Anil Mehta Breaks Down Five Memorable Shots From His Films

The veteran cinematographer elaborates on the conception and execution of shots from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Lagaan, Highway, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and Badlapur
Anil Mehta Breaks Down Five Memorable Shots From His Films

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

I had a different view on how the scene was to be shot. I was trying to say that we should do it with slightly jagged and stark camera moves, not with soft tracks. But Sanjay (Leela Bhansali) had these graphic images in his mind. He wanted to play it for strong compositions.

This scene is lit for drama. It's not lit with soft lights, but hard lights. It has harsh shadows and we've played for contrast. If the film has opportunity for interpreting with light then you use it and in this film we did that. I take liberties when the scene needs it. This shot and the film is a great example of that approach.

Lagaan (2001)

From the first shot of this song we realized that this is a very different kind of song, so the grammar for it was also very different from the rest of the film. The music dictated the shot taking and I used a lot of sharp zooms.

For this shot what we had on paper was "They get up and do yoga." That meant that we had to create the shot by coming up with this pose. None of the other yoga poses were working out. It wouldn't have been as dramatic if they were lying down and doing some other pose. As far as lighting is concerned, in Lagaan I just let the light play. In an open landscape you can't really control the light, so it's better to embrace natural light and go with it.

Highway (2014)

This posture of the girl was very important in Imtiaz's head. It was the turning point for her character. Here she sits like a country person as opposed to sitting like a city person and that's her change over. It's a very quiet moment. We'd been shooting the entire day on the highway nearby. It was a busy day and at the end of the day Imtiaz asked if we can take the shot on this mound. The sun was dipping and I suggested we do this at twilight itself.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006)

Every director has some signature moments or shots in their movies. While working on KANK I was told that Karan (Johar) has the 'bench shot'.

What seems like a mundane shot actually constitutes a very significant 'pause' in the film to reflect upon the nature of things, the nature of relationships. Karan is forever grappling with the 'love and friendship' question, the lack of resolution of this dilemma in the character's mind is treated with a special treatment – no cuts, just an extended conversation in a single shot, usually a simple track shot. It has the feel of an 'interior monologue' and requires that special non intrusive cinematic space. This shot in KANK is a good example of this.

Badlapur (2015)

This shot is not so much about the lighting as much as it about set construction. This is actually an apartment built on top of a roof on top a building in Igatpuri because we were not able to find a house which was as cold or alienating which he would inhabit after leaving his home in Pune.

It's a dramatic moment. Everything in this frame is built. The colour of the wall, the windows, the curtains, the very cold vibe of this room. Something is off, it doesn't look like a real room. We lit it with just two tube lights. This is played for realistic lighting driven by what's in the room. I could've done light coming from the window to make it look even more dramatic. But it's not that kind of film.

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