From Omkara to Kaminey

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By Tassaduq Hussain on the darkness of one & the shades of another PRATIM D. GUPTA
  • Published 16.04.09
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After shooting Omkara (set in Meerut), American Film Institute graduate Tassaduq Hussain is ready with his second film — Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kaminey, starring Shahid Kapur and Priyanka Chopra. t2 caught up with the cinematographer...

Why haven’t you shot anything after Omkara?

Not too many exciting movies came my way. And the ones which did come my way, didn’t work out. Also, I felt like taking a break. Then I was travelling and there were things to be dealt with. I shot a few commercials. Movies need emotional investment; unless it’s a project you really want to do, it doesn’t make sense.

But you didn’t go back to the US because of Bollywood...

I did go back. I shot a little stuff here and there. See the kind of work which is offered to me here is a lot more exciting than the quality of work I get offered there. There, I may get a pilot to shoot or a small independent film. I did go back and I plan to work on and off in both places.

Were you just waiting for Vishal Bhardwaj to start his next film?

Hmmm... not really, no. We did speak about it. I was, in fact, about to shoot his other production Ishkiyan. Then Kaminey happened and both the projects were to be shot at the same time. Finally I got down to shooting Kaminey. I really enjoy working with Vishal. It’s exciting, it’s fun always.

Omkara was widely appreciated but there were people who found the cinematography too dark...

I was rather very pleased with the way the film’s images were received. Yes there was a question over the film’s style and the overwhelming darkness. I guess one reason for that may be that people are not used to such a look. At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice. Maybe when I get older and my eyes weaken a little, I can ask: “Why did I light those scenes like that?” But right now I am interested in low luminous lighting. I am interested in lighting a scene the way the eye sees it. It’s very exciting to me and I am sure it can be boring and banal to someone else. But lots of people took to it and enjoyed it.

Kaminey is said to be diametrically opposite in feel and tone to Omkara. What was it for you?

See, for me, it was a completely different film in terms of aesthetics. Omkara was a very controlled film... static shots and well-planned block frames. Kaminey was more about reacting to what was happening on the sets. The whole film was handheld and very hectic. The whole visual aesthetics was very different and that was the challenging bit. In many ways, it was invigorating to shoot the film like that.

What is the Mumbai that you have tried to capture in the film?

Kaminey is a complete fantasy film. It’s shot throughout in Mumbai. But since it’s a Vishal Bhardwaj film, he has again been able to create this alternate parallel universe, mixing things from the real world with things taken from here and there. So finally the spaces and characters that emerge exist in a continuum which don’t exist but you believe they exist.

You had a certain plan for every actor you shot in Omkara. Have you done the same for Shahid and Priyanka in Kaminey?

The story is about two identical brothers (played by Shahid). So I have tried to shoot them differently... in terms of contouring and shooting the face. If you use a certain source on one brother and a different source for the other brother, their character would come out differently. So, the approach to lighting is very different for the two brothers. I didn’t really have a strategy to light Priyanka. I would light up the space and then let the light fall off naturally as it falls off. The actors sometimes complain that there’s not enough light on their face and the eyes are not expressive enough. But that’s the school I come from.