Cinematographer Satyajit Pande

Cinematographer Satyajit Pande

I did not shoot any promo songs neither did Raj direct it,” cinematographer Satyajit Pande made it clear when he was asked about the song ‘Lazy lad’ in Raj Kumar Gupta’s film Ghanchakkar. The talented cinematographer speaks more about the making of Ghanchakkar on a candid chat with Pandolin.

Having done films like Taare Zameen Par and Kahaani, what was your approach towards a quirky comedy like Ghanchakkar?

Script wise, every film is unique for me. Before I sign a film, I analyze the script carefully and see my contribution in terms of camera work and lighting. Taare Zameen Par had a lot of drama in it, so apparently I kept the look real.  Kahaani had its own set. All these films were very rooted as they were located at certain milieu and from that arose my role as a cinematographer.

Being a quirky comedy, Ghanchakkar has got some interesting characters but they are normal people. Fun situations are built around them, which make them quirky. It’s not a slapstick comedy or an action comedy but it deals with human nature and how a person can react to certain situations. Therefore, I decided to keep the look real. One has to underline the normal to see the quirks stand out. My approach to the film was realistic. When you see the film, you would realize that quirkiness is evident from the characters’ actions. There was no need to go out of the way to capture it.

Director with the casts of Ghanchakkar on set

Director with the casts of Ghanchakkar on set

What was Raj Kumar Gupta’s brief to you for the film? How have you incorporated his vision into your shooting style?  

Basically, Raj narrated me the film’s story and we discussed various options for it’s look. About 80 percent of the film is at night time. We filmed a lot in public spaces especially in the local trains at night. I tweaked the film’s look a bit with the choice of lenses, lighting and framing to add the drama in the story and then we maintained a progression. I could have made the film look quirky on camera with the use of lighting and lenses but we chose not to go that way. We chose to keep it real.

Tell us about the lighting design adopted for the film. What sources of lights have been used?

The film required us to use the spaces in a certain way whether it’s the character’s house or the local train in the night time. It required us to engage with the spaces in a way that would seem believable to audiences. We wanted viewers to be encouraged to participate in what’s happening and experience it. We kept the light as natural as possible. For instance, when I was shooting at Andheri station, I used existing lights available at the station. I just supplemented the lighting with similar kinds of lights, to follow the present lighting scheme. We tried avoiding conventional lights that we generally use for the shoots as they are different in color temperature and density.

Inside the train compartment, we kept the lighting a bit different from what we did at the platform to make it look real.  We all tried to stay true to the story.

The film is a comedy, having lots of funny moments. There is conventional way of lighting a comedy that is brightly layering the scenes. We had not followed that. The agenda was to keep it all very real, so to maintain a connect between the characters and the space.

Where was the film shot? 

Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan in Ghanchakkkar

Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan in Ghanchakkkar

Raj and I like to shoot on real locations but due to time constraint, we were required to shoot on sets. We had to shoot about a month inside a house. But the challenge was to get the house. It is really difficult to get a place in Bombay wherein you can shoot day and night for about a month without disturbing the housing colony. We tried a lot to find a location but we couldn’t, so finally we had to shoot the film on a set.

After discussing the background of the characters, we decided not to have a modern flat or a bungalow. We went for a slighter older looking place that you can find in areas such as Khar or Dadar Parsi Colony. We created a set, which was almost a copy of a house at Dadar Parsi Colony.

We added more elements to the set such as a verandah, a little room and to add quirkiness, we did some touches. We actually combined few shots taken at the real house and the ones shot on the set.

House was the most important set in the film and rest was shot on real locations. The art direction team also created a bank. Basically, they took over an existing shop and recreated it into a bank, which looked absolutely real.

On real locations, we shot at Andheri local station, Goregaon local train, Taxi man association, hospitals and several other areas in Bombay.

It must have been very challenging to shoot on real locations.

It’s always challenging because real locations offer you so much in terms of descriptions and dos and don’ts. Such as, we were given a number of hours every night to shoot at the local train but the lighting process at the location itself took for about two hours. Hence, the entire team had to reach location in advance to change the bulbs and tubes.

At Goregaon station, there was no light at all. So, we used almost 500 odd tubes to light it.

Vidya Balan in Ghanchakkar

Vidya Balan in Ghanchakkar

Where was the set created? Did you follow any colour theme?

The set was created at Essel Studio. We needed a huge place because we had to shoot against green screen. We did not follow any color theme, other than colors that the characters would wear. Vidya’s character was someone who would wear slightly over the top dresses. She chose certain colours and cuts as her character was louder than the other characters. We did not coordinate colors because in reality it never happens. At the same time, we had to be careful of it as it should not look out of place.

How was your collaboration with the production designer?

Sukant Panigrahy, the art director of the film, did an amazing job. We scouted for many houses, chose required elements and modelled into one. At the same time, we made several intercuts between real house on the location and the set. We asked questions like in what kind of house Emraan and Vidya’s characters as a couple would like to reside, their background, their preferences on the kind of walls, props and colors. Flooring was kept like it was always there in the old house. The situation was either they had bought an old house or it was a house passed on to them by ancestors and in both cases, the flooring could remain the same. So, we constructed this kind of logic. The idea was to be true to the characters and going along with that.

Vidya Balan in Ghanchakkar

Vidya Balan in Ghanchakkar

Which camera and lenses were used? What kind of rigs and equipment have you worked with?

I love shooting on film. We shot the movie on 35mm. There was certain dos and don’ts as the camera had to be brim, which made it heavier. Lights had to be absolutely silent with no hum. I had two sets of lenses which I used as per the locations. I used Cooke S4 lenses to shoot the sequences on the set. And to shoot night sequences on real location, I used Master prime lenses.

Rigs were used to shoot the number of action sequences in the film. We used Panther rig a lot. I am not a big fan of steadicam but we had to use it for few days to shoot a chase sequence otherwise it was all handheld.

Can you tell us about the camera angles and framing employed in the film?

The framing was as per the story, depending on the scene, content and drama. We started with keeping the look of the film slightly warm and cozy but as events unfold, it became more dramatic. The film starts with wide lenses and as the film progresses it goes tighter and tighter.

I isolated Emraan’s character. Other people around him changed but his character remained the same throughout the film.

What is the kind of treatment you have rendered for the songs in the film?

I did not shoot any promo songs. It was UTV marketing team’s efforts. Neither did Raj direct nor did I shoot. We never played a song when we were shooting. There were few montages for songs without lip sync, which I shot.

How much time did you take to complete the film? Where was the post production done?

It took us around 65 days. Post production was done in Reliance media works.

What was the most challenging scene for you to shoot?

The climax was pretty challenging to shoot as it required different performances. We shot it over 6-7 days and we had to match the next sequence to the previous one for over the entire period.

Please tell us about your team.

My team consisted of my first assistant Shaumik, Ashok who has been with me for many years now, Fakru was my gaffer, Teja was my focus pullar and Rajan Das was my third assistant.

In the DI Process, Makran was the colourist.