[dropcap]“H[/dropcap]e doesn’t believe in making things chaotic and goes for smart diligent work,” says gaffer Rubb Bhungdawala about Cinematographer Mahendra Shetty with whom he collaborated for Lootera. In an exclusive interview with Pandolin, Rubb talks about the making of Lootera, its lighting design and the vision that worked behind this period film.

Cinematographer Mahendra Shetty with Gaffer Rubb Bhungdawala

At what stage of production did you get involved with the shooting of Lootera?

My involvement took place once everything was locked in terms of the script and location. After the director and cinematographer fixed up everything, we started having continuous meetings and a lot of pre-discussions regarding the look of the film. Cinematographer, Mahendra Shetty, understood the director’s vision and explained it to me. So once I figured out his point of view, the functioning became smoother.

What was the brief given to you by cinematographer Mahendra Shetty?

He wanted a certain period look for the film considering it’s a story set up in the 1950s when light wasn’t there. But at the same time, he didn’t want it to look monotonous, as there have been many period films before such as Devdas and Parineeta. So what kind of light quality would be there or what sort of bulb would we use were some of the things we worked out in detail. According to the narrative based in that kind of an era, we tried to achieve a particular color tone and texture for the film. We analyzed what color gels or filters should be used to enhance the look. We kept thinking about the best options we could have and went through a lot of R&D.



Where did the shooting happen and how much of the film was shot on sets and real locations?

We mainly shot in Kolkata and Dalhousie but some sets were also created in Reliance studios and Vrindavan studios in Mumbai. I would say 40 percent of the film was shot on set and 60 percent in real locations.

What were the kinds of lighting setups employed for shooting interior sequences, both in Kolkata and Dalhousie?

For the Dalhousie sequence, we mainly used HMIs as a major portion of the film was shot on the cooler side. For the Kolkata sequence we preferred to use tungsten lights with Kodak 500 T. In the Kolkata sequence, there are few happy, romantic and joyful moments while Dalhousie, where the second half and the climax happen was more serious. Hence, I think that change of look was needed from the narrative’s point of view.

There were two major filters that we used in the film, one was Bram Brown for tungsten light and another one was green for a dusty kind of look. In the Kolkata portion, where we see lots of chandeliers and lamps in the frame, we added Bram Brown to make it more deep, dark and intense. We deliberately did this to have that feel. Now, for the portions when light was on in that area, we used another filter and one can immediately figure out the change. On the set itself, we could see the difference as the light was pretty much the same but the filter made it look the way we wanted. We were able to achieve this because a lot of pre-planning and discussion had already gone into it.

DSC0270For the interior night scenes, we basically used 1K Tungsten, 650s and 300s along with some torches and lanterns. But again, it was not a regular torch or lantern as we changed the intensity of the bulb and the battery connection. Since the power of that regular bulb was slightly less than what we were looking at, we changed its mechanism just to make it stronger and powerful. Besides, we used gem balls and china balls most of the time as they were the single soft lights that could be dimmed up or down according to our convenience and need.

Brief us about the lighting design specifically adopted for exterior shots.

While shooting exteriors, we always maintained fstop of 5.6 and it was constant throughout the film. It was tough because normally it doesn’t happen and we would compensate that with the filters to maintain the balance and consistency. But the cinematographer was extremely creative and I did learn a lot from him.

If you see the film and observe the Kolkata portion, there is a differentiation between two time periods i.e. the one before the light came in and another, after the light was there. The way he managed to do that changeover was absolutely mind blowing.

In terms of lighting setup, we used very minimal lights. We didn’t use any big or extra sources because the cinematographer was not convinced with that kind of a look and feel. He was very particular about the things that he wanted. While shooting snow sequences, where he needed the cloudy weather feel, we used to tie skimmers and nothing else.

DSC0257At some points, we did use mirrors depending upon the requirement and location of the scene.  There’s a temple sequence in the film where the light wasn’t sufficient  inside. So when the direction of the sun changed, in order to balance the lighting we employed mirrors to project light on to our characters and subject. But mostly, we shot with whatever daylight was available and used camera filters to balance that.

Please tell us about the treatment towards the long chase sequence in Lootera.

For the chase sequence in Dalhousie, we used around 150 skimmers to cover the whole street.  It took us six days to complete that particular chase sequence in Sadar bazaar area. That sequence was quite challenging.

There were few exterior night sequences in the film where you could almost see noise in the frame? Could you please talk a little bit about the approach towards those setups?

That was entirely the cinematographer’s call and what Director Vikramaditya had envisioned for the film. They believed what they did and wanted everything to look realistic. The cinematographer shot a lot of sequences with a single light source and didn’t want to add any additional light to make it visually appealing. Even if there is no light on the face of the characters while they are standing or walking, he wouldn’t bother about it.

He was very clear about his vision, which in fact helped me to understand things better. He doesn’t believe in making things chaotic and goes for smart diligent work.  If the desired effect can be achieved with a single light or bulb, he will use that only. It could be your torch, candle or street lamp but he will simulate for that source only.

In negative, normally if you use film stock 500 T then technically the light meter shows you 500 ISO and you set it, but our cinematographer used to underexpose it. He used to go 1600 ISO sometimes for few particular shots and for that you really need to have a strong conviction. People don’t agree to do this as it’s more of a danger zone but Mahendra Shetty loves to take risk. In Udaan also, he did the same thing and that was my main reason to do Lootera because I was really fond of his previous film.

Any references that you and your cinematographer worked with?

We had a discussion before the shooting and strictly decided that we don’t want to have any reference or copy anyone. The cinematographer was very clear from the start that people should not compare his film to any other film and this was something I really loved.


Camera : Arri

Lenses: Ultra Primes

Film Stock: Kodak