Indian Cinematographers are afraid to shoot hand-held – Keiko Nakahara

Indian Cinematographers are afraid to shoot hand-held - Keiko Nakahara

Warring filmmakers relentlessly have been striving to make their movies stand out amongst the midst of a colossal horde of films, but only a few make the final cut in Bollywood despite the odds. 3G – A Killer Connection , the latest to emerge from the stables of Eros International and Next Gen Films is one such film which stood out for its unique cinematography and grading. Directed by debutant duo Shantanu Ray Chibber and Sheershak Anand, the film embodies a unique plot where-in a cellular phone is used as the element of terror. In order to accentuate the horrific visual details of the narrative, the directors roped in Japanese cinematographer Keiko Nakahara to shoot the film. Keiko has shot for Hollywood films like, 1001 Ways to Enjoy the Missionary Position, Broken Dreams, Samurai Avenger etc

Talking about collaborating with an international cinematographer Shantanu says, "The majority of foreign cinematographers tend to look at all aspects differently, they light up the scenes in a way that breaks form the monotony that Indian cinematographers are accustomed to. The Indian DOPs have a standard lighting method for the industry, Keiko had given us a different perspective altogether. She prepared a look-book for the entire film which became like a sacrosanct document for all of us." Lauding Keiko for her experience with shoulder-rig cameras Shantanu says, "If you have a good director of photography on board, you are actually cutting down on cost issues. Her hand-held shots were so good we did not need to use a Steadicam, although we had one as backup on the set. Although 95% of the film was shot using ARRI Alexa camera, Keiko has also shot the film using, Red Epic, Phantom and Arri 435 film camera for an underwater sequence. Interestingly, Shantanu reveals that the team had the difficult mission of juggling between an astounding, 62 locations in Fiji to shoot the entire film. Bollywood Hungama's Philip Bode gets Keiko to talk about, shooting in Fiji, the erratic weather conditions and the challenges in shooting 3G – A Killer Connection.

"We had a tight schedule of wrapping up the entire shoot in 35 days"
"Initially before I signed on for the film, the producers were planning to shoot 3G – A Killer Connection using stereoscopic 3D cameras in Fiji and asked if I would be interested in being the director of photography (DOP) for the film. After agreeing to do the film, we went to examine the location where we were planning to shoot and realized that it would be difficult to shoot in 3D because we had space constraints, since the camera was bigger than a regular 2D camera. We had a tight schedule of wrapping up the entire shoot in thirty five days, in which we finalized with shooting in the standard 2D format. Apart from the spacing issue, Fiji is not a very filming friendly place and we would also need to shift all the equipment from Mumbai to Fiji."

"The film's look gradually transforms"
"Before shooting in Fiji, I expected the weather to be sunny along with the beautiful beaches, and though it would be perfect. But sadly, when we landed in May last year it turned out to be raining and cloudy. I was very concerned as we were determined to shoot there for the adorning landscapes. I made it clear to Shantanu on the look we visualized, and what the weather conditions imposed on us, was totally different. The film's look gradually transforms, there are brighter colors in the beginning and towards the end along with the narrative it becomes darker. The directors assured me that we could shoot the climax sequence if it was raining and cloudy, in which we wanted to show a starker look of the place. So we were quite flexible in shooting the film, as when it got sunnier we would shoot the initial sequences of the film."

Indian Cinematographers are afraid to shoot hand-held - Keiko Nakahara

"Actors would face obstacles with performing a scene"
"Most of the film was shot using a shoulder rig and we did not face any problems with shooting the action scenes in the film, although sometimes actors would face obstacles with performing a scene, which are posed with time constraints. One of the actors in the film was having a hard time with enacting a scene, in which Neil stepped in and helped him out with staging, as he knew exactly was needed for the scene."

"I really enjoyed filming that day"
"There is a sequence called the Milo sequence towards the climax of the film, where the makers were hell bent on shooting the sequence. We filmed the scene in Mumbai for two days at film city and I really enjoyed filming that day. It took us fourteen hours to shoot the scene and the directors, had already envisioned the narrative coalescing with a crucial element in the movie. We blocked the shots out, and then the VFX supervisor transposed the camera's motion attributes onto VFX software. This was a complicated CG scene, as it was important to have the focal length, and depth of field of the CG camera's attributes to be precise. Also it is crucial that the actors know their tracked points and that continuity of the shots are maintained, along with attention to the props and characters as well, or we would have to start all over again from square one."

"I shot a two page scene using a hand-held camera throughout"
"The advantage of working with duo-directors on set is that one is by the monitor scrutinizing the elements in the shots, while the other is by the camera coordinating with the actors. They gave me a lot of creative freedom with shooting and lighting up the scene. I think Indian cinematographers don't shoot handheld to often, maybe because they're afraid or maybe their not skilled enough. I wanted to use a lot of handheld shots towards the end of the film, because it would accentuate the flow. I shot a two page scene using a hand-held throughout. It is particularly difficult to shoot long takes perfectly, because if actors would mess something up, we would need to rework the shots all over again. My Colombian gaffer Juan Mar and I had a lot of freedom and we have tried to employ, a surround 360 degree angled lighting several times."

"We made the best with what we got from the elements"
"My lighting boys had a hard time shooting in Fiji because of the erratic weather conditions; they were subjected to transporting equipment in the rain, which was dangerous. Even though we needed that damp look for a couple of the scenes in the film, it was tough for us to shoot in the rain. At one point while we were shooting the exteriors of a house all night, we suddenly met with a strong gust of wind around 4am. We managed to capture that cold grimness which is in the final cut of the film, and we did not have a wind or blizzard machine. We made the shots look very surreal with a unique look never seen before in Bollywood movies, at the end we made the best with what we got from the elements."

Article written by staff at Bollywood Hungama. Read more

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