As a child what were your early influences towards cinema?
My father used to get DVD’s of international films to watch on our DVD player during my early teens. I was exposed to a lot of world cinema classics then.
I clearly remember watching Amores Perros and a certain visual intangibility about the film resonated with me. Thats when I wanted to pursue the image.
Before Amores Perros the 2 films that lived with me were James Cameron’s Titanic and Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se.
How did you first become interested in cinematography? Did you start with photography?
I accidentally did the reverse.
I explored moving images with a friends borrowed 3CCD camera and learned to edit.
Infact I did a photography project in college using a camcorder to record video and then took frame grabs from premier to submit the photographs.
Needless to say, the professor involved wasn’t impressed.
What steps did you take to train yourself?
I graduated from Wilson College doing the bachelor of mass media course and made numerous student films then. After which I got selected for SRFTI and trained to be a cinematographer.
I also attended FilmArt’s Interdoc Masterclass two years in a row in Serbia where I shot a documentary project. Alongside I assisted numerous cinematographers with different styles before becoming independent.
Have you assisted anyone? How does it help one?
Yes I have assisted a plethora of Indian and International DPs.
My longest stint of apprenticeship was under ISC member Manoj Lobo.
One of my early learnings was discipline in the craft. Our industry requires attention to detail and discipline in our approach alongside being artists.
I was blessed to have a mentor that guided and encouraged me to back my eye and explore the image.
How did your first film project come about?
Another happy accident.
I was shooting an ad film where Yami Gautam was the brand ambassador. We ended up chatting about what kind of films inspire me. She was kind enough to refer me to the director and producer of a film that sounded like it was up my alley, and as serendipity had it I was called for “Baramulla”.
What is perhaps the most important factor for you to choose a script?
When it comes to a film script I strongly back my personal instincts.
I try to render the script for what is its core and not get distracted with the other peripheries that surround it. I look for a script that I can resonate with and something that excites me.
Is cinematography intuitive or is it something you learn?
A bit of both, simultaneously.
Tell us something about your latest film.
Baramulla is a supernatural thriller that intertwines horror and fast paced action with historical and contemporary Kashmiri issues and tries to deconstruct the most unique and fascinating side of the stunningly beautiful valley of Kashmir.
Where do you seek inspiration from?
Sports and Art.
They both uphold the human spirit for me.
What is in the kitty right now?
Reading a few potential long format scripts while actively working on my advertising projects.
What’s your dream project?
My next film.
Your most memorable blunder?
I was called to shoot an ad film straight after graduating from film school by a well established filmmaker.
I shot that film on a camera system I was unfamiliar with and accidentally kept the project frame rate to 24 instead of 25.
While this got easily fixed on post I promised myself to never be technically inadequate again.
Any advice to the inspiring cinematographers?
Draw up your lighting diagrams and make your notes after every shoot day on set.
It’s the only way to quantify magic.
Quoting The Prestige (2006) – “The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything.”