A cinematographer captures all the emotions and details in a frame while staying unseen behind the camera. Last Friday in PKSBE, the spotlight was thrown on one such master of visuals as he visited the campus to interact with the students. It was no one other than Manu Anand, the Director of Photography of the recently released SRK starrer Zero, among many others. As brilliant as he is behind the camera, he doesn’t like to appear in front of it. So, before he even began his session, he got rid of the camera intended to record his session.
The first thing one notices about Manu Anand is that he is not a believer of rules. As the students quizzed him about the types of lens and the kinds of lighting to capture various situations, he said there are no hard and fast rules in Cinematography, or in filmmaking for that matter. He constantly told them that there is no wrong way, and anything is possible. “You can use any lens in any situation and even shoot the sad scenes in bright lights if it makes sense to you.”
When a student asked him about the brief a cinematographer is given for a shot, he said it depends from director to director. While some directors go into specifics and describe the required shot in great detail, others give an idea about their requirement and then leave it on the cinematographer to execute it as they focus on the actors’ performance. He advised the young filmmakers in making to hire the people that they can trust to do their job, rather than trying to micromanage everything.
He offered insights on shooting in other mediums as well. When a student asked why Indian daily soaps were usually shot in flat lighting, he said that in TV, they have to shoot a lot of content every day. That’s why they have to shoot fast and there isn’t nearly enough time to keep changing lighting. On the challenges faced while directing an ad, Manu said it’s very important to know how to deal with the agency. If you are a young, relatively inexperienced director, the agency representatives tend to interfere in your process and you must know how to handle it.
Considering the majority of aspiring directors in the class, Manu reflected that directors ought to be visualizers. In order to develop their vision, he advised the students to expose themselves to a lot of art, music, and life. “Don’t complain about the lack of time. There is always enough time for the things you consider important. Expand yourselves. Read. Watch. Take a walk. Observe things.”
When a student asked what is it like to shoot a VFX heavy film like Zero or Fan, he said, “I realized at a very young age that if you want to become a cinematographer, VFX is going to be a part of it. Which is why when I trained to be a cinematographer, I studied VFX as well.” And although he is technically very sound, a nerd in his own words, he never watches a film considering the technicalities. “If I am noticing the technical aspects of the film, that means it is not working for me.”
In the end, he reminded students to stop looking for an equation, work on themselves, and grow. With the promise to meet again with a show and tell and more rambling conversations, he called Cut.