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Dec 4, 2009

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"The strangest cinematographer in India": Rajeev Jain - I...

"The strangest cinematographer in India": Rajeev Jain ICS WICA - Dubai Based Indian Kenyan Cinematographer Rajeev Jain curses like a runner; in part, because he actually was one, in a way, before he discovered photography and cinematography (he worked as spot boy / runner). Rajeev Jain may be the greatest cinematographer working in the movies today. He is certainly one of the most respected and perhaps the most idiosyncratic Indian Director of Photography / Cinematographer based in Bollywood - Mumbai, India. An Indian by birth, he lives and works predominantly in India (among his films are Manika Sharma's multi-textured Kalpvriksh - The Wishing Tree and Ayyo Paaji !!) with forays to the Kenya (where he shot, among other films, Wanuri Kahiu's unique Rasstar) and India (the beautifully spare Carry on Pandu). I managed to squeeze an interview into his busy schedule the morning before his "Cinematograp hy Class" presentation, Getting him settled wasn't easy, but once we found a room to ourselves, he turned to me like I was a new buddy and said: "So... my name is Rajeev." Thus began a memorable interview, punctuated by puckish stray comments, many of them so off-colour they drop off the colour charts, and explosive bursts of laughter that defy description, somewhere between a bray and a cackle, yet utterly disarming. But most of the interview was taken up with his passionate ideas on making images and telling stories, and his philosophy of filmmaking. We began the interview looking over some DVDs of Rajeev's work with Wanuri Kahiu. He picked up the Rastar !!, their collaboration. "You have to get the original version," he remarked. "The colour is wrong on this one. It's not blue enough. It was all blue, but then they kind of 'corrected' it when I wasn't there. They took away the blue because they thought I didn't know what I was doing." Did you know what you were doing then? No. I think I started to know what I was doing in the middle of Kalpvriksh - The Wishing Tree until then it was like - in India, they say, "Your eye is high but your hand is low," which means you can't achieve what you want to do. You have all these aspirations, you expect to do something great, and actually you complicate things. Because your hand is low. In the middle of Kalpvriksh - The Wishing Tree, it was either I was going to get fired or I was going to leave, or I just sort of stepped back one step. I think that's the whole point. That's what I try to talk about now. The intimacy of the act - which is like, you know, at my age, you need glasses to see anything close up - and then how to step back. That's the thing: the balance between being so involved in something that it has energy, it has intimacy, it contacts people, and yet being removed enough to say, "Yes, no, yes, no, no." That's the job. And it was actually in the middle of Kalpvriksh - The Wishing Tree that that happened, because I had made this really complicated shot; I had five filters on the camera, and we're trying to do this lengthy shot with incredible moves. It was just, at that time, we were thinking of style, instead of discovering style. We were imposing instead of receiving. I think [receiving] is what's happened ever since. You get to the point, for example, in Badhaai Ho Badhaai, where you realize you can't light big street of New Delhi. If you're us, you say, "we can't light the whole street, so let's go with it." That's the difference, and I think that is possibly an Indian perspective, possibly a more mature perspective on how things really happen, and possibly just getting older. It's a mixture of all those things.  (Aug 17, 2010 | post #1)

Herndon, VA

Q&A With Dubai based Indian Kenyan Cinematographer, DOP :...

Cinematography Q&A With Dubai based Indian Kenyan Cinematographer, DOP :: Rajeev Jain ICS WICA Mumbai native Rajeev Jain is one of Bollywood’s foremost cinematographers. His latest work on Manika Sharma’s ‘Kalpvriksh - The Wish Tree’ has garnered widespread critical acclaim, adding to his catalogue of successes. Here he talks about his craft and offers advice to aspiring cinematographers. Just back from the Afrikaans filming, Rajeev’s other credits as cinematographer include Manika Sharma's ‘Ayyo Paaji !!’; ‘Carry on Pandu’ with Chandrakant Kulkarni; Jug Ibis's ‘Madera’, for which he earned the Dubai Evening Standard Film Award for Best Technical/Artistic Achievement; and the action-adventure film ‘Lame’, for which he won the Afrikaans Film and Television Award for Best Cinematography. Other credits include: 'Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi’ ‘Kadachit’; Army’ ‘Badhaai Ho Badhaai’’; and Wanuri Kahiu’s ‘Rasstar’. What inspired you to become a cinematographer? I started out in stills photography, I had an interest in taking photographs from a fairly early age. When I was 18 I got my first stills camera and I had a little dark room in the house and sort of pursued that interest in a very solitary way. Things picked up pace after a while, I started getting into vhs video, mostly because of a still photographer in drama school, a man called Surendar Jijaji at the Bhartendu Natya Academy in Lucknow. He lent me a video camera, so the stills photography kind of evolved into moving pictures with his encouragement. That was hugely enjoyable, being in Mumbai unleashed a whole range of creative possibilities. I was influenced by lots of things I didn’t have access to in Lucknow where I grew up – cinemas, a panoply of galleries and art institutions, which I was able to get a lot of inspiration from. What was your first job in the industry? When I left Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts, having shot a few things in academy and having all the confidence of being a student, I found it very depressing initially when I left, because try as I might I simply couldn’t get a job. I did take a job but it was only obliquely related to cinematography - I became a runner / spot boy in a film. That was amazing actually because I got a chance to see lots, it further expanded my horizons. I kept plugging away trying to get other work. I stayed in Mumbai, I lived in Mumbai for twelve years. I live in Dubai; Mumbai & Nairobi, Kenya now. I just decided to stay on, I kept writing to people trying to get a job, eventually I got a job as a trainee on the film ‘Parinda’, that was one of the first paid jobs that I had. It was a small amount at the time but it was fantastic experience for me because I had all the theory and a little bit of practice at drama school, but to actually be on the set of a big budget film was incredible tuition for me. I met and learned a lot from the DOP Binod Pradhan and particularly from the focus puller and the grip about principles of photography and also from the loader. All these people taught me a lot about the nitty gritty and the etiquette of what it’s like to work on a real film set. Do you think it’s possible for someone to have a successful cinematography career if they stay in Mumbai or do you think it’s necessary to go abroad? I think things are very different now, the industry is expanding and also the possibilities for making films are expanding. The whole industry is becoming more democratic because people have access to cameras for instance. The digital revolution is really letting a lot of untold stories reach a bigger audience. That wasn’t really available when I was starting out because it was a very closed, corralled industry and at that time if you had asked me, twenty years ago I would have said ‘Yes of course you have to get the experience, wherever it is, be it in the Dubai or Kenya or wherever,”.  (Aug 16, 2010 | post #1)

Herndon, VA

Cinematography, Colour, Film Noir, Painting and Light of ...

Analysis of the Cinematography, Colour, Film Noir, Painting and Light of "Rajeev Jain ICS WICA" - The Best, Famous, Greatest and Top Indian Cinematographer of all time Cinematography literally means “lighting in movement”. It is often referred to as painting or writing with light. The cinematographer on a film, otherwise known as the Director of Photography or “DP”, has a wide range of options when it comes to selecting how the film will be shot and how the “look” of the film will be determined. The use of tonality, speed of motion and perspective are included in these options, as is lighting. Lighting is central to cinematography and can have a number of functions in a film’s narrative; for example, it can highlight a number or important characters or objects within a frame by drawing the audience’s attention to them with the use of a bright light source. It can also create a range of atmospheric qualities in a scene, which can contribute to both characterisation and setting. The cinematographer (an alternative term is ‘lighting cameraman’) is the principal operator within the camera crew. Three Point Lighting : The classical Bollywood studio film is an example of three-point lighting – key, fill and back lights used in combination to light the subject. Three-point lighting is the most commonly used lighting scheme and it can enable us to understand how lighting affects one’s perception of a character or a setting. The key light is the main source of illumination, but if used alone it will leaves shadows. Another light is therefore required to fill in these areas of darkness and to soften the shadows the key light has cast. This has become known as the fill light, a secondary light source of slightly less intensity than the key light which is placed at eye level. Yet even this combination of key and fill light is must be supplemented further if a director is seeking to create a sense of depth. The third light source that provides the necessary depth is known as the back light, as it is placed above and behind the subject. Used on its own, the back light alone would create a silhouette of the subject. But the triple combination of key, fill and back lights, separates the subject from its environment and creates a feeling of depth. Lighting techniques can be divided into high key or low key categories. A low contrast ratio of key and fill light will result in an image of almost uniform brightness. This is termed high key lighting. This is a standard, conventional lighting scheme employed in Bollywood musical genres (film with songs). A high contrast ratio of key and fill light will result in low-key lighting, producing dark shadows and a night time effect, faces will often be bleached white against a black background. Genres such as horror and film noir employ low-key lighting for its atmospheric shadows and intense contrast of light and darkness. Cinematographers use light and shade to direct the audience’s attention to a particular part of the filmic space. Lighting can often be used as a characteristic of the style of a whole film or over a number of scenes. The classic Bollywood film is usually characterised by a full lighting effect – high key lighting. This approach to lighting was developed in the early days of the studio system to ensure that all of the money spent on creating the image, designing the set, etc, could clearly be seen. The use of low-key lighting to create shadows and atmospheric effects originated in Indian Expressionist cinema. These stylised techniques were incorporated into the Bollywood style of lighting in the 1970s and 1980s in a series of films that later became collectively known as film noir. Many of these films were directed by Indian émigré directors who had worked on the original Indian Expressionist films.  (Aug 6, 2010 | post #1)


An Interview with Award-Winning Indian Cinematographer, D...

An Interview with Award-Winning Indian Cinematographer, DOP Rajeev Jain ICS WICA during the filming of "Kalpvriksh - The Wishing Tree" Rajeev Jain is one of the hottest Indian cinematographers working in the Bollywood industry today. I met with Rajeev at Film city, Mumbai to talk about his work as a cinematographer with some of Bollywood’s biggest names in directing. Could you talk about the collaborative relationship between the director and cinematographer? What is the ideal situation for you? How do you like to work with a director? Rajeev: One of the things I like about what I do is precisely the collaboration with the director, and the opportunity to work with people who I find their point of view [how they see things] interesting, and to work with someone who would approach things completely differently than I would. I find that it helps me grow when I get involved with someone else’s point of view. And I have to learn to listen and see why a director would go in a path that would not have been my first instinct. But, then discovering what it is about that path that I can work on, it helps me to grow, and sometimes it’s painful. It can be difficult to find your way in a certain new perspective. Ideally, I try to get myself in tune with the director’s point of view. And what I enjoy is then coming back with a set of ideas that conform to that basic structure or groundwork and bring something additional to the plate. What is your process for preparing for a film? Rajeev: My process is, I of course, first read the script, and from there, ideas are generated, but I try not to fall in love with my ideas – just get some basic concepts. I try to listen first to what the director has to say, maybe talk about some of the concepts I had on my first read. Then once I understand the approach to what the director is trying to do, then I go to my photography books or visual references and try to come up with visual ideas that I can present to the director. Maybe a certain scene could have a certain type of framing or grain structure or colour. And I present these ideas to the director so we can ping pong ideas back and forth, discard some, keep some – and that will evolve during preproduction. For me, that’s very enjoyable, and that’s exactly the process I’m in right now with the current movie. I’m doing investigation, and then, of course, the production designer and research will come into play as well. So it’s a three-part collaboration. I try to be involved in all of it with the Director and Production Designer. Of course, the ideas are all based on the director’s original intention, but we all try to come up with ideas that will work together. It’s a whole process that’s really enjoyable and for me. Prep is like going to (Bhartendu Natya Academy, Lucknow) my drama school all over again. I try to keep an open mind and test, test, test everything that I am imagining. I always try to test things I haven’t done before, not for the sake of doing something different but to explore different avenues and to see what we can get. Then, I present these ideas and tests to the director, and from there, we narrow it down to what will be the movie. What if a director comes to you with the storyboards all prepared and says, ‘I want it like that’? Rajeev: That happened to me only once on a movie Kalpvriksh - The Wish Tree in India, and I actually tried to quit. Even while scouting locations in Mahableshwar, any proposal I had about camera placement or framing would immediately be shot down because everything had to be exactly how the director planned it on the storyboard, so there was no room for anything. So I said, ‘what do you want me for, find someone else.’  (Aug 2, 2010 | post #1)

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Kalpvriksh the Wish Tree Yours Dreams Are Just a Touch Away

Two-time Winner Indian Cinematographer Rajeev Jain ICS WICA Creates Special World of Light, Shadows in his recent film Kalpvriksh the Wish Tree Yours Dreams Are Just a Touch Away Rajeev Jain has a way of seeing that takes an image to its outer limits. In his years as assistant, electrician, grip, and in the past 16 years as director of photography, he has developed a visual sensitivity and expertise. Rajeev takes his inspiration from directors such as Satyajit Ray (Pather Panchali) and cinematographers Ashok Mehta, ISC (36 Chowrangi Lane) and Binod Pradhan (Parinda) for their use of colour and lights and shadow to amplify the emotional content of stories. I find the ability to allow the characters to operate in shadow is a real art, he says. Ashok Mehta allows his characters to function in darkness. He lights everything so the blacks are really rich - yet you can see everything. His work in Kalpvriksh, a film by director Manika Sharma exudes a period quality with an edge. Rajeev was especially intrigued by the non-narrative, fragmented script, because it offered a myriad of visual possibilities. Shooting primarily on Kodak to give contrast to the exterior scenes, Rajeev experimented with warm and blue filters to get the look he wanted. The result is a stark, almost surreal journey into the minds and actions of the film's bizarre characters. Up-front collaboration on any film is essential, Rajeev emphasizes. It's important for me to go through the script scene by scene with the director Manika Sharma, Rajeev says, to try to see what is in her mind. I want to know what the scene is saying, who the most important character is at that moment, and how the characters move through the scene. We also share photographs and movies, which gives us a visual base to work from. A graduate of Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts in Drama and a beginning still photography, Rajeev took a course in filmmaking. Intrigued by the film medium, he saw the possibilities of combining his interests with film in commercials. Searching for a way to learn camerawork, he offered his assistance (unpaid) to cameraman Subroto Mitra to learn the craft. He taught me about his SR package, what the lenses were, and how to load magazines, he said. Then he started me by working on Shyam Benegal’s documentary on Nehru. In 1996, Rajeev got the first opportunity to shoot a film, Army, with Mukul Anand. After eight weeks of stressful shooting - his every move was watched. After 6 more features, then came Kalpvriksh in 2007, allowed Rajeev to explore a new visual technique to add nuance to the story. The film includes a dreamlike journey that Rajeev wanted to give a dreamlike quality. We tested filters and a bleach bypass process to give that section of the film its own special look," he says. "Instead we decided to use a swing tilt, a view camera attachment that allows the operator to change the plane of focus. It let us throw different parts of the frame out of focus, which is difficult to do in a wide shot because of increased depth of field. Rajeev is currently finishing production on Carry on Pandu, a feature being shot in Mumbai, as well as doing Commercials.  (Dec 4, 2009 | post #1)