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By Tollywood's changing look KUSHALI NAG AND MOHUA DAS in Austria
  • Published 7.08.09

Seven ways how our films, both commercial and offbeat, are changing for the better, bit by bit

1) Eye spy

New cameras, new lenses, new shot-taking styles and, of course, new cinematographers. Hiring Mumbai cameramen, with some Bolly work on their CVs, is the rage. There’s been Somak Mukherjee (DoP of Black & White and Ugly Aur Pagli) for Challenge, Kumud Verma (Devdas, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...) for Saat Pake Bandha and Prem Aamar, Barun Mukherjee (DoP of Baghban and Baabul) for Dwando...

“Since they have the experience of working in big Bollywood films, it makes a lot of difference,” says Mahendra Soni of Shree Venkatesh Films. The idea of Barun Mukherjee steering the camera for Dwando was to give “an international feel to a regional film”, says director Suman Ghosh.

To capture the “attitude of the Bengali rock movement”, cinematographer Indranil Mukherjee shot 90 per cent of Anjan Dutt’s Madly Bangalee with a hand-held camera. “Both Madly Bangalee and The Bong Connection were shot with a Super 16 camera. When blown up, the visuals show grains giving a documentary feel,” he explains.


Raj Chakraborty used a 435 Arri Scope camera to shoot Challenge, an improvement on the Arri 3 camera usually used in Bengali films. For the songs, he used a Super 35 camera for “a better effect”. “But for my forthcoming film Prem Aamar, I have used Hawk lens, a more advanced version. It enhances the quality of a film several times,” he says.

Editor-turned-director Mainak Bhaumik is planning to use two different camera techniques in his upcoming movie Maach Misti & More... to highlight the divide between GenX and GenEx. “I like the pop art look, which feels real. So I am stressing on blues and greens and everything that looks bright and colourful,” says the Aamra director.

Bappaditya Bandyopadhyay has shot Houseful, starring Prosenjit, on both celluloid and digital formats. “This is the first time I am attempting a mix format film. The two parts have two different textures and colour tones as it’s a film-within-a-film. The treatment is a big departure for me,” says Bappaditya.


2) Special effects

Expensive post-production work, like colour correction with DI (digital intermediate) and special effects, is something several producers now want to indulge in. It lends the bright, glossy texture.

Or, you could get the grunge, grainy feel of Madly Bangalee. “We’ve used DI in Madly Bangalee to tweak the colours and tone it down for a warm feel. It’s also high contrast and gritty in places where we’ve filmed the bustee or the banks of Hooghly,” says Indranil.


Shree Venkatesh Films has forked out a handsome amount to get Poran Jai Joliya Re polished at the Mumbai-based Futureworks Media, which has done the post-production for Aladin, Aa Dekhen Zara and 8X10 Tasveer.

“We have done VFX and DI for Poran Jai. A lot of visual effects went into the starting shots when the credits roll,” says Abhishek De, creative director, Futureworks.

The editing style is changing to make the films crisp and, often, racy. For that, there are editors from parallel films like Rabiranjan Moitra (Mr & Mrs Iyer, Saanjhbatir Roopkathara, Kaler Rakhal, Eklavya) to help out.

“I am trying to get out of the cliches. For example, if there’s a scene where the hero says ‘yes’ and then nods, I have deleted the ‘yes’ and retained only the nod. It becomes sleek and also leaves a little to the audience’s imagination,” says Moitra, who has snipped Chirodini... Tumi Je Aamar, Challenge, Saat Pake Bandha and Poran Jai.


3) Foreign flavour

Foreign locations, even two-three years ago, meant a few dream song sequences in Singapore with the iconic Merlion statue staring into the camera. Now, the makers try to work it into the story. So, you’ve the heroine in Poran Jai living and romancing the hero in Malaysia.

Also, many are willing to think beyond Singapore. So, there’s Malaysia, Dubai, Hong Kong. Says producer Ashok Dhanuka, who took his Bhalobasha Bhalobasha as far as Austria: “People are tired of watching Singapore. Besides, we have to compete with Bollywood. That’s why we headed for Austria. It’s not very expensive. You get package deals to shoot in such places.”

Closer home, it’s Ladakh that has caught Tollywood’s eye of late. The reason? “It’s virgin territory for us,” says Raj, who will shoot Prem Aamar there.

4) Backdrop matters

Having assisted Bolly filmmaker Vikram Bhatt, Sujit Mondal was very sure of the look he wanted in Saat Pake Bandha. “It had to be unlike any Tollywood film. I even took care of what the junior artistes would wear. We avoided colours like yellow, maroon, red and pink which could overshadow the main characters.”

Anjan Dutt chooses to stay away from studios and shoot on location for a real-life feel. “I hate working in studios. Calcutta comes out in all my films because I shoot in real locations. Besides, within our kind of budget it’s hard to afford lavish sets,” says Dutt.


For filmmakers tired of the dowdy sets in Tollygunge studios, Ramoji Rao Film City in Hyderabad is a favourite. A few, though, are preferring to give Hyderabad a miss. The novelty is wearing off.

“There’s nothing new about the sets in Hyderabad,” says Chokher Bali art director Indranil Ghosh, who has turned to designing for commercial films. “I created railway quarters for Prem Aamar at Aurora Studio. In such cases, maintaining the authenticity of the location is of utmost importance. We collect pictures, visit real locations and try to replicate that.”

To create the opulent urban look in Antaheen, director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury got Malay Bhattacharya to do the production design — a new concept in Tollywood. “The production designer’s job is to determine the look of a film — the colour, the props, the nature of shots and the ambience. The director imagines his film, we give it a visual shape,” Malay told t2.


5) Moves and music

Salsa-samba steps, phirang women for co-dancers, and foot-tapping sounds.... Hear it from Jeet Gannguli, the composer of chartbuster Bhojo Gourango: “I sit with the director and producer to make sure that the songs are not a force fit. The tone of a film dictates the genre, punch and vibe in the music.” Musically, Jeet likes to create different sounds and patterns with guitars, darbouka, mouth organs and French horns.

For his ceetee-triggering moves with a bevy of blondes and brunettes in Challenge, Dev has only Shankar (as he is known in the industry) to thank. The choreographer from Chennai — he did the steps for Major Saab and Tere Mere Sapne — is currently the most sought after “dance director” in Tollywood. His Tolly CV includes Challenge, Bhalobasha Bhalobasha, Poran Jai, Prem Aamar, Dujone. “The songs determine the steps. I try to incorporate classical, folk, salsa and samba moves. It’s important for the moves to match the character,” says Shankar, who also choreographs for Tamil, Telugu and Punjabi films.

“I dance regularly and I like picking up difficult steps. I am also aware that I have to maintain a lean look. A hero has to look macho and handsome at the same time,” says Dev, whose dancing feet have won him a great number of fans.

6) Wardrobe wows

“Look at Swastika!” says Suchismita Dasgupta, who started designing costumes for films with Bibar. “She cut her hair and went in for a complete makeover for 033 (yet to release). It was unthinkable even five years ago! Actors are more serious about fashion now. Earlier, people would just depend on the dressers or opt for a kitschy look with lots of beads, sequins and no particular style,” says the designer who also created Rituparna Sengupta’s itsy-bitsy clothes in Trishna.

Designer Agnimitra Paul agrees: “Now a lot of importance is being given to costumes. Most films have a designer. Some directors also insist on a look test before they start shooting. Actors are more conscious about looking good, on or off screen.”

Agnimitra’s recent assignments include Poran Jai, Shukno Lanka and Handa Bhonda. “I design the entire look of the character. Otherwise, their hair, accessories and shoes don’t match. The director briefs me and then I study the character.... I gave Subhashree hot pants, mini skirts and short dresses in Poran Jai,” she adds.

Subhashree, on her part, hit the gym to shed a few kilos and look trendy in Agnimitra’s designs.

“The audience’s tastes have changed. Earlier they would appreciate Suchitra Sen in a sari. But now even a sari can be of very body-hugging material and if the actress isn’t lean she won’t be able to carry the look,” says Koel Mullick.

As an instance of the looks-conscious breed, there’s Jeet who got his ears pierced to wear studs and play the part of Anthony Gomes in Neel Akasher Chandni.

7) Promotion pitch

To make the billboards and posters eye-catching, producers get their lead pair to do special shoots, instead of blowing up working stills. The cast is asked to help push the film. You will spot them everywhere — on TV channels, in coffee shops, on college campuses — days before the film release. A gimmick or two comes in handy too. (Example: hero kisses heroine in public and director walks out in protest!)

But the most significant change has been in the budget. “Earlier, one didn’t spend even 10 per cent of the budget on a film’s promotion. Now, it has gone up to 25 per cent,” says Arindam Sil, executive producer for The Bong Connection, Brakefail, 033 and Shukno Lanka.

The number of billboards and posters has gone up too, thanks to clever corporate tie-ups. Companies like Shrachi, Patton or Anjali Jewellers are stepping in to share billboards with films. Case in point: Tintorettor Jishu and Brakefail.