Noted cinematographer Dudley has a long-standing association with director Rohit Shetty. The two have worked together on blockbusters like Singham, Golmaal 3, Bol Bachchan, Chennai Express and are now back with Singham Returns. Dudley gives Pandolin a lowdown on the making of the action packed masala entertainer which sees Ajay Devgn aka Bajirao Singham return with a bang.

How is the treatment of Singham Returns different from that of Singham? What was Rohit’s brief for this film?

Singham was completely based in Goa while Singham Returns is shot out and out in Mumbai. The character of Singham is now a DCP and has shifted to Mumbai. If you go to see, this film has nothing to do with the first film, as the story is completely different. Barring a few people like Ajay’s father, all the other characters are new. The entire look and feel is also very different.

We have shot the movie completely in light and shade and treated different scenes in different tones. The action sequences have a distinct color tone as compared to the romantic scenes that are treated in a soft and colorful way. There are three major action sequences and every sequence has a specific shade to it.

What was your camera set up like and what camera and lenses did you work with? Have you largely gone handheld or used the Steadicam more?

We had a multi-camera setup, with 5-6 cameras at any given time, for the outdoor action sequences. Our primary and secondary camera was the Sony F65 while the third and fourth cameras were Red Epic. I’ve used the Cooke S5i lens, which I used in my previous film (Chennai Express) as well because the quality of the lens is brilliant.

We largely shot handheld in this film especially for indoor action and several other portions of the film. As the frame in action sequences is moving and breathing, handheld creates a better impact as compared to keeping it static or going smooth with a trolley shot.

Please take us through the making of the action sequence shot on the Bandra Worli Sea Link (BWSL). Since it also involves CG, how did you go about working on it?

The action sequence at BWSL was planned according to the graphics. When we decided to shoot there, the VFX team was also brought on board. They made a model and we decided the shots that were going to be done via CG while those that would be taken in reality, the aerial shots and so on. In this film, we have extensively used the Helicam, something that no other film has done in the past. Mumbai too has been shown in a very different perspective in our film. We did not face much difficulty while shooting as everything was planned in advance and the VFX team also made things very convenient. But even though we had CG, some things have been kept very real, for example; there is a car blast that happens on the Sea Link and that has been done in actuality and not via CG.

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There is another action sequence shot at Raey Road very close to the railway tracks. How did you’ll manage to shoot in such a challenging set up?

The whole credit of this sequence goes to Rohit Shetty. We hired extra security, got police permission and so on, to safeguard the people as we were shooting right next to the railway tracks. Even though the whole area was cordoned off, there was no saying as to where any public might just come. Rohit took care of everything but it was a challenging setup. We worked with natural light only and used around 4-5 cameras for that sequence and the Helicam too, but just for a few shots. It was largely shot handheld or vehicle-mounted wherein we placed the camera in a vehicle and shot with that itself. The jib and Steadicam were also used for some shots, so it’s a combination of everything.

There are several chase sequences in the film. We’d like to know how did you’ll go about shooting the chase with Kareena Kapoor riding a rickshaw?

Kareena Kapoor has herself driven the rickshaw. We did pull the rickshaw for some parts but all the other times she has driven it herself. The camera was in a separate vehicle and we shot parallel, following her.

For an action film like Singham Returns, what lighting strategy did you employ? Tell us about your lighting setup for the sequence at Gateway of India.

The romantic scenes are bright and well-lit while the rest of the movie is dark, shot in light and shade. We have largely worked with natural lighting for all the outdoor scenes. The action sequences itself took around 40-45 days to shoot, with each sequence taking around 10-12 days. So we worked with natural light conditions and tried to match them as best possible. It is very difficult to match the light, because every action portion takes a long time. Artificial lights were used only for indoor action and the tone was changed to a yellowish green to give it a different look from the other action scenes. For some action sequences we have used balloon lights as well.

At Gateway of India, since we were shooting at night we had to use our own lighting setup as they would switch of the arch lights at midnight. So we would light up the arch and use Dinos, which are big lights, to cover big areas.

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What is the look and feel adopted for the songs in the film? Tell us about the making of the romantic track ‘Kuch toh hua hai’.

Both the songs are shot on real locations. While one is shot at Mahim Dargah in Mumbai, Kuch toh hua hai is shot in Hyderabad. For the night sequence in the song, we had to light up the area and have used some lights during the day sequence as well. We shot indoor in a fort too. It was difficult to maintain continuity but we have tried our best to match it according to the lighting. Some sequences were shot in sunlight, so if it became cloudy we would wait for the sun to come out again. The same was done with action sequences too, wait for a few minutes for the sun to come and then shoot to maintain continuity.

Which was the most interesting action sequence to shoot and how did you’ll go about it?

That would be Ajay’s Tom Cruise style shot, which was planned by Rohit and shot with the Helicam. It was quite difficult because while we were shooting it got very windy and if it is windy you cannot use the Helicam. It took us almost an entire day to shoot as we kept trying at regular intervals. Finally at around 5 in the evening, though it was a little windy the Helicam operator decided to take a chance and it worked. This is the sequence where the ambulance is being pulled out from the lake and was the only scene shot in Goa.

What were the challenges faced during the making of the film?

This was one of the most difficult shoots for the entire team, including Rohit. Every day we shot on different locations and all were real locations. Also since they were all city locations, handling the public was a challenge too. Additionally we had to meet the deadline. The shoot started in March and the release was scheduled for August so we shot day and night while Rohit was editing side-by-side. So it was a tough one but we got a good product at the end of it.

Please tell us about the post-production of the film and your team.

The post-production was done at Reliance MediaWorks. My colorist was Makarand Surte and Dilesh Gupta was the line producer from Adlabs who was coordinating with us in post-production. I also need to mention Naveen Paul who has done the VFX and an amazing job at it. My associate, Vinod, and other assistants too have worked very had.