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The bottomline is Black

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

For cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran, the film has meant unprecedented recognition and opened new vistas for the future.



A WORTHY EXPERIENCE: Amitabh Bachchan and Ravi K. Chandran on location.

Two awards, two nominations and heaps of praise from fans and the film fraternity. It's hardly surprising that Ravi K. Chandran is a happy man. "When hard work gets its due it is gratifying indeed," he says.

As far as `Black' is concerned, arresting pictures, unusual settings and innovative lighting have played their part in creating a film in the classic mould. "Sanjay Leela Bhansali was clear about what he wanted — a film with an international reach, clean, clear and true; yet one that transcends the tedium of the so-called art film genre. We had to stand apart and still have people thronging cinema halls. After all, the Rs.18-crore budget demanded a commercial format. We were not catering for a niche audience," he laughs.

The nominations for Best Cinematography, from Apsara, the Producers' Guild, Mumbai, (comparable to Hollywood's Bafta) and also from Screen, Zee Cine and Film Fare, include `Black,' and `Paheli.' Ravi K. Chandran is the cameraman of the two. The Apsara and Screen awards are already in his kitty — both for `Black.' We'll know the outcome of the Zee nomination in March at a function in Mauritius but before that will be the Film Fare hungama on February 25.

`Black,' a beauty

"When I went to meet Amitji recently, he was thrilled. `The industry has begun to recognise good work. I'm glad,' he said," recalls Chandran. It wasn't the Bachchan alone. Every colleague in the industry, be it P. C. Sreeram, Rajeev Menon, K. V. Anand, Jeeva or Ratnavelu, called up Chandran on the stupendous achievement called `Black,' even at the time of its release. "Each of them complimented me for the consistency I maintained in `Black,'" says Chandran. Indisputably, the uniformity permeating the tone and texture did lend a unique feel to Bhansali's conception. And when experts in the line compared his work to Spielberg's masterstrokes, `Schindler's List' and `Saving Private Ryan,' Chandran felt amply rewarded. Govind Nihilani's description of `Black' as the "most inspiring film in recent times" in a television interview, in which he singled out Ravi K. Chandran's work, is something he treasures. For the first time, American Cinematographers' Magazine, the gospel for lens men all over the world, has reviewed an Indian film on DVD — `Black.' And again for the first time an Indian cinematographer's work has been appreciated by the journal.

How does he gauge his work in `Paheli?' " Shah Rukh Khan's interest and industriousness were infectious and I enjoyed working with him. We would check out the locations and sit together in the evenings to discuss shots. It's not right to compare the two different styles of camera treatment. Yet you cannot ignore the seamless melding in `Black,'" he notes.

Chandran holds forth on the professional manner in which the Hindi industry works these days. His next release will be `Fanna,' starring Aamir Khan and Kajol. Incidentally, `Fanna' will be Kajol's comeback vehicle. Produced by Yash Chopra, it is being directed by Kunal Kohli. "The script was perfected eight months before the film went on the floors. The number of shooting days would be 100, it was decided. But we are already ahead of schedule. Regular rehearsals that help us plan shot divisions means we waste very little time on the sets." Chandran's eulogy is an indicator of his preferences. "I've done four projects in Tamil — `Kannathil Muththamitaal,' `Ayudha Ezhuthu,' `Boys' and `Citizen.' Australia has just 15 million people but has produced 10 Oscar winners. We are 110 million and we produce 700 films annually. What have we got to show for it? Probably a few such as A. R. Rahman, Shekhar Kapoor and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Cameramen should try improving with every venture. Even if your work does not fetch awards, you'll have the satisfaction of having shot a film that looks different. But the problem is that a maker who will bend backwards for a cameraman from the West will brush off your suggestions and requirements. Skin means a lot here. But I generally stand my ground."

The real biggie

Ravi K. Chandran's repertoire includes classy commercials for Toyota Corolla, Tata Sumo and Getz. But his real big assignment is to take off soon. Sanjay Leela Bhansali will next direct `Saavariya,' to be made by Sony Classics, the producers of `Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.' Ravi K. Chandran will be its cinematographer. Rishi Kapoor's son Ranbir and Anil Kapoor's daughter Sonam Kapoor will make their debut as the lead pair. Interestingly both Ranbir and Sonam have been working as Bhansali's assistants. "It will be the first international launch for an Indian film, as it is to be released in 72 countries. And by foreign release I don't mean a film for the NRI audience alone." Chandran is excited. So are we!

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