In the experience of consuming a 2-hour long feature film, sometimes all it takes a single shot, a single frame, a fleeting second that encapsulates quite wonderfully, the essence of the narrative being shared. Be it a wide frame of a lone individual against the backdrop of a massive, bustling city or a close-up shot that very beautifully allows the expressions of the character to dictate a scene, there is an artistic prowess in cinematography that can make or break a film.
Visual sensibility amongst Indian cinematographers has evolved drastically over the years, owing to the proliferation and melding of experimental filmmaking in more commercial arenas. The audience’s positive reception to such stories narrated with such visual and poignant nuance alone has been a brave indicator of India’s shift in filmmaking practices.
We look at Homegrown cinematographers that are fast emerging as the flag bearers of this new wave of narrating the Indian cinematic experience.
I. Shyju Khalid, Joji (Malayalam, 2021)
Dileep Pothen’s directorial masterpiece Joji is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Revolving around growing tensions within a problematic household in Kerala, Shyju’s artistry with the camera is notable for several reasons but mainly because of the conscious intent to grow the narrative in dark, grim and thrilling ways with every shot. The use of external, inanimate motifs such as large empty spaces, bedrooms, a pellet shot stuck in a rubber sap, and more was a very intentional move in terms of visually depicting the inner turmoils of every character’s mind.
II. Eeshit Narain, Ankahi Kahaniya (Hindi, 2021)
The opening short film in a recent Netflix anthology, Ankahi Kahaniya delves into the story of a garment salesman and how his loneliness drives him to fall in love with the store mannequin. The short which unravels in tragically beautiful moments is compelling, powerful, and a stark reflection of loneliness that one experiences in a city. Shot by Eeshit Narain, the short film is full of strong moments of pause where standalone frames in themselves have the power to narrate the story.
III. P.S Vinod/Nirav Shah, Super Deluxe (Tamil, 2018)
The first 20-minutes of Super Deluxe itself reveal that the film, its filmmaking process, and the visual storytelling involved is ahead of its time. In breaking the patterns that South-Indian filmmakers have followed over decades, Super Deluxe was certainly a risk that director Thiagarajan Kumararaja took with his second release. The story that intersects a day in the lives of three unconventional characters on their personal journeys and challenges, the visual storytelling offers a striking colour palette and breathtaking frames of real houses and the real people of Chennai, the collaborative efforts of Vinod and Shah oscillates between the dark, inner conflicts of the characters placed against the vibrance and chaos of the city.
IV. Kaushal Shah, Gehraiyaan (Hindi, 2022)
Amongst a slew of exciting releases to emerge from the OTT space this year, Gehraiyaan was one very anticipated release. While the trailer and cold tones on frame largely swayed the dark, eerie representation of the film’s plot, Gehraiyaan was certainly an experiment in deviating from the visual storytelling followed by a commercial Bollywood film. The film was packed with visual metaphors that often referred to the ocean and its depths as a reflection of the complexities and conflicts explored further by the characters. Shah’s initial foray into commercial cinema was indeed a one to be reckoned with.
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