The year 2019 started with a bang as URI: The Surgical Strike blazed onto the big screen to give us a high-impact experience. Bhakti Mehta spoke to the director of photography, Mitesh Mirchandani as he shared what went into pulling off what certainly felt like an off-screen surgical strike
On The Brief
I was given the script first by the producer, Sonia (Kanwar), who is a friend. I had shot a commercial for the Indian Air Force before that, which she had watched. After that, Sonia had sent the film to Aditya (Dhar). He saw it and decided to speak to me. I received the script and I read it before meeting him. So I already had a few ideas while I was reading the script. I presented them to him and we were both pretty much on the same page in terms of how we wanted the film to look. Both of us had one word that we used, which was ‘aspirational’ so that people felt like joining the army by the end of the film!
On The Process
Pretty much throughout the film, we rehearsed a couple of times so that everyone knew what they were doing. During the shoot, we knew that a blast was going to happen, but we did not know the exact points. That was very difficult for us. We had to keep the cameras steady; we could not have camera shake. We also had to make sure that we were stable while moving the camera.
On The Challenges
We shot all the action sequences in Serbia. They were all shot during the night. The nights over there were really short. The sun used to set at about 8:30 pm and rise at 4 o’clock in the morning. We had to prep very hard about what we wanted to do and the shots that we needed to take. We were a little more precise in terms of filming because we had pre-planned it.
It was also about the action director coming in and us having enough conversations and then prepping prior to the filming. It was very tough. We had a set budget to blow up the tents or and other things we needed to blow up. And the budget did not allow retakes. Even if we did, the turnaround took two hours. It was not feasible for a small-budget film like ours. So we had to make sure we had our camera angles in place, we were taking the right coverage for all those shots and the drones were in the right place while our cameras were in the right place. There were a lot of things that had to come together to achieve one single shot. The more we prepped, the more were we ready for any challenge that was thrown at us.
On The Director
Aditya and I had an in-depth conversation about how I wanted each sequence to look different from the others. Since he is a first-time director, I wanted him to concentrate on his craft. Each of us, the HODs, took the responsibility and said, ‘Let us take that away from him so that he can concentrate on just the performances and the things he needs to worry about.’ He had a conversation with each of the HODs in the beginning. That made it very easy for us to do what we needed to do for the film.
On The Response
I am a little too overwhelmed with the responses. I have never really got too many phone calls like I am getting now. I received a few for Neerja. I do very few projects. I am not used to getting so many calls.
I am shooting Karan Johar’s next movie, Takht, with Vicky (Kaushal) again. It is going to be very interesting. It will be fun!