“There are only two Gods worth worshipping – chance and light”: Veteran cinematographer Anil Mehta
These were the maxims shared by National award winning cinematographer, writer, actor and director Anil Mehta as “axioms that define the life of a cinematographer”
Chairing a masterclass titled ‘Guiding Lights’ in the side-lines of the 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Anil Mehta explained images are what appeal cinematographers. In practice, cinematography is guided by vagaries, chance, interpretation and individual choices, he said.
Mehta’s well-known projects include Lagaan (2001), Saathiya (2002), Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Veer-Zaara (2004), Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006) and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016).
The languages of a cinematographer are different, he said. Getting caught at the quantity is not really cinematography, feels the veteran cinematographer.
What is his most valuable advice to future DoPs? “You should start your conversations with the director in an open manner and it is mostly about listening. Cinematography is also about listening, though it feels like a job where you talk to a lot of people, marshall your resources and get things done”, answered Mehta.
On virtual production in India, Anil Mehta commented, “We have not yet done enough work on it to know where it will go.”
Mehta explained the DoP point-of-view of some of his famous projects like Khamoshi, Badlapur and Sui-Dhaga. Some thought-nuggets that he shared with budding cinematographers/DoPs:
A DoP should try to think about how to place the camera from the day he or she starts reading the script
Anil Mehta personally doesn’t like to make a storyboard
If you have a sense of scene and know what to play, then your work is half done
Rhythm of the shot is something that the cinematographer can only feel
Very often shots emerge while filming