Tuesday, December 7, 2010

JEEVAN - My Diploma film

For his Diploma film “JEEVAN” , my Director Baba Majgavkar had chosen as his subject a family of wandering street performers who live a precariously balanced life. For a morsel of bread, they perform on the tight rope, balanced between life and death. And death does strikes one of the family members, But private grief has no place in public life. The show must go on.

Taking a Low angle view

Since the story was about a family of street acrobats we could not cast any of our acting students for playing the main roles. A family of real acrobats, Gangaram, his wife, daughter, and son played the leading roles. Jagadish Sodhi, Lakhanpal and Jameela Malik completed the supporting cast.

Myself, Director Baba Majgavkar, Akki Hame Chander (Sound) & M.A.Singh (Editor)

Our unit also consisted of Akki Hame Chander doing the sound and M.A.Singh, the Editing. I was assisted my Kasruti Murthy and Ram Agarwal on the camera. The outdoor shooting was done in a crowded chawl with local people used as onlookers. Since Baba was a Maharashtrian he could communicate with them in Marathi and easily got things done.

Murthy near camera & Baba (with glasses) sitting on right

Crowd of onlookers

Standing on top of the old unit van

The interior of their hut was erected in the studio with thatched grass, bamboo and other materials. Some time earlier, at the Institute I had watched a screening of the Japanese film SUNA NO ONNA ("Woman of the Dunes" -1964) Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and Written by Kobe Abe. I was very much impressed by the stark B&W contrasty photography by Hiroshi Segawa, especially in the Interiors scenes.

I was highly inspired by the film's cinematography that I wanted to emulate that lighting style in my Diploma film. I wanted the day exterior portions seen through the gaps in the thatched hut and windows to burn and wash out completely with no details against the gloomy dark lit interiors. I asked the Art department to paint the background pure white instead of the normally painted Grey colour. I boosted up the maximum lights on the background to make it so bright, as if it was like shooting in scorching sun. My results turned out excellent, but when the marks came out it was disappointing as the external examiners thought it was shot in real interior locations and not as lighting being done in studio interiors!

The film "Woman of the Dunes" still haunted me for a long time, that years later, I wrote a poem which was published in "Youth Times" Magazine 17-24 November, 1977 issue, selected by well known Poet Kamala Das.

Sunset Sand Diggers

Under the undulating dunes
Desires lie buried
My soul sleeps imprisoned
Somewhere in a bottomless pit,
To each his own
He himself being one.

Ours might be billion light-years apart
Or just a sand wall away.
Above in the gray sky
Under the blinding sun
Circles a lone vulture.
I dig my agony to unearth lost ecstasy.
In constant work, do I exist
My universe — this pit.
Destination unknown,
This journey a one-way trip.
Perhaps our tunnels may meet in the sunset
We may then discover
What we have lost
Or what we have not yet.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Remarkable Friendship

This is a story of a remarkable friendship between two persons hailing from opposite ends of the Indian Subcontinent, I from Kerala in South India and Sudhir Choudhary from the Northern most part of India, Jammu. Though Sudhir was my junior by a year in Motion Picture Photography we became good friends very soon. Whenever he returned from his home in Jammu after holidays, he used to bring a sack full of dry fruits like almonds, pistachios etc and distribute it amongst his friends. Handsome looking and debonair, Sudhir can be usually found in the company of acting students. While in his second year he wanted to buy a 16mm camera, preferably a Bolex reflex for his personal use and found that a few used cameras were available at Delhi.

Being a senior student he sought my advice regarding the choice of camera and wanted me to go with him to Delhi for testing the cameras before buying and to do the selection. Since it was Christmas vacation time I readily agreed. So we left for Bombay by train and were joined there by Romesh Sharma and M.S. Sandhu ( Both from Acting) and Nitin Mukesh (son of legendary playback singer Mukesh). We all flew from Bombay to Delhi by an Indian Airlines flight. That was my first ever air travel and my ticket amount (we were entitled to student concession) was borne by Sudhir himself. On reaching Delhi we stayed at a house belonging to Mukeshs family.

Myself and Sudhir went to various dealers and found three or four Bolex cameras both non-reflex and reflex ones. We tested the lenses and checked the camera body and movement for any flaws. Finally we settled on a Reflex model camera in good condition and at a reasonable price. We also purchased a few 100 ft rolls of 16 mm Kodachrome reversal film for testing and for Sudhirs personal use.

From Delhi along with Sandhu, Sudhir and I proceeded to Chandigarh and did a bit of sight seeing of the well planned and designed city for a day. Sandhu took leave and we both left for Shimla, where Sudhirs sister was studying at that time and he wanted to meet her. It was the month of December and was quite cold in the evening and we warmed ourselves with some gimlet and nice sizzlers at a bar. To pass time we went to see a John Wayne Western film running in a nearby theatre though we both had seen the film much earlier at Poona. The show started around 5.30 PM and only a handful of persons were in the audience. But the show ended abruptly by 6.45 PM as one or two reels in between were not screened. Since we had seen the film earlier we demanded an explanation from the theatre manager. He admitted that the Projector operator had done a little bit of Editing so that he can finish the show and go home early as they dont have any night shows in winter. The manager apologized and offered to refund the ticket amount but we didn't take it and being Cinema students we gave a stern warning to him not to chop a creative work according to their whims and fancies in future.

Next day we met Sudhirs sister and left for Jammu and reached Sudhirs home for a warm welcome. His father had a nice Cinema theatre in Jammu which was an artistically built building with lots of curving ramps. They were also having a logging business in a mountainous forest area from where they supplied wooden sleepers for the Indian railways. Their camp was situated deep in the forest, a few hours drive from Jammu. Sudhir and I planned to go there and try our newly acquired camera to shoot a short documentary on the subject of sleeper making. The ride in the jeep through the mountain roads was a hair rising experience especially if you are seated on the side of the jeep. Beside the wheel you can see only inches of solid ground and then the deep ravine with the river flowing deep in the distance as the jeep is driven at breakneck speed. Of course the drivers are expert persons knowing the winding roads just as the back of their hands but persons new to these places like me are bound to get frightened.

At last we reached a place where the road ended and then it was a long trek up the hill and through the dense forest. It had also some exciting moments such as walking at the edge of the mountain and crossing deep ravines walking on fallen trees by balancing like a tightrope walker.We reached the camp situated at a picturesque location surrounded by tall trees.

Near the Camp

The tents were comfortable to stay with all necessary requirements but the nights were quite cold, which we warmed up with a few drinks around a camp fire and enjoying the nice food prepared by the staff.

The entire operation of producing the wooden sleepers was done there in the deep forests. First the big trees were felled and then using machines they were sawed in to sleeper sized pieces. The sleepers were transported by a unique method by using the force of water flowing there. A specially built channel winding down the mountain is constructed using wooden sleepers and the water from the river is diverted through it. The cut sleepers are then floated down to their destination easily by the swift moving water.

A view of the channel of wood

Sudhir with his newly acquired Bolex went around and we filmed the entire procedure of making wooden sleepers, right from felling of the trees, cutting it to sleeper size and transporting it down to the plains etc.

Sudhir with Bolex

We spent a few days in those sylvan surroundings exploring the forest and filming the activities. It was time to return back to Jammu. There I enjoyed a few days of great hospitality at his home with fine food mixed with affection. I took leave from their lovely family.The smell of pure Basmati rice still lingers on in my mind. Nowadays you don't get that kind of rice any more!

The return trip was by train and Since Sudhir wanted to stay home for a few more days, his father had asked the manager to book a ticket for me to Bombay. When I arrived at the Pathankot Railway station I was handed a First Air-conditioned class ticket and I was allotted a separate Coupe in the compartment. The manager said there was no vacancy in First class due to holiday season rush and only First A/C was available.It was really a luxury in those days and only very rich people traveled in First A/C class as it was more expensive than even air travel.There were only a handful of passengers and the compartment was practically empty through the journey. I was alone in the coupe till I reached Bombay with occasional intrusion by often pampering liveried waiters seeking orders for food and beverages. To fight the boredom of the two days of traveling alone, I started writing a long interesting letter to my father about my trip. Finally I reached Bombay and then went to Poona.

After passing out from the Institute, once in a while we used to correspond with each other but the link got broken sometime. I lost his address and could not contact him either for a long time. But sometime back I managed to get his phone number from his batch mate Anil Jain from Delhi whom I also got in touch after many years through the net. I phoned up Sudhir and had a long chat after so many years. He is planning to visit Kerala in the near future and I hope to meet him once again to strengthen the bonds of Friendship!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Short Assignment

While still a student, I got an opportunity to work for a day for as Cinematographer for a short documentary film. At that time Ms. Parvathi Nair was working in the National Film Archives after completing her studies earlier at the Film Institute. I think she did the Editing course there. She was directing a short film for the Films Division which was shot by one of my seniors and had almost completed the film. But she needed some more shots to be taken and so requested me to do a day’s shooting for the film.

The shooting was to take place at Bombay and some kids were the actors. We went on a Sunday Morning from Poona by the Deccan Queen train finished the shooting and returned by the evening Deccan Queen. The equipment was hired from the Institute and the film was shot using 35 mm Black and White film.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Surendar Chawdhary's Rehearsals for his Diploma film

Surendar Chawdhary was preparing for the shoot of his Diploma film VILAAP and he used to discuss the script with his cinematographer R.S. Agarwal and associates Kasturi R Murthy and myself. His film was about a tree being cut in a forest and humanises the event by showing various incidents that happened under the tree. For the opening shot he wanted a leaf falling from the tree on to the ground. The problem was that he wanted the single leaf in tight closeup and follow the falling leaf's movement using a crane. It was a pretty tough task indeed and required precise operation of the crane as well as the camera. Since he very much needed the dramatic shot for his film, we decided whether it was possible to such a camera operation by conducting a trial during our practical class.

I did the trial using the Arri Blimp camera mounted on a crane and as Surendar dropped the leaf in front of the camera, the crane was moved according to the trajectory of the leaf's fall. When there was wind it just moved out of frame and we had to wait for the windless period.

Myself on the camera with Surendar

After several trials we were able to synchronize the fall of the leaf with the camera and crane movements so that the leaf was always in the frame till the very end. Thus Surendar was assured that the shot he wanted so badly for his Diploma film could indeed be taken .

The shot set up

Later on the actual shot was taken by R.S. Agarwal himself during the Diploma film shooting and was incorporated in the film. Such attention to detail and meticulous planning by Surendar paid rich dividends later 0n. Eventually his film won the Grand Prix of Winged-Ibex statue in the short film category at the First Tehran International Film Festival 1972 and several other honours.

Friday, October 29, 2010

AZAD and the BHANG Story

Azad had come back again to the Institute for the Convocation and he was staying as a guest in my room. He used to smoke beedi and some times smoked ganja also which was available at very cheap rates. Since I do not smoke he purchased some Bhang from a shop, for the first time and told me that this will take me high. Bhang is a preparation made from the leaves and flowers (buds) of the cannabis plant consumed with sweets or mixed with almonds,spices, milk and sugar as Thandai during the Holi festival season. It was also sold as green Halwa and sweets are said to enhance the kick of Bhang. These are not considered a drug, but a traditional sleeping aid and appetizer. Sadhus and Sufis use Bhang to boost meditation and to achieve transcendental states.

He had brought four Goli’s ( balls) of Bhang. Since I have never taken it before, I asked my friend Sahu on the modus operandi of taking Bhang. I gave one goli to him but I took only half a goli mixed with milk and sugar since I was cautious about this unknown substance. Afterwards we both went to Law College mess and had our Sunday lunch with sweets. While taking food I jokingly told Sahu that the Bhang had no effect on me.

But while we were walking back along the Law College road, I felt some changes taking place. The road seemed endless and I felt I had been walking for hours and still not reaching our hostel. After a while I found that I am watching myself on a screen in Mid Shot walking and walking with the background passing just like a back projection process shot. Somehow, I reached my hostel room and lied down on my bed. The room seemed to twist and take a distorted strange shape. I felt as if my body was made of plastic, then iron, ice and of different materials. Slowly I sank into deep sleep. Some hours later I woke up and I found myself normal as the psychedelic effect of Bhang had worn off.

Late in the evening Azad came to my room along with another friend Verghese who was working at the Film Archives. I explained to them the effect Bhang had on me. Azad laughed it off saying that it was because, I was a non-smoker of Ganja, Bhang had more effect on me. He and Verghese each consumed on goli (ball) of Bhang mixed with milk. After an hour of chit chat Azad again took the remaining half a goli too saying that this Bhang had no kick at all for a veteran Ganja smoker like him and felt it as a waste of money. If he had purchased Ganja instead of the Bhang, by that time he would have been floating on the clouds.

At that time a Hindi feature film shooting had been going on in our campus starring Asha Parekh and others from Bombay. We all went to watch the shooting taking place at the exterior of our sound studio. The lighting was being done on the exterior staircase of the studio. When it was over, the star of the day, Asha Parekh came and stood there in position for the final lighting corrections. Azad whispered in my ears that how many Asha Parekhs are there? I said, only one. But he said he was seeing multiple figure of her standing at each and every step! When he asked Verghese, he also confirmed that he too was seeing multiple figures. Both felt that something was happening to them and wanted to get back to the hostel room. As I was interested in watching the shooting going on, I gave them my room key and asked them to take rest and I will join them soon.

After some time, Sahu came rushing to me saying that something had happened to these two fellows as they were at the hostel calling police, police etc. Immediately I went there and on seeing me both of the rushed towards me and pleaded please help us, please. It was this "please" which was misunderstood as "Police" by the students who gathered at the commotion! I told the onlookers that there was no problem and it was the effect of Bhang. I took both of them in to my room and asked them what had happened.

Azad explained to me that as soon as he reached my room and tried to open the lock he found the black iron lock shine like a diamond. When they entered the room the walls stood at odd angles and the room took a distorted shape. They both started singing songs to get away from the weird feeling. Azad went near the window and looked down and saw an Ambassador car on the road. Spontaneously he composed a Malayalam poem about the Ambassador car and started reciting it and they were having a nice time. Suddenly he was gripped with an unknown fear that he was going to die soon. He wanted to see his mother who lived in Kerala at least once before he died. Hearing that Verghese was also haunted by similar feelings of death and they both started crying holding on to each other. Then they came down from the hostel room and pleaded for help at passing students saying "Please. help, please!".

I pacified them saying that there was nothing to worry as it was all the effect of Bhang. But they could not be convinced and started to weep saying that there was something poisonous in the Bhang and they were sure to die. Before they die they wanted to see their mothers for the last time. However much I tried to convince them, they could not be convinced that it was just a passing feeling only due to the Bhang. Then I suggested that we will go and consult the Institute Doctor who lived near our campus. Holding my hands tightly from either side both of them accompanied me towards the doctor's residence. By the time we reached the Institute gate Azad asked me anxiously that how far still is the doctor's place since it had been hours since they have started walking. I could understand their feelings very well as I myself had similar experience in the afternoon while returning from the law college mess!

Finally we reached the doctor's residence and I explained to the doctor in detail about what had happened, while they both were waiting outside the consulting room. The doctor replied " Nothing can be done now. Let them take rest and sleep. In the morning it will be all over" On hearing the words " Nothing can be done" they thought even the doctor had considered them as a hopeless case and they were sure to die. Instantly they fell flat at the foot of the doctor and cried in Malayalam, "Yejamaane Rakshikkane" ( meaning "O Master Save us" ). Dr. Deshpande who was a Maharashtrian could not understand what they were telling. I whispered to the doctor to give them some placebo so that they will psychologically feel better. He gave them some vitamin tablets and warned them never to take such substances in future. They promised to him on oath that they will never ever have Bhang in their lifetime. I trust they kept up their promise and I too never had it afterward!

Monday, October 25, 2010


To promote students' awareness of things happening around the world and also creatively express themselves, a "Thought for Today" Notice Board was set up near the entrance to the Film Institute canteen. Students were free to post newspaper or magazine clippings, art work, posters etc of general interest to the student community.

Those were the days of Film Institute graduates getting their share of limelight in the closely guarded Bombay film Industry. They were also featured in the National Awards - Rehana Sultan won the Urvashi Award for the Best Actress in 1970 and K.K. Mahajan for excellence in Black and White photography in 1970 for SARA AKASH. Navin Nischal and Shatrughan Sinha had become recognised Stars! So when a film like UMANG starring many Film Institute graduates came out, it raised much expectations amongst the students. The film was brought to Institute for a screening and we had a disappointing ordeal of viewing it. Next day the reaction was out on the Thought for Today Notice Board - "UMANG" - Insulting & Infuriating. Doomed is the country if this be its youth! A Film to be banned!!

(L to R) Dixit, Raina, (unidentifiable)K.G.George and Surendra Chowdhary

K.G.George is all smiles!

Obviously the comments were put up by the Direction students and the Acting students didn't like it. They were keen on getting in to the film Industry by any means without caring for aesthetic values. So they were all praise for the Industrywallahs irrespective of their caliber. At the 8 th Convocation butter was liberally applied by these "Chamchas" which was intolerable. I reacted by drawing a cartoon and had put it near the UMANG comments, which you can see in the left bottom side of the board!

My Cartoon

As it was unsigned , many of the Acting students felt that the cartoon was put up against them by some Direction students who were jealous of Acting students getting all the attention and glamour! They did not know that I was person who authored it !!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

MT and P.N.Menon at the Institute

M. Azad who had passed out in Screen play writing earlier had started working as an assistant to the well known Malayalam Film Director P.N.Menon in the film KUTTIYEDATHI. The screen play was by the renowned Malayalam writer M.T.Vasudevan Nair, popularly known as M.T. Having worked with both of them Azad was instrumental in bringing them to the Institute for the first time. M.T.accompanied by Azad was there at the Institute as a Guest faculty for about a week interacting with the students and taking classes in screen play writing. He also used his spare time viewing some of the world classics at the National Film Archives. Azad being a very good friend and well wisher of me took particular interest in introducing me to these towering personalities from Kerala.

Myself and M.Azad

This meeting with M.T. was to have a great impact on my career later on. When in 1973, M.T.decided to make a film based on his short story "Pallivalum Kaal Chilambum" as NIRMALYAM, he thought of me and asked me to work as cinematographer in his maiden venture as Director. Even though he had known many renowned stalwart cinematographers in the Malayalam film industry who were too happy to work with him, he had chosen me , a comparatively new comer as his cinematographer. Azad who was also the Associate director was instrumental in having all the key technicians from the Film Institute itself - Editor Ravi and Sound Engineer Devadas and a Key role played by actor Ravi Menon. M.T.'s trust in the caliber of Institute Alumni never failed him and it is history that the film NIRMALYAM was chosen for the Golden Lotus as the Nation's Best Film. My association with M.T.continued in more films directed by him - BANDHANAM, VAARIKKUZHI. I became a very close friend to him and his family members and he considers me as a younger brother to him.

Shooting NIRMALYAM- Devadas sitting with MT ( dark glasses)

Azad's maiden film VILKANUNDU SWAPNANGAL was also scripted by M.T. and naturally I was the cinematographer. A major portion of the film takes place in Dubai and it was the first ever Malayalam film to have the location shooting at the Emirates.

MT, Sukumaran, Me and Azad during Dubai shooting

Azad once again came to the Institute, this time with Director P.N.Menon and his film KUTTYEDATHI. The film was well appreciated by the students and everyone liked the raw texture of the film and the rustic personality of P.N.Menon. I was also meeting him for the first time and found him to be receptive to experiments. Already he had Institute Alumni Ravi as his Editor at a time when the film industry in general had an aversion towards Institute graduates on the whole. He also had Madras Institute of Film Technology trained Ashok Kumar as his cinematographer.

Later on I did the cinematography for P.N.Menon directed Malayalam film UDAYAM KIZHAKKUTHANNE and for his Tamil film DEVATHAI (along with Ashok Kumar)

P.N.Menon ( in dark glasses) behind the camera


With P.N. Menon

Monday, October 11, 2010

Actuality Coverage

As part of our Actuality Coverage Project, we cinematography students have to shoot and edit a news coverage short documentary on our own. We were free to select our own subject and were provided with Black & white 16 mm negative film. I was in search of some suitable subject when I was informed by our department that an important surgery was going take place at the Sassoon Hospital, Poona. A team of two British Doctors will be performing a comparatively new surgery - Corneal Transplantation. I was asked to cover the event as part of my actuality coverage project and I was also given two rolls of 16 mm Kodachrome reversal film as well.

I had my own doubts whether I will able to stand the sight of blood etc as I have never before stepped inside an Operation theatre in my life! Putting aside my fears I reached the hospital and before being allowed inside the room we were asked to change in to the hospital's sterile garments. Our instructor Mr.Ramanathan was also with us to sort things out with the hospital people. I talked with the doctor regarding the procedures so that I can shoot only the relevant portions without wasting film on unimportant activities. Fortunately for me there were two operations scheduled to take place that day. In case I miss some shots, I can always shoot them during the second surgery.

So first I concentrated on covering the surgery in full in close up as I can take the wider shots later. I mounted my Arri 16 BL camera high on a tripod to get a clear view of the eye being operated in tight close up. I took a light meter reading beforehand with the lights on to determine the exposure as it is very critical to have perfect exposure since I was using Reversal film. Once the operation started I was fully concentrated on getting the necessary images as perfectly as possible. My fears went away as there was not much blood shed, may be two or three drops in total. After the first surgery was over I took several cut-away shots and insert shots, long shots etc by mounting the camera on a shoulder pod and moving around without disturbing the doctors and the other personnel.

At the surgery - Mr.Ramanathan beside myself on the camera

In those days eye donation was not much in vogue in our country and the donated eyes came from Ceylon where they have many Buddhists who consider it as a noble act. I marveled at the rock steady hands of the surgeons who were doing the operation with the help of small microscopes fitted over their spectacles.

Another view

Finally when the rushes were projected many faint hearted students could not stand the sight on screen of a big close up of the eye and the eyelids being pierced by a needle and blood oozing out. Even I had a similar feeling though I had witnessed the real thing in person!

With Director P.G.Viswambharan & Actor Jayaram
FIRST BELL ( Malayalam Film)

Though in my later career, I had shot many surgery sequences in Operation theatres for feature films they were only enactments and not the real ones. Hence that day at Sassoon Hospital has a unique place in my mind!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Formation of Units & Documentary Shooting

We were twelve students in the class and were divided into four unit groups of three persons. When one person does the job of lighting and operating the camera , one of us will do the follow focusing and the other push the trolley or help with lighting etc. Our Unit consisted of myself , Ram Agarwal and Kasturi R Murthy. Also Filming units were formed with one student each from Direction, Photography, Editing & sound departments for making the Documentary and Diploma films.
We were to start our work in our Documentary films and my Director was Baba Majgavkar. Akki Hame Chander as Sound Recordist and M.A.Singh as Editor completed the crew.

With Baba (Right) and Agarwal ( L)

Baba looking thro viewfinder, Murthy standing beside Camera

The title of the Documentary was BHAJIWALA and was supposed to be a parable on the misadventures of a vegetable seller in a multilingual community in a humorous manner about our linguistic problems. It was shot on the exteriors of a housing colony and was enacted mostly by the Direction students themselves, K.G.George as the vegetable seller.


The shooting location was in the foot path outside a housing colony of flats and a small crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the proceedings. It gave an opportunity to Assistant Director Raina to bring out the megaphone and wield it to make himself the centre of attraction.

Raina with the Megaphone

The shooting was a really a fun experience with all characters speaking in their own language and finally the commotion ends in a big fight amongst themselves. It was not a choreographed one, but a free for all fight! I had to do a lot of hand held shots to film that sequence.

Me with the camera and Baba guiding me from behind

I am standing on the wall with support from Agarwal, Baba
looking on & Singh noting down.
K.G.George is sitting in the centre

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Food crisis

Being in the Final year, I was allotted a single room for myself at the hostel. But the food at the Hostel Mess was always a problem as the students came from all States of India and foreign countries too! It was an impossible task to cater to the tastes of the inmates who are used to their regional cuisines with limited resources. Last year a Malayali , Mr. Panikkar was the mess contractor and so the menu had Sambhar, rice etc which was quite acceptable to the South Indians. He had also provided North Indian dishes and Roti etc for other students. But this time a new contractor, a Punjabi Sardarji Mr. Chadda took over the mess. The food turned out to be mostly of the North Indian variety and rice was limited to only a cupful and we coming from the South found it difficult to digest this change in cuisine. Since I was in the Mess committee which decides upon the weekly Menu, I reintroduced Sambhar and rice. But unfortunately the experiments by the Punjabi cook to prepare Sambhar turned out to be a disaster in the form Dhal with some added chilly powder. Ultimately we conceded defeat and swallowed our pride and ate the North Indian food provided. Some ingenious students had electric hot plates in their rooms and did their own cooking and managed with pickles and other condiments.

Some students found out that nearby Law College Mess was providing reasonably good food with unlimited rice too, and they were allowing students from outside to eat there. Added attraction was the sweets served with Sunday lunch, which you can have as much as you want. So I along with Murthy and Venugopal Thakkar, I joined the Law college mess and our food crisis was happily solved.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Debu, dear friend, Bye......

Yet another personal loss - My dear friend and batch mate from the Institute, Debu Deodhar passed away in to eternity this evening ( 1, September 2010)

Debu Deodhar

A very close friend from the Institute days he was one of the two day scholars in our class, hailing from Poona, the other one was R.S. Agarwal. Now we have lost both of them, Agarwal having taken the lead. As I had written in an earlier post, we used to keep in touch with each other quite often and whenever possible during my short visits to Mumbai myself, Jaiswal and Venugopal Thakker used to have a get together and talk about good old days at the Institute. I found him always with a smile which was spreading cheer all around as a source of positive energy!
One of those Happier days at CC

This time about a month back while I was in Mumbai for the CAS program Jaiswal told me about the critical condition of Debu. Kanal and Kondra who were also attending the CAS , told me about Debu's illness. It seems Cancer had gained an upper hand as it was detected rather at a later stage. Since I had to leave as soon as the CAS was over, I could not pay a visit to him. I was not able to get him on the phone either and left an SMS message.

On my recent visit to Chennai, I happened to meet Kasturi Murthy and passed the information about Debu. I was hoping that Debu will get better and had only today sent a mail to Jaiswal inquiring about Debu's health. But, this evening I received the message from Kanal that Debu is no more!
God calls those dearest to him much too soon! May the Lord give strength to his near and dear to bear this untimely loss. I join in their prayers for the departed Soul to Rest in Peace.

Debu in 1968, at Film Institute

Short Bio and Filmography of Debu:

Debu Deodhar had worked for Directors like Raj Dutt, Amol Palekar, Aziz Mirza, Nana Patekar, Bhimsain and many others. He had also bagged awards like Maharashtra State Award, Zee Gaurav Puraskar, Goa State Award etc.

His work was last seen in a recently released Marathi film ‘Marmabandh’. His forthcoming films are 'Laadi Goadi' and 'Tamashaa'. Some of his other films were - Savalee 2007, Maati Maay 2006, Kshan 2006, Lal Salaam (2002), Pehchaan (2005) , Stumped 2003, Dhyasparva (2001), Kairee (2000) ,Lekroo (2000), Silsila Hai Pyar Ka (1999) ,Daayraa (1996), Bangarwadi (1996), Prahaar: The Final Attack (1991),Thodasa Roomani Ho Jaayen (1990), Lapandav (1993) Shejari Shejari, Gav Tas Changal, Tinhisanja & Akriet (1981).

He is survived by wife Shrabani, daughter Sai and son-in-law Shakti Anand.

Final Year at the Institute

After the vacation, returning back to the Institute for the Final year was a mixed experience - meeting friends, missing old senior friends and making friendship with the bunch of new arrivals. The seniors(1970 MPP Batch) who have passed out were V. K. Gandhi, S. Ramchandra, Lai Teck Kwong, K. K. Nayak, J. K. Patra, J. P. Bhagat, Biman Chandra Sinha, A. K. Nigam and Abdul Sattar Mokurwal. A batch of Malayalis consisting of G.S.Panikkar, Bhaskaran Unni, Kabeer Rawther ( Direction) Muralidharan ( Sound) and M. Azad ( Screenplay writing) also completed their studies and left the Institute.

There were no theory classes, only hands on practicals and practicals with NC and BNC Mitchell cameras! This time the Direction students joined us to do combined dialogue exercises etc. We took turns lighting the sets, Operating the camera, pulling focus and pushing the dolly etc. That way we got trained in all aspects of camera including mounting of the camera and lenses and loading the film in magazines etc.

V.N.Jatla ( Direction) and me on Camera

Myself on Camera and S.K.Jolly Follow focusing

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prof.Satish Bahadur - An Appreciation

With his unique personality and teaching methods he made a lasting impression in the minds of generations of film students at the Film Institute. He opened their eyes and made them see films in a different way for the rest of their lives. People from different walks of life coming from all parts of India started appreciating films in an artistic manner through the courses conducted by him. Prof. Satish Bahadur had single handedly carved a niche in Film Studies in India and had cultivated Film Appreciation in to a separate form of art.

Prof. Bahadur started his career as the head of the department of Social Science in Agra College where he had created two film societies. Noted Film Critic Ms. Marie Seton suggested to Mrs. Indira Gandhi that the newly inaugurated Film Institute of India should have an additional department of film appreciation and further told her that the first person to be considered for the job should be none other than Prof. Bahadur.

Prof. Bahadur invented his own teaching methodology, making full use of the National Film Archive at the Film Institute. In the time to come, the format of Film appreciation created by Prof. Bahadur would become standard format for all future courses in India in Film appreciation. Along with P.K. Nair, the founder director of the National Film Archives, Prof. Bahadur for nearly twenty years toured the big and small towns in the country teaching cinema to lay audiences. Some of the young people even considered film making as a career option owing to his influence.

Prof. Bahadur receiving a Memento from Dev Anand
during the FTII 50 Celebrations, 2010

The person who made the most indelible impression on me at the Institute was Prof.Bahadur. In those days, I had a great liking for Actor Omar Sharief after viewing David Lean's LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. With his handsome looks, hair falling in his forehead and square jawline, Prof. Bahadur reminded me of the great actor Omar Sharief. His charming personality and child like enthusiasm made him the most popular person at the Institute and he was always found surrounded by groups of students.

His lectures at the class room theatre were a delight to attend and students never missed his classes. He was a chain smoker at that time and used to smoke even while lecturing at the classes. Often he will take out tobacco and paper from the pouch and roll out a cigarette while speaking and try to light it after several failed attempts. After one or two puffs it will go off and he will continue to drag at the unlit cigarette stub! His call "Ramayyan" to the projectionist to start the screening in the class room still rings in my ears even after a passage of many years.

After leaving the Institute I never had an opportunity to meet him, but I was looking forward to seeing him some time during the year long 50 th Anniversary celebrations of the Institute. The inaugural ceremony I could not attend and my good friend Sound Engineer Muralidharan had sent me some photograph, in one of which Prof.Bahadur is seen receiving a Memento from veteran Actor Dev Anand. Unfortunately Prof. Satish Bahadur passed away on Saturday,24 July, 2010 after a brief illness. He was 85.

Even after retirement, Prof. Bahadur continued to participate in seminars and wrote film analyses in academic periodicals. At the time of his death, Prof. Bahadur had just completed the editing of a book analyzing the film Pather Panchali which is likely to be released later this year.
For his lifelong work dedicated to opening new vistas in film studies, Prof. Satish Bahadur remained unrecognized by the Government, the Indian film industry and even by his former students who became eminent film personalities.

I sincerely pray for his soul to Rest in Peace and express my heartfelt sympathies to the members of the revered teacher's family.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Juniors from Motion Picture Photography

We had some very nice relationship with our junior students and especially from the Motion Picture Photography course. They often got in touch with us if they had any doubts to clear and we sought their help when we needed some still photographic prints to be made.

A.S. Kanal, K K Maitra, Sudhir Choudhary, Siba Naryana Mishra, Narayana J. Kondra, Ashok Krishna Malik and Anil Jain Satish Aima were our juniors in the First Year M.P.P. course. A.S. Kanal is now running Vikshi Institute of Media Studies at Pune and I often keep in touch with him and we met several times in Mumbai in Cinematographers Combine Programmes and in Pune at the FTII. Also I have contributed articles for "The Cinematographers Handbook" edited by him. Anil Jain Satish Aima was a very handsome guy who was mostly found in the company of acting students. Some time after the group photo of that period was put up in my blog I received a mail from Delhi, sent by Anil Jain who was happy to be taken back to those times. Though I had known Sudhir Choudhary we became thick friends only in my final year and I will write about it later.

Some of the few dayscholars from Pune attending the Institute were my classmates R.S.Agarwal, Debu Deodhar and Narayana J. Kondra from the first year. Later on while I was shooting my first Hindi film PATITA directed by I.V. Sasi in Mumbai, I needed a Focussing assistant and it was my classmate K.K. Jaiswal who suggested Kondra's name. He worked with me in that film and we didn't, have further contacts as I was mostly concentrating on Malayalam films. I happened to meet him again in Mumbai during the Cinematographers Combine Program in October, 2003. Recently I met him in June 2010 at the CAS Presentations Program organized by Cinematographers Combine at Mumbai.


Myself and Kondra at CAS

The Program was also an occassion to meet many friends from the Film Institute such as Kanal, Jaiswal etc. I also met after thirty years my senior at the Institute S.R.Krishna Murthy who had done part of the reshoot of my film PATITA in my absence at that time, while he was working with Producer Pramod Chakraborty in Mumbai.

With S.R.K.Murthy

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Library at the Institute

The library at the Institute was really a repository of knowledge, filled with number of technical magazines, technology and many other rare books. Reading books from the library was an eagerly awaited activity, especially the journals like American Cinematographer, Popular Photography, Sight and sound etc. Books like Five 'C' of cinematography, Focal Series on Cinematography , special effects, Technique of Film Editing, by Karel Reisz were all much in demand.

There were also some gems of rare books which I had borrowed and copied down important portions. Some of those handwritten manuscripts are still with me. After completing the course at Pune, I have started working in the Madras film industry. I found that the American library there had a vast collection of film books and magazines. I became a member there and a regular visitor browsing through American Cinematographer and other magazines. During the extreme hot summer months the super cool air conditioned library was a favourite refuge for me. The proximity of the Woodlands Drive-in restaurant took care our stomach and on some days short film screening were also held there as added attraction.

When I had started earning sufficiently, I took out subscriptions for American Cinematographer magazine and SMPTE Journals, which had helped me to keep up with up to date information. Reading of books, not only technical one, others like literature etc had really expanded my knowledge to a great extent. It had reshaped my way of thinking too.

This reading habit still continues with me , now with a slight change - the Internet is an ocean of knowledge and I am flooded with information and getting drowned!
he library at the Institute was really a repository of knowledge, filled with number of technical magazines, technology and other books. Reading books from the library was an eagerly awaited activity, especially the journals like American Cinematographer, Popular Photography, Sight and sound etc. Books like Five 'C' of cinematography, Focal Series on Cinematography , special effects, Technique of Film Editing, by Karel Reisz were all much in demand.

There were also some gems of rare books which I had borrowed and copied down important portions. Some of those handwritten manuscripts are still with me. After completing the course at Pune, I have started working in the Madras film industry. I found that the American library there had a vast collection of film books and magazines. I became a member there and a regular visitor browsing through American Cinematographer and other magazines. During the extreme hot summer months the super cool air conditioned library was a favourite refuge for me. The proximity of the Woodlands Drive-in restaurant took care our stomach and on some days short film screening were also held there as added attraction.

When I had started earning sufficiently, I took out subscriptions for American Cinematographer magazine and SMPTE Journals, which had helped me to keep up with up to date information. Reading of books, not only technical one, others like literature etc had really expanded my knowledge to a great extent. It had reshaped my way of thinking too.

This reading habit still continues with me , now with a slight change - the Internet is an ocean of knowledge and I am flooded with information and getting drowned!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Another friend passes away

One of our senior most Film Institute graduate, director Aziz (P.M. Abdul Aziz) passed away at his residence on Saturday, April 18, 2010. He was 75.

He was one of the first FTII graduates from Kerala to direct a feature film. AVAL (1967) featured Madhu, Adoor Bhasi, K.P. Ummer, Bahadur and Usha Nandini. Scripted by Thoppil Bhasi, the film had songs written by Vayalar Rama Varma, Music by G. Devarajan. and cinematography by Mankada Ravi Varma. His other feature films were NJAVALPAZHANGAL, ATYUNNADHANGALIL KOODARAM PANITHAVAR and MAANPEDA. Later on he went on making documentaries, produced and directed 37 of them.

He started his career as a school teacher. His interest in art and culture made him leave his job and plunge into theatre. Chaverppada, written by him, won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award in 1973. The play was staged at a national theatre festival in 1975. He directed TV productions including Sayahna Kodathi, Kavikal Kalpanakal and Ennappadam.

He is survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.

I met Aziz in 1972 while I was staying at Madras sharing a flat with Prabhakaran and K.G George both alumni from the Institute. As it was also frequented by others from the Institute like John Abraham and Editor Ravi, our place was nicknamed POONA HOME by Malayalam Actor Adoor Bhasi who was also our neighbour. Aziz used to come there to meet Prabhakaran who was also the Producer of the film MAANPEDA directed by Aziz. During one of his visits, he asked me to work in a Documentary for the Government of Kerala, titled "Tribal Life in Kerala" in Eastman colour. For that documentary we had travelled right from Thenmala in the south of Kerala to Kannur at the northern end. We did cover a large number of tribes in Attapady and Sultan's Battery too. It was a very interesting and unforgettable experience walking through the forests and climbing mountains to meet those remote tribal people.

Once, after our shoot at deep jungle area in Kannavam forests, near Kannur , we lugged our equipments back for many kilometres, to find our only car's tyre flat and there was no spare tyre either. Also we did not have a jack to lift the car. It was getting dark and we were a few kilometres away from the nearest road. With the help of the people we lifted the car, placed some stones underneath it, and removed the tyre. The driver then rolled it to the nearest road, caught a bus, got the puncture repaired and finally returned at 10 PM. Till then we were waiting in the jungle with a campfire to protect us from the wild animals.

When the film's negative was being it was found that a roll of 400 feet colour negative was found missing from the editing room. Inspite of many days of searching it was not to be found and we had only the black and white rush print of the missing footage with us. With the deadline approaching, we had no other go but to make dupe negative from the black and white print and while printing appropriate colour tints were added to make it look like a colour film! Months after the print was handed over to the Government department, the missing roll of colour negative was discovered in the editing room. By then it was too late to do anything.

When he showed the film for approval, the authorities insisted on including few shots of the concerned Minister too. At that time I was in Madras and with my consent he hired a camera and cameraman from Trivandrum to take the shots of the Minister at the Secretariat but he could get only a few bits of black and white negative ! Finally I had to print those shots too with a sepia tint to make it a colour film.

Later on I used to meet him often at the International Film Festival of Kerala , last time being a few years back. I convey my heartfelt sympathies to the bereaved family members.

I pray for his Soul to Rest in Peace

Sunday, March 21, 2010

50 Glorious Years of Film Institute

FTII is celebrating the Golden Jubilee Year from 20 th March 2010 onwards at Pune. I really miss being there meeting old friends and teachers and taking part in the celebrations. Any how I will plan and come there for one of the major functions as this is going to be a year long activity.

My Best Wishes to all those who are fortunate enough to be present there !

May the Institute grow up bigger and bigger like the Wisdom Tree and spread its branches all over the world!

Monday, January 25, 2010

A friend invites after 42 years

I first met Kabeer Raothar in 1968 when I joined the Film Institute and he was senior to me by one year and was studying in the Second Year Film Direction Course. He immediately took over the role of a Godfather and had been a wellwisher and advisor.

After leaving the Institute while doing K.G.George's debut film SWAPNADANAM, we met again. By that time he had already directed a Hindi film called LUBNA and was based in Mumbai. Later on he had been to Kerala and had directed AMBALAKKARA PANCHAYAT and few other films.More than Twenty years back he had asked me to work in one of his films, but I could not find enough dates to accomodate his request. In the meantime after several unsuccessful attempts at film making, he is planning a come back Malayalam film titled INGANYUM ORAAL. This time well in advance, he had my dates committed and we have started the shooting of the film from 7 th January 2010 onwards at Thiruvananthapuram. The switch on ceremony was performed by Shri.S. Kumar of New Theatres and the clap board sounded by the Hon. Kerala Minister Divakaran. The cast consists of Sai Kumar, Vinu Mohan, Raghavan, Mamu Koya, Indrans, Sreekumar, Praveena, Sarayu, K.P.A.C.Lalitha , Janaki, Kulapally Leela etc

Switch on by Shri. S. Kumar

From (L-R) Myself, S.Kumar, Minister Divakaran, Praveena,
Kabeer Raotherand Producer Sainudeen

Myself with Kabeer

Kabeer giving instructions as leading man Vinu Mohan watches

Isn't it great, that 42 years after meeting Kabeer Raothar , I am working with him in a film !