As The Revenant trailer sets off a debate about natural light cinematography, our cameramen get talking
The first look of The Revenant—by Hollywood’s award-winning team of writer/ director Alejandro González Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (of Birdman fame)—grabbed headlines for being shot in sequence, in natural light, using their famous ‘single take’ device. Based on true events, the period film (set to release in December) stars Leonardo Di Caprio as 19th century explorer Hugh Glass, and has drawn flak for gruelling shoots for the cast and crew in remote snow-clad locations.
With Hollywood filmmakers testing their limits with natural light, their counterparts in Indian cinema say they are no strangers to the ‘magic hour’. PC Sreeram, known for his play with natural light in films like O Kadhal Kanmani, believes our cinema should never be compared to Hollywood because we are progressing in our own way. “Cinematography is largely dependent on the story. If I am able to deliver good frames that make their presence felt without drawing attention away from the plot, that is me trying to test my boundaries. ndian cinema has seen some delightful camera work—from a commercial film like Baahubali to 36 Chowringhee Lane, which had amazing play of colour by Ashok Mehta,” says Sreeram, who will be shooting R Balki’s next.
There is also a general perception that a film’s budget decides its lighting. KV Anand, the man behind the lens on films like Anegan, feels cinematography depends on the director, too. “Our films make the hero look larger than life, so we need appropriate lighting. However, low-budget films like Kaaka Muttai, which used 15 per cent artificial lighting, are great examples of pushing the envelope,” he says, adding that most of filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s films were shot in natural light. “Our veterans have set our standards. We need to aspire to go higher, not chase international standards,” he concludes.