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Shooting Star

Often, actors besides the lead actors come shining through in a film. Recently, we saw a core crew member, cinematographer Nigam Bomzan of Satyameva Jayate leave a strong impression with his stupendous work in film. 

Coming on board

Satyameva Jayate happened completely by chance. I had shot Milap’s (Milan Zaveri) short film, Raakh and I wanted to work for him ever since. Sadly, things did not work out earlier. I was in Leh, shooting for Paltan. I was flipping through my phone and I saw on Twitter that there was this film by Milap starring John (Abraham) and Manoj Bajpayee. I was furious. I called him up and told him that while he calls me for short films, he does not give me a feature film!

But he said the DoP had already been decided by Nikkhil (Advani). I was very depressed. Then one day, I found out the person was no longer shooting the film. Instead of messaging Milap, I thought I would text Nikkhil instead. I told Milap about it much later. I kept messaging him. After a point, Nikkhil got tired of me (Laughs) and asked me to meet him. The kind of films I had done earlier did not fit the genre of Satyameva Jayate. Nikkhil saw Raakh and some commercials that I had done. He did not have a choice and asked me to join the team (Laughs).

On the brief

Milap never told me that he wanted a certain kind of thing from me. He told me to go all out and go crazy. That was the brief. He said this was his first big film and he wanted a big hit. I had also not done this kind of film before. So, all of us had a point to prove.

Milap was very clear about the referencing, the looks and the colour palette. Nikkhil was also very clear. He presented many options and was very open to inputs too. We sat down for a month at his office. Then, we used to go out for a recce. I used to click pictures and take references of how I would want to light up the frame. The production designer, Priya (Suhas), would discuss the colour palettes that she wanted for the girl’s room, with us. Then we finally made decisions.

On choosing scripts

To be very honest, I am not in a state right now where I can choose projects. After a certain point, I will probably be able to do that. This was something I wanted to do. I wanted to do an action thriller. I had not done one before this. I had done a slice-of-life film, Poster Boys. Prior to that, I had done a sex comedy called Great Grand Masti and a horror filmKhamoshiyaan.

I went berserk in Khamoshiyaan in terms of contrast and shadows. Then, I shot Jism 2. It is a very beautiful film. I thoroughly enjoyed shooting it. But I give the credit to Pooja Bhatt for that. She is very sorted and she has the best production design team. You cannot always choose your projects, but sometimes you get lucky and things fall into place.

On the challenges

Shooting an action thriller is physically very demanding. I love doing hand-helds. Satyameva Jayate is one film where I have done a crazy amount of hand-helds. We were shooting for one sequence at the Yari Road police station. We knew we would finish on time if we used a steady camera. The police station was a small one and we got really sweaty and tired. On the fourth day, my back hurt really badly.

Action sequences depend on the treatment. In this film, it was very tough to shoot two of the biggest action sequences. One was the Muharram sequence. Credit goes to Amin bhai (Khatib), Milap and John. The scene was Milap’s vision. It was blazing hot when we were shooting for it. When I heard the narration, I knew this scene would be fantastic. We wanted to shoot it in a particular place, but that did not happen.  Initially, we wanted to shoot it at Haji Ali, but we could not. Managing the crowd at that time would be very difficult. We had a three camera set-up and we had to get it right. Hats off to John!

There were certain shots where the focus was off. So he had to do them again. He was running barefoot and he was bare-bodied. The floor was scorching hot. It was burning. He was sweating but he had to look good. But I think we cracked it. I was watching the scene with my colourist Ashirwad (Hadkar) of Prime Focus during colour corrections. I reacted in a way that I usually do not react. We were replaying the scene. We were screaming in the studio. It was just the two of us there. We forgot our work and were completely engrossed in it (Laughs)!

On the director

As cute as Milap looks, he is an evil child. John, Manoj and I used to joke, saying how can this boy make something that is so violent? He used to ask us to just chill. I wonder how he can write stories where he is burning people from beginning to end (Laughs). He does not sleep. He constantly keeps thinking about the film.

He is very open to inputs. At other times, he knows what he wants and he puts his foot down, which I respect. At the end of the day, a film is a director’s vision and not a cameraman’s vision. I have to enhance what the director visualises. I can’t just start including visuals that are in my mind.

On the response

We, especially Milap, have been dying for this kind of response for a very long time. It’s a first-of-its-kind for all of us. We have never done this kind of massy entertainer before. It feels very nice.

Future projects

I have shot for Paltan, which will release in September. Apart from that, I have some meetings underway.

Controversy around Paltan

Yes, there is a bit of an issue as my work is not being acknowledged in that film. There is no credit for the DoP. I shot for 54 days for that film. We are in talks to figure out what will happen. Sure, a film is a director’s vision but he or she must acknowledge that it takes an entire team make a film. I am going to the court. A lot of youngsters are out there who work with big names. But they are bullied. I have shot for 54 days and I lost eight kilograms during the shoot. I was a different person when I returned from my schedule in Leh. Then suddenly, I realised they were not contacting me and I was not being paid. I have not been paid around 60 per cent of my dues, and neither is credit being given to me for that film. I have sent them a legal notice. 

– Titas Chowdhury

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