Cinematographer Jay I Patel.
Did your work as one of the cinematographers in Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz help you bag an assignment as big as Raazi?
I don’t think Mukkabaaz really helped in that sense, even if it was a great experience in itself. I got a call from Meghna ma’am (Meghna Gulzar) about Raazi on the second last day of Mukkabaaz’s schedule in Bareilly. She and I had worked about a year earlier on a short film that she had directed. My career progression has been gradual, and through random connections and situations.
Which are your favourite scenes as a cinematographer in Raazi?
There’s one sequence where Sehmat (played by Alia Bhatt) is almost caught with a top secret file within the house, the blocking of which leads from the study on the ground floor of the house, to the bathroom upstairs in her bedroom — back down and back up. The intention was to build up tension and yet, not go in with the handheld camera just yet — because we do so right after that scene for some creative reasons. The way that scene turned out was just great. Our Steadicam operator on that day, Dev, did a fantastic job.
Another favourite scene is a key moment in the film where Sehmat (Alia) has to eliminate an important character, and she does this in broad daylight on the spiral staircase of a government office building. We found this terrific location and knew it was going to look special on screen. Again, the Steadicam was in play, with Harry operating it on this particular sequence — it came out just as we’d imagined it.
Did Meghna give you a colour palette for the film?
I had various meetings with her, the production designers (Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray) and costume designer Maxima Basu to discuss the colours for this film. Everything from the colours of the wall to the floor tiles, wood textures, bedsheets, dresses, sarees, suits and uniforms — all scenes were broken down, and the costumes and locations juxtaposed to know who would be wearing what in which room. Preparation turned more critical as we were entering into a different period for this film. We also did a test shoot. We built a small, two-walled set and had the actors come in to do a scene. We shot it just like we would in the film and took the footage to colour grading as well. This helped everyone see what visual zone we would be entering and what changes we needed to make for the actual shoot.
The night sequences especially must have been difficult to shoot in the Kashmir valley?
We shot the wedding sequence at night in the controlled environment of a house in Srinagar. The other was a very early morning shot for which the location was almost two hours away from our hotel base in Srinagar. So we had to move out after midnight to get there and be ready in time. All the other exterior night sequences were shot in Patiala, or in Film City, Mumbai.
What’s up next?
Right after Raazi, I moved on to another film — Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota — directed by Vasan Bala and produced by Ronnie Screwvala and Absolute Productions. Later this year, I have a film with Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari.