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Cinematographer Aseem Mishra On Why Shooting Tubelight Was An Adventure

The DoP tells us about reuniting with Salman and Kabir Khan after Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Ek Tha Tiger - this time on the tricky terrain of Manali and Ladakh

June 13, 2017 | 01:06 PM

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Cinematographer Aseem Mishra has shot all of Kabir Khan's films, barring Kabul ExpressTubelight saw him reunite with the director once again. Shot over 92 days on locations such as Ladakh and Manali, the shoot saw the crew braving unpredictable weather and extensively improvising on the go. When asked about the challenges he faced while shooting for the film, he promptly mentions, "To start with, I never take these things as challenges. To me, they're adventures. I love my work and I don't complain."

Here, Mishra, who has previously worked on films like Paan Singh Tomar and Gunday, walks us through the shoot of Tubelight. He tells us why he prefers a more natural style of shooting and how his experience shooting documentaries helps him even today.

ON WHY HE PREFERS SHOOTING ON LOCATION

Kabir and I come from a documentary background. We've both worked with Saeed Naqvi (senior journalist and documentary filmmaker). We prefer shooting on real locations to shooting on-set. Most of Tubelight was shot on location because it looks more authentic. It looks more real.

ALSO READ: INSIDE THE SETS OF TUBELIGHT

TUBELIGHT IS A SIMPLE STORY SHOT WITH STYLE  

Most of the films that I've shot with Kabir have very "normal" subjects. Tubelight or Bajrangi Bhaijaan have simple stories that have been told in a stylistic way. We stick to a very basic cinematic language where the cinematography doesn't overpower the story.

Most of this film has been shot on eye-level. We have not taken low angles or very high angles. We do that only when the script requires. It's a simple story of a simple man. The idea is to not make cinematography so overpowering that it starts to attract attention.

ON SHOOTING WITH NATURAL LIGHT

I am big fan of natural light. Once I go to a location for a recce, I do a very detailed study of the sun path. How the sun moves, what season we're shooting in, where the shadows are falling, where the source is going to be, all of these details are gauged at the recce stage. And I do a lighting plan of the location with my assistants.

In Tubelight, I made a conscious effort not to skim the light. Usually we do that to soften the shadows. But because we were shooting in the mountains, I've tried and used the natural mountain light as often as possible in the film. It's pure, pristine and sharp.

SHOOTING IN UNPREDICTABLE WEATHER

In Manali, there were a lot of times where we were shooting against the weather. It's very unpredictable. In Marhi, where we shot a song and some scenes, the weather would change almost every hour. Maintaining the continuity of light became difficult.

While shooting a scene, there used to be a cloud that would show up at 2.30 PM out of nowhere and it would block the sun. This happened for 8 days in a row. It's funny because at exactly the same time everyday, we would wait for the cloud to show up.

ON THE EQUIPMENT HE USED

The film was shot entirely on an Alexa XT camera. Except for the wide shots, the whole film was shot using an Optimo 340mm zoom lens. The good thing is we don't waste time changing lens. Once you're using a zoom, it becomes easy to compose. When you're fighting light and fighting time, these lenses work much better.

ALSO READ: KABIR KHAN'S 5 HACKS TO SHOOTING ON TOUGH TERRAIN

ON WHY HE DOESN'T STORYBOARD

When Kabir gives me the script to read, I go back to him and we have a nice evening chat over coffee and talk about how we see the film. We don't storyboard at all unless it's an action scene. We have a non-verbal communication. We know each other so well and have worked together for so many years. We have immense trust in each other. Since he has done cinematography before, we have a common language. By the time my frame is up, he already knows what I'm framing for.

Because we've shot so many documentaries, it's become easy for us to design a shot impromptu. We don't have to plan. We set up a camera, inform the assistant directors and shoot. We normally go by our instinct.

ON WORKING WITH SALMAN KHAN

Salman sir really respects technicians. He respects the light, so if you ask him to be there at a certain time, he will be there. He understands that that's what is making him look good and adding to the scene. He also understands lenses very well. He knows exactly how to react when we're shooting a mid-close and exactly how to react when we're shooting a wider shot. He's a very intelligent actor. He gives you all the focus marks of his actions. And if you ask him to repeat, he'll do it willingly.