Cinematographer Mitesh Mirchandani burst into the scene with his acclaimed work in Neerja, which was lauded, among other things, for its claustrophobic, immersive visual style. More recently Mitesh is once again the talk of the town for his latest, Uri which boasts of the kind of slick action sequences rarely seen in Hindi cinema, much of which has been credited to how the film was shot.
So we asked him what goes into shooting wartime action sequences. Here’s what he had to say:
“The way I like to shoot is to be in the action. If you notice in Neerja and Uri we use wide lenses close to the actors. While they’re fighting, I’m right there with the camera so that the audience feels like they’re part of the action.
Much of Uri and Neerja also involved shooting in small spaces, for which honestly it comes down to reducing the size of the crew, reducing the camera size and keeping it on your shoulder. I had the camera on my shoulder for 45 minutes at one go during a take in Neerja so going to the gym helps I guess (laughs).
For tracking shots like in Uri, I think I go off instinct a lot. It depends on how I feel when I read the script and when I’m shooting the film. Close-ups and tracks are very important to me but only when they’re relevant. For example, in Uri, we don’t have many close-ups. Tracking shots are similar in that respect, they need to be thought out and there should be a reason why they’re there.
For the close combat sequences, I like to keep actors free. I don’t like to restrict them with marks because with action you just can’t. I don’t even look at my frame, I’m looking at them. I need to know what they’re going to do next in case I need to tilt down or move somewhere. I just need to understand what my lens is and need to be looking at my actors and pre-empt what they’re going to do next, so it’s really a game you play with them.”