What a shot!

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The cinematography of Gujarati film ‘Anita’ that has been selected for the short film section of the Venice International Film Festival is done by none other than Nikhil Arolkar, who has his roots in Goa. NT BUZZ gets details

RAMANDEEP KAUR | NT BUZZ

Having worked on short films, series, and commercials for many years now, cinematographer Nikhil Arolkar with Goan roots is ecstatic that Gujarati short film ‘Anita’ shot by him will be competing at the Orizzonti section at the Venice International Film Festival which is scheduled to open from September 2. The Orizzonti section features a selection of competing short films lasting a maximum of 20 minutes “It’s exciting and feels like a validation of my work,” he says. ‘Anita’ has been directed by Sushma Khadepaun with whom he has shot another short film called ‘Foren’. They met after a mutual friend passed his number

to her.

For this film, he says, Khadepaun had clear ideas. “We were shooting a very square aspect ratio of 4:3. In this film, the protagonist returns home from the US after two years to attend her sister’s wedding, and is trying to express basic desires of personal ambitions with her very traditional small town family,” he says. Hence, he says, they wanted to interpret her discomfort with the life she left behind visually. “We had discussed that we wanted the compositions with lots of negative space; we also wanted to use camera movements sparingly. This kind of aesthetic didn’t come naturally to me. It was quite difficult to think of scenes this way,” he says. Another unexpected ‘challenge’ was that the shoot took place in a house surrounded by a mango orchard.” Since it was the mango season it was difficult to keep my team from wandering off in search of mangoes,” he says laughing.

Based out of Mumbai, Arolkar grew up in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. His grandmother hails from Goa and his elder brother lives in the state. Arolkar’s interest in cinematography began with films as he grew up watching the usual commercial Hindi and American films. But he was fortunate to be introduced to cinema from other parts of the world when he was fairly young. He says: “We have such a heritage in good cinema which a lot of people don’t know about. I have discovered new cinemas through torrents and DVD releases.”

He further says that though he had assumed that he would try to become a doctor like his father, he didn’t have a genuine interest in it. Instead, he tookdid his bachelor’s in mass media with a major in journalism. He later studied cinematography at Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI). “I initially took up cinematography to help a friend in making his films. My dad owned a camcorder which I borrowed and started shooting. I guess I just enjoyed it. And during my time in SRFTI, I gained a lot of perspective on the role a cinematographer plays in a film,” he says, adding that cinematography for him is a sort of craftsman’s addiction. “It gets me out of my own head for a while.”

Arolkar’s initial projects as an assistant cinematographer included films like ‘Titli’, ‘Trapped’ and ‘Yeh Ballet’. He has also shot the Marathi series ‘Pandu’ and a Hindi short film called ‘Mizaru’ which is also doing the rounds of film festivals currently.

 “As a cinematographer, I get the joy of expressing, through pictures, someone else’s (directors) ideas and scripts, even when I might not have something profound to say,” he says, adding that his advice to other young aspiring cinematographers would be to be a nice person. This advice was given to him by a senior in the field.

Currently he is looking forward to overcoming this pandemic phase and getting on set soon.  “I think this time of introspection will show in my future work,” he says.

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