Manoj Bajpayee’s upcoming movie, Chittagong, not only revisits history, but also uses a path-breaking technology invented by its director Bedabrata Pain.
Inducted into the US Space Technology Hall of Fame, Bedabrata was a senior NASA scientist for 15 years, till 2008. He, along with other scientists, developed the active pixel sensor technology that allowed bundles of light(photons) to be converted into a digital representation in a single chip and produced the world’s smallest camera.
“It was a single chip camera or a digital camera-on-a-chip. Today, cell phone cameras are smaller, but in 1995, it was a revolutionary invention, and our imaging technology was the base for the digital camera revolution that followed,” says the filmmaker. He recalls that back in the ’90s, when he’d predicted that future of cinema was going to be digital, everyone had laughed at him, including the higher-ups at Kodak Films who had monopoly over film and no intentions of following the digital imaging bus.
While it wasn’t possible for the filmmaker to use the single chip camera that’s in NASA’s safe custody after it was stolen from the lab (it was later recovered), Bedabrata has shot his first feature using the technology he invented.
“We filmed Chittagong using a red digital camera. It helped me get the tender look I’d visualised. The film revolves around a 14-year-old freedom fighter, so I wanted soft-focus lighting and a shallow field to convey the simple world of a child,” he says.
In 2008, three companies had been willing to fund Bedabrata’s directorial debut. The film was to roll in January 2009, but then recession struck and the film was on hold. “I finally financed it with the royalty I got from the technology I had patented. After a long legal battle, California Institute of Technology was able to settle with several major camera companies that were using our technology. My share of the royalty — in fact every cent I own — has been put into this film. So you could say that Chittagong has been produced, literally, by the active pixel sensor technology,” concludes Pain.