The Hindi film Dharm, which will premiere at the 60th Cannes Film Festival beginning May 16, was shot with high-definition (HD) technology and represents a breakthrough for Indian cinema, says cinematographer S Nallamuthu proudly.
The film was shot with a second-hand camera and the lenses were hired from Britain, added Nallamuthu, known as Nalla, who takes pride in calling himself India's first HD cinematographer.
Dharm, which is about misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religion, will be showcased as the closing film of the 'Cinemas of the World' section at the festival.<b1>
"High-definition is a new technology and is not so popular in India. I am the first one (in India) to shoot a film with HD and I learnt it through my own research," Nallamuthu, known as Nalla, told IANS in an interview.
"When we started shooting Dharm there weren't any HD video cameras available in the country. I shot it with a second-hand HD camera bought by a Bangalore-based guy and we had to borrow lenses from Britain since it was not available in India at that time," he added.
Dharm has many firsts. The film is also journalist-turned-filmmaker Bhavana Talwar's directorial debut. It stars Pankaj Kapur and his wife Supriya Pathak and has been shot in Benaras.
"Pankaj plays a staunch Brahmin who adopts a Muslim boy dropped at his doorstep by a Muslim woman," said Nalla, who is an alumna of Chennai Film Institute.
HD video generally refers to any video system of higher resolution than standard-definition (SD). The format is widely used in the US and Britain but is still in its nascent stage in India.
"We have shot most of the film in the night with all lamps on high definition and then converted into a 35 mm for its international theatrical release. The major risk in shooting in HD format is that when you blow it up in 35 mm, it gets distorted. <b2>
"But Dharm has turned out so well that you can't see a single grain in the final print," said an overjoyed Nalla.
The cinematographer says that even though HD is a relatively new technology for India with few facilities available for post-production and film conversion, Dharm has been able to achieve international technical quality standards. The conversion from HD to 35mm for the film was done at Prasad Studios in Mumbai.
"Quality-wise this medium is extremely good and is much cheaper too. National Geography and Discovery are completely hooked on this.
"But it is not so popular in India. There are hardly two or three HD cameras available in the country. And I don't think any film institute is providing training in it," he said.
Though Dharm is Nalla's first Hindi film, he has shot four other projects on the same format for international television. This included an hour-long documentary on Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and a travel documentary that explores Maharashtra aboard the luxurious Deccan Odyssey train for US television.
"I also shot a television series for British TV called Mumbai Calling on HD," he said.
Nalla has worked on some of the country's premier television shows - environment series Living on the Edge, and travel shows like The Great Escape and Off the Beaten Path.
As a freelancer cinematographer, he has worked with renowned names in international documentary and broadcast filmmaking like Allan McKeown, David Malone and Rob Mc Bride.<b3>
"Though in India this new technology hasn't got recognition yet, Hollywood people are turning towards it. In fact, they are coming here to shoot with HD because the post-production is much cheaper here."
Some Hollywood films shot on HD are Apocalypto, Sin City, Collateral and Superman Returns.
"The biggest drawback for HD in India is that our broadcast is still on the lower resolution standard formats unlike many other countries," Nalla explained.