[dropcap]“I[/dropcap]t was always about capturing the appropriate emotion be it a song or a scene,” says master cinematographer Nataraja Subramanian about the making of Raanjhanaa. Known for lending his creative eye to celebrated romantic films including Parineeta, Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal and others, Natty as he is popularly called, believes in keeping things real and subtle and that forms the essence of the much-awaited romantic film, Raanjhanaa.

Natty tells Pandolin about the approach adopted for the making of this love story, his shooting style, working amidst large crowds and the entire experience of the film. Giving his valuable inputs on the sources of light used in the film is Natty’s Gaffer, Amol.

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Natty with Sonam Kapoor and Director Aanand L Rai

Since Raanjhanaa is an intense love story, how have you treated the film? Was there any specific color palette that you wanted to maintain for this film as per your discussion with the director?

I’ve essentially tried to capture the real thing and that is what the director Aanand Rai and scriptwriter Himanshu Sharma also had in mind. We separated between young Dhanush, a little elder Dhanush, Delhi, Banaras and other portions in terms of tone, color temperature and so on. For Banaras, I kept the tone warmish, because the place itself is very warm. I’ve shown Delhi the way the city is; a little grayish.

As there were two cinematographers on this film, could you please tell us the parts that have been shot by you and by Vishal Sinha?

I shot about 80 percent of Raanjhanaa which includes around 90 per cent of Banaras with Dhanush, the entire Delhi part and Banaras part with Abhay Deol. The rest of it was shot by Vishal. The shoot of the movie was to start from last June but got slightly delayed due to production constraints and started around September-October. So I had given my dates till 10th December but was committed to another project post that.

[pullquote_left]The main idea was to maintain the realism. Though the film has different time gaps, we wanted to have a natural look and yet capture everything required.[/pullquote_left]

What format has the film been shot on? What was your camera set up like?

It’s shot digital using Panavision Genesis and Red Epic. Almost all the scenes were done with a two camera set up. In a place like Banaras when you are placing the camera in the middle of the road, you don’t have enough time like in a studio to correct things. Since most of the locations were live locations we couldn’t prolong the shoot, so a two camera arrangement worked best. Large crowds would gather to see the actors and you can’t blame them as they rarely get to see film shoots and are excited. So we had to finish things as soon as possible.

What kind of framework have you used in the film? In order to achieve a certain style did you incorporate any special equipment or rigs? 

We have used different framework to show different periods of time. For example, Dhanush’s younger portions were shot with telephoto, the school portion is shot a little wider and when he grows up its wider, so everything is opening up. That’s how we shot it all. We used various equipments including jimmy jibs, rigs, steadicam, car rigs etc. The film is a large scale film and we treated it in a big way.


Shooting on live locations

Which are the key locations where the film has been shot? How much of the film is on sets and how much on real locations? How was your relationship with the Production designer?

We largely shot in Banaras and Delhi. In Delhi we were shooting in North Delhi which is a congested area and other hard-core places like India Gate, in front of the Parliament and so on. Almost 90 percent of the film is on real locations. It is all captured in live settings and when required we created elaboration on the streets, for example, if needed to make a temple or a verandah and so on. The main idea was to maintain the realism. Though the film has different time gaps, we wanted to have a natural look and yet capture everything required. Wasiq Khan, the production designer, is a close friend and both of us were introduced in the same film called ‘Paanch’ by Anurag Kashyap. So we have a comfortable relationship with healthy debates that enhances the quality of the film. It was a fantastic association.

[pullquote_right]Keeping everything subtle rather than going larger than life and making things appear plastic was the approach I adopted.[/pullquote_right]

Since a lot of the film, especially in Banaras, is shot on local streets, narrow lanes and the ghats, what was the methodology adopted to shoot? Were there any challenges faced while shooting in these places?

We went to the locations in advance, worked the permutations & combinations, chose the backgrounds that would work, etc. So we pre-planned things and then executed it in that way. We didn’t have any technical challenges as such because we were thorough with the script and whatever I had visualized was translated in the frame. Practical problems we faced were the weather, as it was very hot, and the crowds. For example, when we were filming the songs, the public too would start dancing, it was very entertaining but we would have to wait, convince them to make the space and then get on with the shoot.

Can you please tell us about your lighting design in this film? Have you largely used available light or artificial lights?

We have used a mix of available and artificial lights. For some scenes I’ve used a kind of darkened shade, some I molded, while others were brighter depending on the requirement. So for example, when they express their love between each other, I have lit them up to show the expressions. In some situations we used real light, but you cannot get proper light in every situation, so we had to produce and generate the desired light accordingly. There were some narrow lanes where we couldn’t take the lights so we had handy generators, LED panels etc. at our disposal.

Amol says that the lights were chosen as per the situations and the weather. In Banaras we have used around 20 – 25 percent available light and around 50 per cent artificial light. In additional lights we have used 12ks, 6ks, 4ks, 8banks, 4banks and others. We have also used LED lights.

On sets

Capturing the perfect shot

What was your approach towards shooting the songs of the film? Can you tell us about the making of the song ‘Tum tak’ which is shot across various backdrops?

Capturing the real thing and keeping everything subtle rather than going larger than life and making things appear plastic was the approach I adopted. I didn’t want to take the audience away from the track. I’ve tried to capture them naturally and yet give some touches in terms of light, composition etc.

The song, ‘Tum Tak’, is a point of view of a man who has flatly fallen for a girl and everything that he does revolves around her. The idea was to capture the whole of Banaras within the song so that when people watch it they can experience the character’s feelings. The choreography was done by Caesar and he gave very interesting inputs to play around with various colors, capture the local sadhus in one shot or kids in another and added different flavors to it.

Tum Tak was shot in Ramgarh fort and we have used skimmers, reflectors and some lights in close-ups, says Amol about the lighting for the song.

[pullquote_left]The good thing about Aanand is that he treats his film in a big way and gives complete freedom that a filmmaker can offer to the cinematographer.[/pullquote_left]

The song ‘Tu Mun Shudi’ was shot at India Gate. What was the shooting style adopted to capture this song?

This song was the thought process of the particular character played by Abhay Deol who is a student leader and wants to show the world that college students can make a difference and bring about a change. So we wanted to incorporate his thought process and hence it’s all shot in wide to bring about the clarity and openness of the character’s thoughts. And yet the love story is set within that. The only difficulty again was the practical problem of public that had gathered and other things like traffic etc. which everybody faces. But when required the public would move away so that was managed well with everybody’s cooperation.

This song was largely shot in available light using a lot of bounce. Since we were shooting in November at times there was a problem of sunlight but we planned the shoot well so didn’t have any issues adds Amol.

How was it working with the various actors in the film?

This film is the biggest example of team work. It was a great effort by Dhanush who didn’t speak much Hindi earlier; he has never done Hindi dialogs. But he picked up the local dialect and north Indian accent very well.  When you see someone putting in so much effort you also get energized to do something like that. The co-operation from Sonam and Abhay was also fantastic. I’ve known Abhay for over 10 years and it was great working with him.

Which was the most challenging scene/song in the entire film and how did you’ll overcome it?

There was nothing challenging as such. It was always about capturing the appropriate emotion be it a song or a scene. You can say we didn’t find anything easy nor did we find any difficulty as such.


A team effort

How was the association with director Aanand Rai?

The good thing about him is that he treats his film in a big way and gives complete freedom that a filmmaker can offer to the cinematographer. He was very co-operative and was willing to create things that we needed. Another remarkable thing is that he always asks your thoughts about a particular scene. If your inputs are good he’ll say yes, even if they are not, he will share his views and ask you to try incorporating it.

Who was your team on the film?

My gaffer was Amol da who has been with me since my first film. My assistants were very good and included Vishal, Shankar and Abhishek. Pranav was my steadicam operator for the whole film. The jimmy jib operator was Sagar. My panther and rig was done by Ashok. The assistant directors including Prashant Singh, Pooja Pillai, Rahul and everyone else was also very helpful.

Photo Courtesy – Eros International.

[box_light]Raanjhanaa, directed by Aanand L Rai and produced by Krishika Lulla under Eros International releases on 21st June, 2013.[/box_light]