Cameraman Madhie On 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Saaho

From Prabhas' big action scene that took 100 days of prep to how a special car was flown in from Hollywood for a chase sequence, here's what we found out about the film
Cameraman Madhie On 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Saaho

After the release of Baahubali 2, hero Prabhas has been busy with his next mega budget film, Saaho, which will be released in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. The technical team of this film, directed by Sujeeth and produced by UV Creations, has been camped in the UAE for several months now. The details of the project have been kept tightly under wraps, but what we do know is that a big action scene in Abu Dhabi, with international action choreographer, Hollywood's Kenny Bates, has been shot by cameraman Madhie (Ghazi) with production design by National Award-winning Sabu Cyril. We get Madhie to shed light on five things we did not know about Saaho.


"Saaho has been my most challenging project till date. Working alongside Kenny Bates for a giant action sequence involved a lot of preparation and detailed planning. From camera angles, to lighting, camera placements and using different cameras for certain scenes, we have been constantly discussing, innovating  and collaborating," says Madhie, who added that the preparation alone for the big action sequence took 100 days. "My 80-member camera team along with Hollywood action choreographer Kenny Bates' action team of over 120 people, worked side by side to plan and prep for the shoot. After that, we did a complete test shoot of camera placements, movements and angles on locations, for around 8 days. Only after the test shoot was done, did  we go in for the actual action shoot involving Prabhas and others, which lasted for 20 days on live locations in Abu Dhabi."


"The sun rises here at around 5:50 AM and you can get sunlight till around 6:50 PM. So for us, that meant that we could shoot the entire day due to the lighting available. But shooting in the outdoors in the extreme heat of around 42-45 degree Celsius everyday, continually for 20 days was very strenuous. Due to the nature of the landscape in Abu Dhabi, and shooting on concrete roads and open spaces, there was no shade where we could get respite from the sun. Some of the unit hands got sunstroke while all of us had peeling skin and have gotten completely tanned. We also encountered sudden sand storms. We had to cover our faces and run to cover all our costly equipment and wait till it subsided."


"Prabhas' character undergoes several changes as the story progresses. So according to each changeover, the lighting pattern has to be changed. Generally we use around 4kw , 6kw or 9kw of lighting in films. But for Prabhas in Saaho, I have used hi- intensity lighting of 16kw to 18 kw. You will see the reason on screen as I cant reveal his character right now," says Madhie. "Silhouettes play a significant role in the story and you will see a lot of strong shadows for which I had to use special lighting. The full movie is about light and shadow. In each frame there will be around 60% of shadows. I have avoided flat lighting. I can confirm that in Saaho, the lighting is the connection between the story and the cinematography."


"Kenny Bates does not cheat the viewer. So that means if the original chase is to be at 120kms per hour, he sticks to that speed while shooting. That means the camera has to keep pace as well. The biggest challenge for a shoot like this was not just capturing the 120kms speeding vehicles on camera, but also to avoid all camera vibration that the speed would entail. We used several cameras, some of which were static on tripods.  Now, the main challenge of shooting such chases is that my static camera shouldn't lose the speed or else the tempo would reduce."

"Kenny has flown in his own special Evo car from Hollywood. It is a car fitted with special camera equipment for shooting chase scenes. To this car we attached a Scorpio remote head which has a camera head with pan and tilt features. The cameras are specially designed to withstand the shake and vibrations of high speed chases. To my knowledge, no one has used all this yet in India."


To get things right, Madhie used a lot of supporting equipment for the 20 day action shoot. "We used gear called 'grips' (supporting camera equipment ) which include stands, tracking vehicles, car mounts for cameras and around 5 cameras on an average. For one particular scene however,  I used 7 cameras just for one shot." Madhie used 6 prime cameras and several additional crash cams and dash cams which are used specially to capture cars crashing into each other. A Bubble cam was used which can capture  the high impact of vehicles crashing and can just bounce back unharmed.

"Though Kenny handles stunts, he was accompanied by four camera operatives from Hollywood. Seven of my own camera operators and I worked with them as a team," he said.

Each camera operator worked with 4 to 5 assistants and over 60 members of the camera team handled the additional 'grips', the term given to supporting camera equipment. "We used the Evo Car, Scorpio Remote head cameras, 5 tracking vehicles, a  special GF8 Crane, a Remote Head Crane, 2 Jimmy Jibs, a Maximus 7 camera head which is a very expensive equipment, a Movie Pro steady cam and Gymbal hand equipment which moves without vibrations, a Movie XL camera head, a Chapman Dolly, a GFM Crane and 2 Alta 8 Drone cameras apart from several smaller drone cameras." He also imported Go Pro cameras from Germany after discussing the specifications with Kenny's team.

Madhie credits producers UV Creations, Pramod, Vamsi and Vikram, with pulling off the ambitious shoot. "They have given us full support for equipment for an 8-minute action  shoot with a budget of around 70 crores. Because of their desire to get the best for a Prabhas film, they have given us a generous budget . This allowed us a great opportunity to  innovate and give it our best."

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