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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

HIndie Awards 2017: Best Cinematography

Best Cinematography

After all it's called cinema.

A visual medium bar none, cinema demands visuals that not only stun, excite and attract but at times make meaning of things that are neither said nor easily seen.

From lighting to angles, every part of the work revolved around engaging our visual tastebuds must not only look good and real but also make a wider sense in terms of content.

To some it may seem with the advent of minimal skill and technology that cinematography is becoming an easier or lazier job, but that couldn't be anymore wrong.

Yes some films this year looked absolutely stunning and nothing else.

Yes it has increasingly become obvious that there aren't many innovative ways to show things on screen as there aren't innovative plots on the horizon, to be frank originality in cinema is a myth.

But that doesn't excuse the fact that shooting and visually creating a film is a hell of a difficult job when the actual vision is never even yours to begin with.

So to these cinematographers and more...

Honourable Mentions:

Manu Anand for Fan-Playing between cool and warm lighting, fan makes a case for the inherent duality between its two protagonists and how their merger creates for an identity clash that is wary of the meta commentary at the centre of the film. Barring the overtly silly thriller elements, it is the camera work that probes deeper into the psychological message of the film as well as the persona that is Shah Rukh Khan.

Setu for Dangal-It takes finesse to present a sports film with an absolute rustic appeal as well as slick professionalism and create a subtle scope of change between both worlds. Dangal's cinematography is equally earthy in its earlier portions and a dazzle when the fight scenes hit, allowing for edge of the seat thrills.

Rajeev Ravi for Udta Punjab-Rajeev Ravi being in the honourable mentions section says a lot about our five contenders, yet Punjab's exotic beauty is not only captured with utter pride but the grim and grit behind it is equally played up with ease. More importantly is how like the sound and edit, the visuals create a nice tenuous link between its lead protagonists, bringing their story to their grungy looking violent end.

And now for the nominees...

Satya Rai Nagpaul for Aligarh

There's a quaint yet moody textured feel to how Aligarh is captured, a sense of constant isolation represented within the most wonderful of singular shots of characters specifically of Bajpayee's Professor Siras, even aptly framed at a distance in two/three shots with other actors; like he doesn't belong.

Then at the juxtapose to that is the compact and concrete structure of Aligarh itself, a place and a character of great depth where peering eyes are not far behind and the freedom to do so as one wishes isn't there.

One of the finest moments of the film is when two love making scenes play parallel to one another; the first is a flashback to Siras and his lover, a young rickshaw puller. The other scene is of Deepu and his attractive female boss. Both scenes are well structured and framed, while the former takes place in low lit interiors, the other is framed wide in open exteriors with the bright night sky above. A clear indication of the difference in expression of freedom of both forms of love.

The loneliness, the judgment and the openness all reflect well in the sober and moody hues, creating narrative magic.

Jay Oza for Raman Raghav 2.0

Instead of picking the far grandeous Rajeev Ravi [who was probably also busy with his feature Malyalam directorial debut], with his latest small gritty thriller; Kashyap turns to a young hungry Jay Oza.

And what a choice it is.

Oza imbibes the very ruptured psychology of the characters into a film that on the surface may seem typically dark and brooding, but unravels a myriad of complexities. The camera lingers on Ramanna and Raghavan, building what is essentially a myth of its characters.

There's no extravagance to play on the mind, rather the shades are subtle providing for an absolute sense of realism that just transcends the horror of the sequences and creates for the dour mood, that most complained about but is very much in line with the films harsh realities of evil lurking everywhere.

Mitesh Mirchandani for Neerja

How many times can I speak of Neerja's unrelenting method of creating confinement when it comes to the films cinematic appeal.

Well I shall try again, much of the film as is known takes place within the Pan Am flight that was hijacked and in that sense the cinematography more than all else is about movement, about building tension through action.

This is done so with rhythmic beauty as we chase the characters across the narrow spaces and the camera often finds itself sticking close to the faces of its victims and villains and more importantly its central hero.

One of the nice games pulled off, is in the soft focus the film presents much of Neerja's early escapades as well as the final speech/heroic salute scenes and the tense closes of Neerja struggling with the situation in hand. It's in contrast to the hard darkness reflected in scenes with the terrorists and their actions through the stopped flight.

The cinematography at a level speaks both of the difference in violence and heroics, pulling off a cathartic film about hope and right.

Russell Carpenter for Parched

While Rajasthan is typically presented in all its blazing glory, with the authentic India matching a land of exotica; it is in the interiority of characters where a veteran like Carpenter shines.

It isn't at all surprising that the man who shot probably shot one of the most tender yet erotic scenes in cinema from Titanic, captures that very intensity and humanity ten fold with the characters of Parched. There is a genuine feel that visuals evoke of the pains of their protagonists.

The pronounced pathos of Rani, Lajjo and Bijlee is aptly captured in each characters setting through smartly lit and framed shots. For Rani, this means the wonderful echo of emptiness in love with frames of her stark alone, for Lajjo these are the scenes Parched by a barren womb as lighting brings color of browns and Bijlee's scenes sparkle as the emptiness of her eyes are painted with affection.

The fondness of larger spaces that allow the women to be and the crowded village, designed with a touch of compression illiciting judgement. To the empty nights and warm togetherness of character, framed close with a sense of intimacy.

Carpenter doesn't just make you see Rajasthan like most have done, he makes you feel it; feel the village; feel the characters and their situation. He makes you feel. Is that not what cinema is meant to be after all?

Jayakrishna Gummadi for Phobia

The haunting specter catching Mehek by the throat in Phobia is not her actual fears but the camera itself.

As is typical with most horror films regardless of narrative, the cliche is for the camera to stick close; illicit fear through the claustrophobia of the framing. However in Phobia, Gummadi takes special care of what the character is about and what the film is saying.

So we go wide, we open up despite being confined to one setting. We see how the open spaces are affecting our protagonists. How the fish eye lens crams the outside world into one door hole and how that ironically creates the scariness of a wider world.

How everything goes batshit crazy with alluring lighting playing up the haunting aspects of normal life.

Fear is in our day to day rather than the ethereal and Phobia does well to visualize this and stimulate.

And the Winner is...

Russell Carpenter for Parched!!!

The Big Hollywood man scores the win and Parched gets a second, so that's that for the technical awards!

Up Next: The HIndie Indian film awards, don't call them regional and surprise surprise, we start with the technical section :D

'Nuff Said, 

Aneesh Raikundalia

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