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Cinematographer’s choice

I remember the first time I saw Santosh Sivan’s early work. “Who is this guy?” I asked. I got the same feeling when I saw Tassaduq Hussain’s work in Omkara. I think he’s the most outstanding cameraman today, writes Ravi K Chandran.

india Updated: Jul 28, 2009 21:14 IST

Ravi K Chandran, arguably India’s best DoP (Director of Photography) picks his cameramen

I remember the first time I saw Santosh Sivan’s early work. “Who is this guy?” I asked. I got the same feeling when I saw Tassaduq Hussain’s work in Omkara. I think he’s the most outstanding cameraman today.

What I like best is that his angles are very dynamic, yet he’s not merely showing off. And he tells the story well — which is the most important thing. Another DoP to watch out for is Vikas Nawlaka, who assisted me on Yuva and Black and is now working on Rocket Singh. He’s very good, very focused.

If I’m in a spot, I’d call up Vikas. Or Shanu Verghese, who’s currently shooting Karthik Calling Karthik. Like Vikas, Shanu is technically very sound. Then there’s Ayananka Bose (Tashan, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom) whose work I really liked in Dostana. It’s ultra-glamorous with dramatic, high-key lighting — and it’s great for commercial cinema.

Tassaduq Hussain

The DoP of Omkara and Kaminey believes a cinematographer should know when to step back

Before he landed that plum assignment — Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara — no one in Bollywood had heard of him. He had absolutely no experience in Hindi films; just a few short films and work for music videos and commercials in the US.

But Vishal Bhardwaj liked his work. And that was enough. “Vishal truly has guts of steel. He picked me, an unknown, for what was such a big film for him,” says Hussain. “I know some people did try to dissuade him, but he stuck to his guns.”

So what drew Hussain to the tumult of Bollywood after years in the US of A? In a distinctly American accent, Hussain insists: “I grew up on a completely desi diet of Hindi films, not Kieslowski or East European cinema. Hindi cinema defines my professional sensibilities, even if my complete aesthetic draws from various influences.”

Omkara, he says, made the transition and his job easy. “There was so much richness, such a strong flavour in the script, I thought it was best to step back as a cinematographer. It’s only when a story is weak that you have to resort to flashy cinematography.” The exacting Bharadwaj, known to be a hard taskmaster, was evidently pleased — Hussain was handed his next, Kaminey.

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