Cinematography is the art of motion-picture photography. It is what make a movie. If we were to draw an analogy then cinematography is to movies what ink is to writing, the source of its being. No one element goes into filmmaking, it is a culmination of so many, some small some huge but elements nonetheless. Being one of the most important elements of the movie, the cinematography is all about the presentation of a scene. It is no easy job, as every frame counts.
Indian cinema like any other is evolving to bring forth better products. And capturing moments that matter, moments that might not necessarily include dialogue but add to the flowing poetry of the movie is a huge task to achieve. To appreciate the brilliance of people who make artists appear as characters, here is a list of cinematographers who pushed all visual boundaries and brought beautiful scenes to life.
1. Pankaj Kumar
Ship of Theseus, Tumbbad, Haider
Educated at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pankaj Kumar is one of the finest cinematographers of India. Awarded the Best Cinematographer Award at the Sitges Film Festival and at the Filmfare awards for the movie Tumbbad, his work has brought the most expressive images of India to the screens. From the snowclad mountains of Kashmir in Haider to the haunting rain in Tumbbad, his camera has captured it all.
2. Rajeev Ravi
DevD, Gangs of Wasseypur
Also an alumnus of the FTII, Rajeev Rai is the genius behind the Anurag Kashyap world of movies. From the drunk out of control spiral in DevD to the chase in Gangs of Wasseypur his filmmaking techniques like frames within frames and bold colours to invoke charged emotions is a piece of art.
3. Santosh Sivan
Roja, Dil Se (collaboration with Mani Ratnam)
The only Indian cinematographer to be included in the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), he is known to present Indian cinema in the finest of forms. From bringing scenes that talk like poetry without having to say a dialogue to creating one of the most timeless frames in the history of cinematography, he is India’s one of the best. His collaboration with Mani Ratnam has brought forth a true beauty.
4. Ravi Varma
No one has sought poetry through human eccentricity better than Ravi Varma. From the stirringly innocent scenes in Barfi to the flawed yet inspiring scenes in Tamasha his cinematography is unparalleled for. His work is as smooth as poetry that you see through your eyes, the beautifully shot song ‘Agar Tum Seth Ho’ from the movie Tamasha is an example.
5. Sudeep Chatterjee
Padmavaat, Bajirao Mastani, Guzaarish
Not everyone can capture the past with as much beauty as Sudeep Chatterjee. The period dramas with grand castles, heavy costumes, larger than life sets and tragedy as profound as Shakespeare are the main elements of Sanjay Leela Bhansali films and this cinematography has captured and brought the beauty to the screens. Filled with beauty and tragedy in the same frame, the Jauhar scene at the end of the movie Padmaavat is an example of his excellence.
6. Subrata Mitra
Apu trilogy, Charulata, Jalsagar
Internationally renowned for the introduction of ‘bounce lighting’, this cinematographer has beautifully presented the simplest of human emotions as though they were a piece of poetry. One of the most influential cinematographers, this legend has collaborated with Satyajit Ray to bring forth some of the finest pieces of cinema.
7. Ashok Mehta
With capturing the barren lands of Chambal, in the movie Bandit Queen, he has brought to life some very precise and poetic captures leading to the contemporary Indian cinematic movement in the 90s. He was awarded the National Award for 36 Chowringhee Lane. He has also worked with renowned filmmakers Aparna Sen, Shyam Benegal and Shekhar Kapur.