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Journey behind the camera

chandigarh Updated: Feb 17, 2014 13:06 IST
Navleen Kaur Lakhi

He might be making his directorial debut in Bollywood now, but his cinematography debut happened more than a decade ago. From debuting as a cinematographer with Shahid Kapoor’s debut film Ishq Vishq, to handling the camera for the critically acclaimed Sarkar Raj, Amit Roy, 40, has been around the scene for a while now, and interestingly, is also known for his ad films. When you meet him on a day when he has the director’s hat on, for, he plays a kind host.

Recalling his journey, he says, “I grew up in Delhi and shifted to Mumbai in 1997. I never studied films; I’m a literature student from Delhi University. I always wanted to be a director, and was highly influenced by Satyajit Ray and Roman Polanski; both of them were proficient in each and every department of filmmaking.”

Finally, Amit shifted to Mumbai to become a director. “I started looking for work and ended up handling the camera as a stopgap arrangement for Bombay Boys in 1997. One thing sort of led to another and I kept exploring cinematography. Director Ken Ghosh saw something in me and offered Ishq Vishq.”

From then till now, Amit has shot about a dozen films, 500 ad films and directed about 50 ad films. “I have done a lot of films for Just Dial with Mr Bachchan. I was going with the flow and enjoying myself thoroughly. When we were shooting for Sarkar Raj, Ramu ji sensed it and told me I’d make for a good director someday. Sarkar Raj changed my life drastically. After it released, I was being offered four films per week; though I took up none of them. The film made an impact in terms of mainstream cinematography, as it was dark.”

Talking about what made him take cinematography to another level, he says, “Till now, I was apprehensive about where it’s going to take me. It was a violent reaction to the way Bollywood was treating its cinematographers — how Bollywood just wanted cinematographers to make all actors look pretty and lush. For me, the function of cinematography is to create a moment, besides lending a certain mood to scenes. If you notice Bollywood’s cinematography from 1995 to 2005, every film looks the same, with a certain kind of lighting. It was revolting!”

Roy then went on to win Big B’s heart. “In Sarkar Raj, Abhishek Bachchan comes to meet Amitabh ji in prison. I shot the scene in a way that I thought would enhance the mood. But, when Bachchan ji saw the scene, he thought there isn’t enough light on the face, and he told Ramu ji (Ram Gopal Verma) about the same. Ramu ji backed me up and told him to have faith in me. Two years later, Amit ji, being incredibly generous as he is, called me and said that the performance in the scene was bettered because of the lighting,” recalls Roy.

The idea of finally directing his own film came about when he was shooting Dum Maro Dum. Roy says, “I started exploring different scripts and I came across scriptwriter Navjot Gulati, who had this idea. We explored the idea further and co-wrote the screenplay. Luckily for us, today Indian cinema is allowing such scripts.”

The hands-on producer

He doesn’t need a chair or a ‘decent’ place to sit for a conversation. Walking through a narrow lane and holding a masala chai seems to be the perfect setting. This ‘hands-on producer’ considers himself to be different than the ‘cheque katne wale producer’. Shoojit Sircar’s partner Ronnie Lahiri then tells us about the intensity that Madras Café lent to his personality. “Madcras Café was too serious; we needed a break.

Those two hours were intense for you, imagine the one year that we spent filming it. With we are introducing a lot of fresh faces from Punjab. One of the main sardar actors, Arshdeep Bajwa, is from Jalandhar.”

Ronnie, who was in Punjab during the shoot, says, “I enjoy being on the sets. I think of myself as a creative producer, not just a producer. Also, Shoojit gives me a free hand in music; my creative juices find an outlet there. A lot of my friends belong to the music background. Rum Rum Whisky came about while jamming with Abhishek and Akshay, who is doing four songs for this film as well. Papon will be composing music for this one, his first for Bollywood.”

Ronnie is also quite glad about the current status of Hindi cinema. He says, “Most of the filmmakers are from outside. Earlier, people from Mumbai were making films. Now, Anurag (Kashyap) is from UP, Shoojit and I have stayed in Delhi, Anurag Basu is from Bengal. We have seen these cultures, that’s how our characters are authentic. It’s a very democratic kind of industry, as long as you know what you are doing,” says he.

Ronnie, however, isn’t a believer of the Rs 100 crore club. He says, “The biggest satisfaction is earning appreciation for your film; as long as it recovers the money and doesn’t disappoint people.”

Next on his cards is a film about constipation. “Currently, Juhi (Chaturvedi) is writing it and we are waiting for her to hand us the script.”