[A]mol Gole must be feeling like a magician at the moment, and the magic wand in his hand is a DSLR camera. After having shot successfully Amole Gupte’s Stanley Ka Dabba on a Canon 7D, he has gone on to shoot another Marathi film Gajjar on 7D and is now shooting a documentary on Canon 5D. The cinematographer talks about his discovery of the magic of DSLR a day before his film Stanley Ka Dabba hits the theatres…
Why is Stanley Ka Dabba shot on Canon 7D?
The film is shot on Canon 7D because the idea was to shoot the kids in the theatre and cinema sessions without causing any intrusion. The sessions were a regular activity and we were shooting them. We used a Canon 7D because the size was very small and we didn’t want to scare the kids.
So, how did the film come about?
Pata tha ki film banani hai (We knew we had to make the film). Amole sir had registered the screenplay way back in 2008. But we didn’t know where we were going. We shot it on 7D and then we tested how it looked on big screen. It gave a proper film like feel and so we decided to go ahead with it.
Was there any film shot on DSLR before that you drew inspiration from?
We had no precedent, nothing to draw inspiration from. Stanley Ka Dabba is the first Hindi film shot on a still digital camera. No one in our crew knew anything about it. Only our technical head was aware of such things happening in America. But I hadn’t seen any film shot on a DSLR.
What is the most interesting aspect of shooting Stanley Ka Dabba on Canon 7D?
Not a single light was used in the shooting of this film, it’s entirely shot in natural light. The amazing part of it is that 80-90% of the film is shot indoors. Also, the entire film has been shot with a handheld camera.
Canon 7D is a very small camera but it matches international standards. It can shoot 24 frames per second which makes the movie look like it has been shot on film. The visual quality is superb.
How would you sum up your experience as the cinematographer of Stanley Ka Dabba?
In Stanley Ka Dabba, the key aspect of the film is storytelling. In most other films, the focus of the cinematographer is on taking good shots and lighting of the film. Par log camera ke liye film dekhne nahi jaate (people don’t watch the film for its camerawork). Here, it’s all about telling the story well.
I also realized that a digital SLR camera is a beautiful medium to work with.
What are the advantages and the limitations of shooting a film on DSLR?
You can be adventurous and experimental with a DSLR. You don’t have to worry about the stocks. You can really get into the subject of the film. A limitation of shooting on DSLR is that you cannot shoot in slow motion, and the shots are jittery at times.
What is your advice for filmmakers wanting to shoot on DSLR?
One has to be very careful with the Digital Interface. If that goes wrong, it can easily make it look like a digital film.
Please elaborate on the Digital Interface.
This is related to the process of post production of a film. Normally, after shooting on film, the film is scanned and then color corrected. For a movie shot on a digital camera, the process of color correction is very important. The quality of the movie can be really improved during this process, although it doesn’t offer a color range as wide as when it is shot on film. A baselight or a resolve machine is used for color correction.
How is sound recorded in a DSLR?
We had to record sound separately and then sync it. Dubbing was not an option as it was a children’s film.
How do you see the future of shooting films on DSLR?
It’s going to be big in the time to come. What difference a digital still camera can make, you will come to know when you watch the film. My Marathi film Gajjar has also been shot on Canon 7D.
So was Gajjar before Stanley Ka Dabba?
No, I started shooting it after Stanley. But it released a week before Stanley Ka Dabba.
Any particular scene from the film Stanley Ka Dabba you are fond of?
Yes, the vada pav scene. When one kid opens his dabba and teacher bhukkad (Amole Gupte) walks in and smells vada pav…that is a hilarious scene.
Tell us about your background.
I have been a publicity photographer for films for the last five years. Some films that I have worked on are Delhi 6, Mangal Pandey and Taare Zameen Par. Stanley Ka Dabba is my first feature film as a cinematographer.
Tell us about your association with Amole Gupte.
I was supposed to assist Amole sir on Taare Zameen Par. But when the film began, I took to publicity photography which I had been doing for some time. Then I did the camera for Nero’s Guests. (Nero’s Guests is a documentary directed by Amole Gupte’s wife Deepa Bhatia.) That was when Amole sir noticed me. Then I was supposed to work with him on a project that he was planning but it did not materialize due to date issues with actors. And then Stanley happened and Amole sir told me that I would do the camera for the film.
Amole sir is a very learned filmmaker. To work with him was like unlearning what I had learnt in my career as a publicity photographer, spanning 5-6 years.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a 3-D film which will be shot on Canon 5D. I’m also working with Amole sir on his next project.