Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 has escapism at its core: Neha Parti
After assisting ace Cinematographer Ravi K Chandran for five years on seven films and her debut film Mujhse Fraandship Karoge, Neha Parti Matiyani awaits the release of her second independent film Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 as a Director of Photography. The film is a sequel to the 2011 box office hit Yamla Pagla Deewana that was shot by India’s one of the best Cinematographer, Binod Pradhan. In an insightful interview with Pandolin, this lady cinematographer talks about how she managed to shoot and live up to the expectations of this super successful franchise.
How did your association with Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 happen?
I had initially met Sunny Sir for some other film but it got delayed due to some reason. Soon after I got a call from him asking if I wanted to be a part of YPD2. Obviously I wasn’t going to let go an opportunity of working with a legend like Dharamji.
What was your initial thought process before the shoot that you wanted to execute for filming?
It was a bit daunting to be shooting the sequel to a hugely successful film and it didn’t help that the first one was shot by one of the country’s finest Dop that was Mr. Binod Pradhan. But what made my job much easier was the entire unit. Everyone worked tirelessly. This being a family oriented comedy film we wanted a fresh, colourful and vibrant look. The colours made the characters pop and come to life with that extra verve. The sets were that much more eye-catching, the action that much bigger and of course the comedy that much more enjoyable. The camerawork in a comedy film of this kind has to overtly accentuate and compliment everything that it encounters and all this has to be done keeping in mind that it is an actors’ film. Performance is the key and of paramount importance. There is nothing that I can do if the actors are not at complete ease with the setup that I provide them.
Was there any conscious effort to keep its look similar to the original film?
This film is based in a different milieu, on a much larger scale. The first one was shot entirely in India and this one mostly in UK. So keeping in mind the backdrops and characters ,we gave the film the necessary look which had no relation whatsoever to the first part.
What were the kinds of locations for shooting and what were their challenges?
We shot essentially in Leicester and Birmingham. In Leicester we mainly shot in houses and universities and Birmingham in clubs, an old airstrip and a scrap yard. The biggest obstacle was the weather while shooting outdoors. UK has constantly changing weather. We shot our climax over 8 days and as luck would have it we experienced different weather conditions on all days of shoot. Starting from it being sunny, rainy, foggy, cloudy and back to being sunny. And of course temperatures below freezing point.
Another challenging location was a club that we shot at in Birmingham. It was a live club so we had to set-up and pull out every day. We shot a huge action sequence, the title song and few scenes there. Pulling out meant we had to get back and program the intelligent light set-up everyday and then start shooting. Something like this was possible only due to the supportive and enthusiastic team that I had. The portion of the film shot in India was absolutely under control being home ground, but the crowds in Maheshwar killed us.
Which camera format and lenses did you use for the shoot of YPD2?
We used the Arri Alexa with the Gemini recorder teamed with Ultra Prime lens series.
Tell us about the lighting design you adopted for the film? Anything specific that you had to keep in mind, especially for a comedy film?
YPD 2 represents the absolute best of escapist cinema. It aims at making the audience laugh out loud throughout the film, which is close to 3 hours. Keeping this in mind the simple brief I gave myself was to make the film as glossy and polished as a brand new sports car. Everyone who watches the promo should want to watch the film. The lighting design has been planned keeping in mind that the already gorgeous locations need to look even better and the costumes should blossom. Most importantly the actors must and I can’t stress this enough, must look like a million bucks.
What kind of camera angles and compositions did you employ in the film?
In my mind I had decided to shoot the scenes in a Woody Allen style. And after discussions with Sangeethji we thought it would be the right treatment for the film. In the scenes the camera doesn’t move too much and the spotlight is on the actors giving them the space to perform because comic timing is key in a film like this.
For the songs and action sequences, we went all out in terms of scale and grandeur in tandem with choreographer Caesar Gonsalves and action director Peter Hein. The songs have a lot of smooth jib and steadicam with use of wide lenses. The action was mostly handheld for the impact.
How was it working with Sangeeth Sivan, the director of YPD2 and what was his brief to you for the shoot?
I’ll answer the second part of your question first and that should hopefully answer the first part. Sangeeth Sivan gave me the script and said, “let’s shoot the film”. He completely trusted in my vision for the film. By this I don’t mean that I am only responsible for the look of the film because there were lot of other people who contributed in making this film the way audience are going to be seeing it. But simply the fact that such senior teams of people headed by Sangeeth Sivan were willing to put their faith in me at such an early stage of my career means a lot to me. It gave me a lot of confidence to shoot the film in a way that will hopefully live up to the expectations of Sangeethji and the audience at large.
Please share your major challenges that you faced while shooting and how did you overcome it?
As mentioned before, the weather was the main deterrent but we didn’t have the liberty of stalling shoot because of that. UK weather is ever changing and in a single day you can have sun, rain and fog. We had limitations on number of days a location was allotted to us because most were live locations. So keeping that in mind we had to keep going and shooting constantly. To match the varied conditions DI has been a major tool.
What kind of treatment did you employ for the songs in the film?
The intent was to make the songs look colourful and grand and yet different from each other. The title track in the club had everyone wearing black or white and the colours are essentially in the background and lighting. The engagement song bleeds colour with the costumes and location setting. In the “changli hai” song actors stand out in bright colours against muted background set-ups. And the end credit song “Aidaan hi Nachna”, in keeping true to its feel and emotion we’ve shot in real locations and involved people from the streets. Shot it with almost no lights because the locations and crowds didn’t permit it.
After your previous film “Mujhse fraandship karoge” wherein the lighting was more realistic and moody, what are the essential things that a cinematographer has to consider before shooting a higher budget film with more experienced actors? Are there are any limitations in terms of creativity when working with bigger stars?
A bigger budget film with bigger stars doesn’t necessarily translate into bigger limitations. Every project has it’s own set of limitations, opportunities and triumphs. The relevant question at this point is are the limitations of a said project limiting me as a creative person. MFK’s requirements were different than the requirements of YPD 2. As you said, MFK was set in a more realistic space and the treatment was in keeping with its reality. YPD 2 has escapism at its core hence the need to make everything larger than life. These are two very different kinds of films.
My experience working on MFK is that there everyone was a fresher, we were all in the process of discovering ourselves. We all had something to prove, something to achieve, something to showcase and make a strong case for ourselves. And we did that with a fair amount of success. On YPD 2 no one has anything to prove to anyone. All our actors are extremely self-assured highly experienced professionals, they already knew how to best catch the light, how to hit their marks without making it seem like they were trying. So in a way there was a fairly good tradeoff for me while working on this film. As opposed to MFK where everyone was helping each other whereas on YPD everyone helped themselves and as the old adage goes, here’s hoping that the audience helps us.
Where has the postproduction taken place? Who was in your team for the VFX and DI?
The VFX and DI were both done in Prime Focus. My colorist Ashirwad Hadkar did a great job of bringing the scenes together and making them seamless considering we had shot them in such varied available light conditions. Paresh and Tanya the line producers burnt the night lamp to deliver the film on time. It has as always been a great experience teaming up with them.