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  • Published 24.12.11

Autograph, Noukadubi, 22shey Srabon, Aarekti Premer Galpo.... All these films that have made the urban audience go back to the theatres over and over again have one common factor — Soumik Haldar, director of photography. A t2 chat with the dynamic mind behind the camera.

You are now a sought-after DoP in town. Almost all top directors are willing to adjust their dates to get you on board...

That’s not entirely true, but some directors do consult me before scheduling their projects. And since I love working with them, I try to adjust my dates to suit them too. But sometimes dates do clash and then someone or the other feels let down. For instance, I could not accommodate your dates though I do want to work with you. Cross Connection was a great experience and I am waiting to repeat it.

How did you start out as a cinematographer and how have you achieved so much in such a short span?

It’s not as short as you think! I started working towards a film career way back in 1995-96 when I was still in college. I loved watching films when I was young and wanted to be a part of the film industry. I did my B.Sc in Pass course so that I could wrap up my studies fast and move towards a film career. In 1995-96, Amit Sen and Anik Dutta, the ad filmmakers, let me work with them. I was not in the camera section then; I helped out in the direction and production departments. But photography fascinated me. Amitda told me to do still photography, because what you see through the lens is important. I followed his advice. This helped me develop my sense of framing.

How did you get into cinematography?

The usual way. I sat for the FTII Pune entrance examination and got admitted in 1997. There, I realised what a great feat it was. Everyone kept telling me that it was a great opportunity. So much so that my mom, who was not quite aware of this profession and therefore sceptical about it, was also impressed. Before I left for FTII, she told me, ‘You have got into this institute and I am proud of you. You must study hard and not waste time watching too many films’. I am sorry Ma, I could not follow this piece of advice!

What inspired you to venture into this field?

The films Parinda and Raakh. I fell in love with films while still in school. I followed film news and got to know about FTII through interviews given by Mithun Chakraborty and Shatrughan Sinha. Then Amitda helped me decide. It was a Zenith camera that taught me how to look at things differently. And black-and-white photography helped me understand the tonal separation. In 1995-96, I spent a month watching films at Max Mueller Bhavan. They celebrated 100 years of cinema screening films from the silent era to the present. At FTII, I came in touch with photographer Hari Nair. He took me on as an assistant while shooting Shool; that was when I felt drawn to the mainstream genre.

What did you do after graduating from FTII?

I came back to Calcutta and assisted (cinematographer) Avik Mukhopadhyay. I was his chief assistant for the film Patalghar. That was an experience! I learnt so much from the film.... In 2001 I started getting some independent work. I did a couple of telefilms, and then came the big break. Chinku, that is Indranil Ghosh the art director, who had become a friend during Patalghar, took me to Bratya Basu. He was making his first film Raasta and he took me on as his director of photography. But my really big time came after I got married in 2007.

So, marriage ushered Lakshmi in?

And Saraswati too. I started getting one film after another. I did Lovesongs with Jayabrato Chatterjee, Lal Paharir Katha with choreographer-turned-director Remo, and was noticed by both Prosenjit and Rituparno Ghosh. And the rest is history. I also shot Ami Adu, the National Award-winning film by Somnath Gupta.

Your association with Rituparno Ghosh and Srijit Mukherji has got you some of your critically acclaimed work...

Yes, Rituda and Srijit’s films have brought me into the limelight recently, and I am grateful to both. But the man whom I must acknowledge is Bumbada (Prosenjit). He was instrumental in getting Rituda and me together. As for Srijit’s film, Bumbada called and told me that there was an excellent script and I should work with Srijit. And Autograph happened....

How has your mom taken to your success?

Obviously, she is happy and proud. But she still can’t quite fathom how watching films has given me the success I have achieved! But I regret that my dad did not live long enough to see my success. He was a great support.

You mentioned marriage, luck and success in the same breath...

Surprisingly, I started getting a lot of work after marriage. Also, critical acclaim. Sudipa (wife) is also my strongest critic. I am still striving to satisfy her through my work. I am waiting for the day when she will say my work is good. Unconditionally.

What are your upcoming projects?

Atanu Ghosh’s Ek Phaali Rod, Srijit Mukherji’s untitled film, Rituparno Ghosh’s docu-fiction on Rabindranath, Arindam Sil’s directorial debut Aborto and Sayantan Mukherjee’s Antar (produced by Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Rudranil Ghosh).