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“Phoolan Devi set the ball rolling”

Starting as a reporter and moving on to assisting directors, cinematography was never on the horizon for Kamaljeet Negi. But destiny had other plans

Back Then…

Before starting out as a cinematographer, I worked as a reporter, researcher, and assisted directors for television documentaries and features on socio-economic issues in Delhi. Things changed when I was working in a production company. Due to budget issues, I was asked if I was interested in camera work. I was always interested in photography and gladly agreed.

I was asked to shoot a profile of Phoolan Devi, the real one. I made sure I knew my camera very well and spent time doing my homework. This was the first time I was going to sit behind the viewfinder and take shots. It was a nervous moment but a thrilling one. My flair for visual storytelling helped me. That event added camerawork to my work profile. Considering my profile, my mentor Jeetendra Ramprakash introduced me to a production company that was looking for a camera person. I shot for a lot of art and cultural shows in Delhi along with documentaries.

Camera and Me

After working for a few years as an independent camera person for the small screen, I was looking for opportunities on the big screen. Therefore, I went into learn Steadicam at Rockport, Maine in the US. Later, I moved to Mumbai for a short while, looking for opportunities to assist cinematographers but couldn’t find a mentor. Then I decided to invest some money and time in my skills and enrolled in a one-year cinematography programme at the Polish Film School in Lodz. This helped me get exposure in the international arena. I found Brian Tufano, who was my mentor.

First Project

Four years after I returned to India, I got a break with director Koushik Sarkar on a TV commercial for World Space. After a year, I got the opportunity to work with Shoojit Sircar on commercials.

Shoojit And I

Since then, we have teamed up on hundreds of commercials including some really big ones. When he started working on Vicky Donor, he offered me the job. It was a natural transition. I was wary of taking up a long-schedule feature film, especially when I had not worked on a feature before. I was used to working
on commercials.

Bold Subject, Soft Story

The challenge with Vicky Donor was its subject. So we decided to make the film aesthetically, where the audience would feel a part of it. The lighting was real and pleasant. Everything about the camera was invisible so that the actors could perform according to the script.

While Choosing A Script

A cinematographer has to look at every element of filmmaking. I like to be kept in the loop with every development, from script to screen. Discussions on characters, spaces and moods come into play. On a more concrete level, the production designer’s collaboration helps capture what we see on screen. Capturing the actors’ performances in the frames seals the deal. You can call it a dance or rhythm between camera and characters in the spaces in which the director allows them to perform. Every element is important to help the director achieve what he or she has set out to achieve.

Future Projects

I am shooting Shoojit’s next Madras Café. This one too is an interesting subject and challenging to capture.

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