Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
While I was in the second year of Motion Picture Photography one much needed instrument was an Exposure meter. Unfortunately in those days meters are not available in the market as freely as now. The highly regulated foreign exchange and the heavy customs duty and import restrictions have made it very difficult to obtain one for my use. You have to depend upon friends or relatives coming from abroad to procure one and I didn't have any such persons!
Fortunately I had a Pen friend, Mr.Henry G Salomon, who was much older to me and was living in New York and he was about to visit India. So I wrote to him and he had agreed to bring me a Sekonic L-28C Exposure meter. On the arranged date I had to meet him at the then Bombay and collect it. Since I was not much familiar with Bombay city, my classmate Surendra Sahu had agreed to accompany me there and also had arranged for our stay at his friend's place.
The day was some time in July - August 1969 and my friend Henry G Salomon and his wife Marilyn were staying at the Taj Mahal Hotel. At the appointed time we met each other - it was the first time that I was meeting them in person as I knew him only through letters. Sahu and myself accompanied them on their sight seeing around the Taj hotel. At last he gave me the Sekonic Exposure meter for which I was looking forward very eagerly. At that time the meter had cost about $30 ( around Rs.210 ) which was reimbursed by my father who met him at Madras later on. My father took them to my family home at Maduranthakam and treated them to lunch and a sight seeing tour of Mahabalipuram.
The Sekonic Exposure Meter is still with me in excellent condition and working with out any errors, in spite of the passage of 40 years!
We all had a nice dinner together at the Taj during which I had my first taste of delicious lichis. After bidding Goodbye we returned to Sahu's friend's place to stay for the night. I just could not sleep at all because of the stark contrast between the two places - the opulent luxury of the Taj and the dismal atmosphere of a small one room apartment in a chawl! I can never forget the experience of enjoying the cushy comfort of Taj and an hour later, lying on a smelly mat on the ground with mosquitoes for music.
Here is a photo taken at that time :
Myself, Marilyn and Surendra Sahu (1969)
Poor Taj, You have suffered a lot. I hope soon the renovations will restore back your Splendour and Glory .
Sunday, November 2, 2008
The Saturday screenings at the Main theatre is something we all look forward. Before the day’s general screening of the Film, rushes of the previous week’s practical work is screened, It is something unique as all the students get to see the previous week’s rushes both in 16 mm as well as in 35 mm along with their peers. Of course there will be shouts like focus or Arc whenever the projector operator does some mistakes. But how a can a projectionist correct an out of focus shot which had happened in the camera?
Seeing my work along with my classmates in 16mm Black and white was really an exciting thing to watch. As the images come on the screen your mind races to the time when the shoot took place and in your brain images run parallel to the ones on the screen. One is about the reality and the other the result. You think about the situation and how the shot was taken, how you had intended it to be and how it had turned out and finally how it can be improved upon. Mostly you keep on looking for minor errors like an un-necessary shadow or a burning highlight, a jerky movement of the camera, a panning or tilting error, a slightly off framing or a slight off focus etc. It is a learning process which continues till the rest of your life.
When it comes to viewing the Rush print of your work, it is always a thrilling and exhilarating experience altogether. You are anxious how it had turned out and there are other people in the theatre who are also viewing the rushes who will pass on judgement on your craftsmanship and ability. You are on tenterhooks during the time when the theatre lights are switched off and the start of the projection of the reel. Even though the process may take only a few seconds the short interval feels like minutes. Even now, in spite of shooting for many years, I still get butterflies in my stomach while I wait in the theatre to view the rushes.
But all these feelings and experiences are lost and gone forever in the present day digital scenario. The Cinematographer had lost the privilege of being the only one on the set to see the frame of the shot being taken. There is no more magic as video monitors are quite common on the sets and Directors, Actors, crew and even bystanders instantly see a crude version of your work and comment upon! For editing purposes a low resolution Tele-cine transfer is made in place of rushes which is seen by all and sundry except yourself as representing your work.
Many a time the Cinematographer and sometimes the Director too doesn’t get to see the transferred material. Many Directors see a rough cut version and that too while the dubbing of the film takes place. Only when the final release print is made the Cinematographer gets to see his work on Film in full glory! Even that too gets marred when digital transfer is made without consultation with the Cinematographer for releasing in Digital theatres! And the poor quality image with improper colour corrections remains the lasting representation of your work as it gets telecast on the TV channels and gets burned on to DVDs for posterity –Credit to the Advancement of Technology !
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Apart from Professor C.V.Gopal , Assistant Professor Lall Jaswaney, Instructors Shri. K.P.Rajagopalan Nair (K.P.R Nair) and Shri.K.Ramanathan were in charge of the Second year classes. Shri. K.P.R. Nair used to take classes on special effects cinematography.
We started with 16 mm cameras and we had at that time Bell& Howell Filmo, Bolex, Arri S and Arri16 BL cameras. We have to learn the loading and threading of the film in the respective cameras first. Then mounting of the various lenses and fixing the camera on the tripod, Panning, Tilting, Zooming practices etc formed the beginning part of our training.
Bell& Howell H70 16 mm Camera
Bell& Howell H70 16 mm Camera
The Bell& Howell Filmo H70 camera had even an anamorphic converter which can be fixed in front of the normal lenses so that you can even shoot in Cinemascope format! Remember it was forty years back and Cinemascope was a rarity in Indian Films.
With Arri 16BL Camera
With Arri 16BL Camera
The Arri16 BL camera was quite a brand new one which had come into the Market a few years earlier and with its silent running and the 12-120 Zoom was really the star of the equipments. In those days the Institute used to acquire the latest equipments much before the Film Industry gets them. We had Nagra Recorders and Steenbeck editing machines when not many in Chennai film industry had heard about them.
In the 35 mm we had a whole variety of Cameras from Debrie, Eyemo, Sinclair, Bell & Howell, Arri 2A & 2B, Mitchell NC to Mitchell BNC.
In the Debrie camera there is no view finder and the frame was viewed through the film as in those days there was no anti-halation backing for the film negative and it was fairly transparent. The cameraman had to put a black cloth over his head to ensure a dark environment and also to prevent ant leak light reaching the film from the viewing eyepiece.
Eyemo Camera is very popular for news reel coverage as it can even be take to very remote location where electric power supply is not available. It has a spring wound motor which can run about 18 -20 feet per winding . So no worries about drained batteries and recharging. Film is normally loaded in 100 feet daylight spools. It has a three lens turret and electric motors can be fitted to run the attached 400 feet magazine too.
Later on while I was in Chennai I happened to come across an advertisement offering for sale some used equipments and I purchased an old Eyemo camera which I am holding in the picture given above!
Newman Sinclair camera was quite an interesting one, light weight and easy to handle. The threading is all done in the magazine itself like the Eclair camera. You just snap it on and you are ready to shoot as magazine change takes only seconds. It is a reflex camera and had an assortment of lenses. My favourite was the 40 mm and 90 mm Macro lenses which were very sharp and focuses up to 6 inches or so. It also had a 203 mm Tele lens which gave good results.
With Arri 2A or 2B Camera
Arri 2 Cameras had served our Film Industry for so many years and are still being used even today, stands as testimony to its sturdiness and fail safe durability. At the Institute we also had a Blimp for the Arri 2 with an electric motor for sync sound shooting purposes. For many years I had used that camera for my feature films including the First Malayalam 70 mm Feature film PADAYOTTAM . It is very much suited for hand held work and I had found it to be very handy before the advent of Steadicam.
In the helicopter with Arri 2C camera with 50 mm Anamorphic Kowa lens
During the shooting of PADAYOTTAM ( Malayalam - 70 mm) 1983
With Mitchell NC Camera
For many years Mitchell NC was the preferred camera for Studio filming even though it made little noise, it was muffled by some kind of home made blimps. Though the camera does not have a reflex viewfinder, the big viewfinder on the side (like the present day handi-cam LCD finder) gave a big picture. Only thing is the parallax had to corrected to that particular camera position and it is usually fixed for the final camera position. The beginning position is set by looking through the lens and once the frame is fixed the camera is racked
Even today some of the NC Mitchell cameras are used for creating In-Camera special effects like Fades, Dissolves, Super imposition, Double roles, Masking shots etc.
Mitchell NC High Speed Camera
Pictured above is a High Speed version of the Mitchell NC Camera which could run upto 100 frames per second. In fact for quite sometime it was the only camera available at Madras (Chennai) in the 70's and 80's and was very much in demand for shooting slowmotion shots. The Camrea attendants used to demand First Class train tickets and used to get it too!
With Mitchell BNC Camera
The Mitchell BNC Camera we had at the Institute was one of the very few ones that was in
Thus we had plenty of equipments to use and learn with, which was quite useful in our later career.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
We all eagerly awaited the start of the second year as we will be handling the movie cameras for the sake of which only we have enrolled in the Motion Picture Photography course at the Institute. Meanwhile I got hostel accommodation and my room mate was none other than my batch mate K.R.Murthy. I was happy to be living among the friends in the same building and that too inside the campus.
In my Room
The start of the new academic year means, new comers and the right time to take your revenge for the Ragging undergone by you during the last year! Any how it was not very serious, just mild fun in the hostel. Some of the newcomers who became friends afterwards are Peer Mohammed. P, G.R. Menon ( Direction), A S. Kanal , Narayana J. Kondra, Sudhir Choudhary, Satish Aima ( M.P.P) Vijay Arora, Raza Murad, Manju Bansal and Jameela Malik from Kerala ( Acting)
With Peer Mohammed
Peer Mohammed after graduation joined Doordarshan, Chennai and later on became the Director of Doordarshan Kendra,
Kanal always keeps in touch with me over e-mail and I used to meet him while in Pune or in Mumbai. Recently he had sent me his excellent and very useful book – The Cinematographer’s Hand book, Film and Video 2nd Edition for which I had also contributed an article on Miniature Photography. Kondra had assisted me in Mumbai, during the shooting of my Hindi feature Film PATITA (1980) in which Mithun Chakraborty did the leading role.
Many years after the incident packed Strike of the Seventies, I worked with Raza Murad in the Hindi TV serial – Bible in which he did the role of Noah. ( I will come to that when I write about the Final Year!)
Jameela Malik’s first film in a leading role was RAGGING ( Malayalam – 1973) for which I was the Cinematographer. She later on did some insignificant roles in various other films and just faded out from the limelight.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I should not leave out other non- Malayalee senior students whom I came in to contact during my first year. There was Vikas Desai with his impressive stature and the ever active Student’s Union President Gurucharan Singh, both from 1969 Direction batch. Guru as he is fondly called had been a regular fixture at the Institute as he had earlier done his Editing Course in 1965 and then joined Direction course. So being Super senior he knew all the in and out of the Institute and took control over the students, staff and faculty with ease.He was the Students Union President as well. From the 1970 Direction batch, I remember lively Ashoke Aggrwal, soft spoken Vishnu Mathur, brooding Madan Gopal Bawaria and a quiet Amar Kumar Bhattacharya.
From the Motion Picture Photography (1969) U.M.N. Sheriff, S.R. Krishnamurthy, Naresh Bedi, Barun.K. Mukherji, Bala Mahendran, A K Bir, Sona Ram Talwar, Mohd. Sidiq Aminzai, J.P.Gautam, F.R. Khan and Daulatram.R. Kulmi were there. I remember Naresh Bedi showing Shri.Kulkarni, the photographs of cobras that he had taken during the Nag Panchami festival. Some of the photos were later published in the National Geographic magazine. He used specialise in wild life photography andhis home in Delhi was a mini zoo itself!
I used to meet U.M.N. Sheriff whenever he dropped down to Thiruvananthapuram for the International film Festival of Kerala. Many years back I had occasion to interact with S.R. Krishnamurthy in Mumbai while I was doing a Hindi Film “PATITA” and he did some sequences which were re-shot by the Producer Promod Chakraborty in conflict with its Director I.V.Sasi.
Bala Mahendran was from
S.Ramachandra deserves special mention, as he was the room mate of Azad and like Azad he used to call me “Thampy" (younger brother) and was a friendly, affectionate mentor to me. We still keep in touch with each other.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Recently, on the initiative from Leenus L.K. ( 1993 - Film Direction ) , Rasi ( Art Direction - 1999) and Fr. Benny Benedict (1994 Editing ) a meeting of FTII graduates from Kerala was convened on 27 th May at Thiruvananthapuram. About 25 FTII graduates attended ranging from the earliest to the recent ones, which included John Sankaramangalam, Adoor Gopalakrishnan( 1965), Kabeer Rawther, K.G.George, K.R. Mohananan, V.R. Gopinath, Sunny Joseph, Ajith Kumar, etc.
Since the First Video festival of Kerala was also happening at Thiruvananthapuram during our get together, we had the honour of having Ms Chandita Mukherjee and Mr.Ramani as our guests.
Mr.John Sankaramangalam dwelt at length regarding the First GAFTII association which was formed many years back at Pune. Ms.Chandita explained the details about the formation a new entity called Graftii Foundation at Mumbai.
Finally it was decided to form a core committee for establishing an Alumni association in Kerala and proceed with the required formalities.
I think it is a timely and welcome beginning of friendship and fellowship among the GraFtiians of Kerala!
Ramachandra Babu, Leenus, Fr.Benny & Rasi
(R to L ) Chandita with Sunny & Leenus
John Sankaramangalam, Sunny & K.G.George
Ramani, Jain Joseph, Leenus & Sunny
John Sankaramangalam addressing
Myself, Leenus, Rasi, Sunny & Fr.Benny
(R to L) Kabeer Rawther, Myself & John
Monday, May 26, 2008
At the time the Institute was teeming with lot of Malayalis –John Abraham, Devassy (Direction – 1969) P.Bhaskaran Unny, G. Sadasiva Panickkar and A. Kabeer Rawther (Direction – 1970) K.G.George (Direction – 1971) M.Azad ( Screenplay writing – 1970) C. Murlidharan (Sound recording – 1970) and C. Ravindranath Menon ( Ravi Menon) ( Acting – 1970)
Though I, George and Ravi Menon were in the first year we had good rapport with our seniors from Kerala. Azad and Kabeer Rawther were always willing to act as our Godfathers and filled us with their worldly wisdom. One most unassuming person whom I met at the Institute was Raman Nair, who at that time was working at the Film processing laboratories. He was a very mild and soft spoken person who was always ready to help you with his worldy wisdom. He was such a low profile person, I was surprised to learn much later that he was the younger brother of Film Archives P.K.Nair and had passed out from the Institute in the Editing 1966 Batch! Years later while we both settled in Thiruvananthapuram we had opportunity to work together and meet occassionaly. Unfortunately he is no more as he had died a few years back unsung and to me it is still a mystery as to why he worked in the film processing after doing the Editing course?
The most notable person at that time was none other than John Abraham. Many of my encounters with John always ended with my parting with some money for his daily need of “Tarra” the local brew. Most of the time he will be high and with his long hair and beard and unwashed clothes he was a real Hippie! Out of fear, I always avoided crossing his path. But I had to face him on the day when we juniors gave our seniors a farewell party.
To beard the lion in his den, I thought that I should also have a few drinks at the party so that I will be on par with John! But I was just a novice when it comes to consuming hard liquor. Earlier, I had never taken more than a peg and that too just to feel the taste of it. In the party I gulped two or three pegs of rum and joined the fun. But I soon passed out resulting in a hangover and severe head ache next morning!
Myself and Kabir Raother - 40 years later in 2008
The above photo was taken recently at the get together of FTII Graduates in Thiruvananthapuram. ( Note the change in the spelling of Kabir's name)
Balu Mahendra receiving the Life Time Achivement award from
Producer R.B. Chowdhary
On 1, May 2008, the South Indian Cinematographers Association (SICA) in a colourful function at Chennai presented Life Time Achievement Awards to eminent personalities of the South Indian Film Industry. Amongst those who received the Awards were two of the Alumni from the Film Institute, Pune. They were Balu Mahendra and Myself!
Producer R.B. Chowdhary
Monday, March 31, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
First let me start with the local guys - the always jovial Debu Deodhar ( I always saw him with a permanent laughter on his face) and the quiet R.S Agarwal. They were from
David Ankora, myself and Naapo Gbande
Surendra Sahu from Orissa, was another fun person to be with and a great friend. Whenever he used to come to
On the whole our batch mates were a very friendly and cohesive group of guys and definitely we had a great time of togetherness at the Institute which remains still green in my memories.
Of course there are others in various departments about whom I'll write later on as and when the time comes.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Of the many friends at the Institute my classmate K.K. Jaiswal stands out as a special person for me. We all got instantly attracted by his sense of humour and rural innocence. He was always jovial, making fun of people and often finds himself being made fun of too. Coming from
Virendra Saini and Me
At present Jaiswal is working as an External Faculty at the Institute in the Cinematography Department
Friday, January 11, 2008
Later in the second year we both got hostel accommodation in a double room and we continued to be room mates. In our final year also we found ourselves together in the same Unit and used to assist each other in film shootings.
Murthy assisting me during my Diploma Film
Murthy became a good friend of mine as he was calm and patient by nature, a vegetarian and had no vices. His endearing nature and perfectionist habits was liked by everybody. He had a lot of interest in things mechanical and soon became a disciple of Shri. Kulkarni, our Instructor. On his spare time he joined Kulkarni Saab and can be seen repairing cameras, lenses etc. Even when Kulkarni Saab came to Chennai after retirement, Murthy used to visit his camera maintenance workshop and repair things down there. Even some of us used to seek his help in fixing minor defects in exposure meters or still cameras.
I did my debut film while in my final year ( more of it later) and I asked Murthy whether he would like to assist me in my feature film work down in south. He agreed and was assisting me for the film being shot at Madras. During my film shooting Balu Mahendra happened to come to
Murthy had also done several feature films independently as Director of Photography in Malayalam and Telugu. Some of his films are ATHITHI (Dir: K.P.Kumaran - Malayalam) SAPTHPATHI (Dir: K.Viswanath - Telugu)
He started growing a beard in the final year and keeps it up still!
He lives in Chennai and we meet occasionally whenever I visit there. Recently I met him on New Year's day 2008.
Murthy and me at SICA Conference 2007
Murthy and me at SICA Conference 2007
Thursday, January 10, 2008
A trip for all of us was organized to Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani for landscape photography. On reaching there we all enthusiastically joined in the fun and hired bicycles to travel around in the nearby villages. Unfortunately I did not have enough experience in riding a bicycle and was poor in keeping myself balanced. Still I took a ride bravely and managed it until I reached a downhill road and was picking up speed. A truck was coming up and I got frightened and became extra careful. Ultimately I ended up in a roadside ditch but fortunately there was no damage!
At a Scenic View Point