He clawed his way to getting behind the camera, till his award-winning student film Girni got him noticed. Manoj Lobo’s is the quintessential rags-to-fame story
I worked in a factory that made challans for motor parts, after which I sold pirated books on the Bandra overbridge. Then I worked as a front-office boy at Hotel Heritage and finally an accounts executive at the ad agency Enterprise.
I also served tea and food on the sets of a documentary which was shot in Uttar Pradesh. Cleaning a film for eight hours every day while editing, operating the boom mic, typing documentary filmmaker databases and research were also part of the odd jobs I did. I know there is no connect with how I actually landed up working on films but at the end of all this, I knew I wanted to be a part of the film industry. Later, I was the clapper boy and continuity in-charge on Dev Benegal’s feature film Split Wide Open.
And in all, I realised two things. First, that I loved visuals and second, if I assisted cinematographers, I would be able to make more money in a day than I would have as an assistant director. That’s how I switched to cinematography.
First Solo Project
My first solo project was for an advertisement of a Sri Lankan mall called Singer, which was produced by Highlight Films under Srila Chatterjee and directed by Sunil Sippy. For the Lankans, I was a ‘foreigner DOP’ and that was it. The film won awards in Sri Lanka.
My film as a student, Girni, won me a National Award for Best Cinematography in 2005. I remember negotiating my fees with Jhamu Sugandh for Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na (he was to produce it before Aamir Khan) and the negotiations went back and forth. When I won the National Award for Girni, they quickly agreed to the fees I was asking for.
While Choosing A Project
Ideally, this is my wish list of questions – Is the story worth telling? Is this the director I want to travel with through the journey? These are the only things I look at while choosing a project.
Not So Easy To Get Work
If you are from a film institute and you already have some reel or work experience, it’s not difficult to get work. With the digital medium kicking at old structures, things are changing rapidly. But if you are training with a cinematographer, pray that he recommends you to his friends and to the industry.
I have just finished Rohan Sippy’s Nautanki Saala and I am now working on a few commercials.