintain light continuity. Since we were shooting them at different times maintaining light continuity and to see that there is no drastic difference between light at two different times, was a huge challenge. Other challenges came along with VFX because sometimes we had to shoot the same song three times, something that I can explain post the release. There were some challenges with the Green Screen shots as well, which was really hard to pull off but Red Chillies did a wonderful job on it and it would not have been possible without them.