DSC_0020Vinay Shukla is a renowned Indian Film Writer and Director. He made the Hindi film Godmother, which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi in 1999 along with five more National Awards and one Filmfare Award. He has written films like ‘Viraasat’, ‘Hum Paanch’, ‘Ram Jaane’, ‘Raat, Shikaari’, ‘Thanedaar’, ‘Parinay’ and more. Along with ‘Godmother’ he has directed ‘Koi Mere Dil Se Poochhe’, ‘Mirch’ (currently in post-production), ‘Sameera’ and acted in the film ‘Maqbool’. He has been instrumental in designing the script-writing course at the FTII (Film & Television Institute of India) .
Mr. Shukla commenced the lecture with a brief overview of the History of Cinema in our country- to enliven the magic that came with its onset and to explain through it the unique traits of Indian cinema. He described the Christmas day in the year 1910, when a gentleman from the city of Nashik, Mr. D G Phalke saw the film ‘Life of Christ’ at the America-India Theatre and went home to tell his wife of his ambitions to make similar films but with Indian mythology at its centre, kick starting the era of the ‘Indian’ Motion Pictures.
By incorporating Indian mythology Mr. D G Phalke created an indigenous expression of the medium, which the people could relate to & hence accept.  
With the advent of technology, came the first Indian talkies- the period drama ‘Alam Ara’, which had been adapted from a Parsi play. It popularized the song & dance routine, which eventually became a unique trait of Indian Cinema. The burgeoning of studios like Bombay Talkies, Prabhat Studios etc. around the 30s & 40s, brought with it the studio system, bringing many European technicians to Indian shores, who would work with regional filmmakers in Hindi films, resulting in the need for translators; eventually paving the way for specialized dialogue writers in the industry. 
Summarizing the uniqueness of Indian Cinema, he said, “Our cinema aspires to tell epics…which is basically the conflict of high moral values…broadly a conflict between good & evil…”
According to him an epic tale cannot be told without elements like: a) Melodrama, which like poetry captures a large depth of emotion & if done well, doesn’t become unreasonable, b) Rhetoric, which is when feelings & words are woven into each other within the constraint of logic at a high emotional scale, c) Song & Dance, which allows one to express what can’t be expressed solely through dialogue & also advances narrative by compressing or elongating the concept of time in the film, d) Action, which brings a sense of immediate justice and e) Comedy, where the role of the comedian is often to play the fool yet be the wisest. Dispelling any skepticism about rhetoric or melodrama he said, “I wonder if a tale about conflicting values can even be made without melodrama… what is required for it to work is the truth of the ground work…most of the filmmakers today source their stories from other films they have seen, not from their own lives…which makes their films lack depth & emotion…”  
DSC_0042He felt that a formula film uses the features of drama repetitively & as stand-alone concepts that are not integral to the film whereas a film like Lagaan uses it judiciously and not with the intention of  ‘luring’ the audiences, which in turn makes it beautiful. He then elaborated on a conversation with his young daughter wherein he was trying to cull out the aesthetics that the new generation desires in Films; it yielded a few keywords such as short, subtle, not over-dramatic, grey, contemporary etc. that Mr. Shukla believed were universal and needed urgent attention by the new generation of filmmakers. He cited films like Dil Chahta Hai, Jab We Met, Rang De Basanti etc., which lie within the framework of urban values & contemporary sensibilities. Speaking about today’s audiences he said, “Today’s audience likes genre specific films…take any kind of story and there is already an example…” When asked about Producers and choosing topics for Producers he replied, “Do not be derivative in your work…you need to be smart enough to choose something a Producer would like, but something that is integrally yours…” 
He also felt that it is necessary to estimate the basic theme that one is dealing with in a story; knowing what one is working on in a story helps to create necessary plot points and orchestrate the right resonances from the topic. Addressing the importance of the appeal of the topic he said, “Only do the things that excite you or move you! Creative people should never make something they are not interested in…you will be lucky if you come out of it…no work of creative satisfaction can happen if the creator is not excited…but one should never be disheartened when one comes across the blocks…perseverance is key, you should never give up…”  
On being asked about whether he writes, thinking about specific actors for the roles, he said, “I don’t write keeping an actor in mind, some might do it…I don’t know if it is advisable. Mahatma Gandhi said that when a person truly gives, he gives a part of himself…in the same way when a writer writes, he gives a part of himself/herself…the character mirrors the writer.” He felt that the focus should be on what satisfies one’s sensibilities rather than pandering to alien forms & values as the answers can come only from within oneself; books, friends, films can only facilitate the questions. Conversing about his National Award winning film ‘Godmother’, he said, “The values you follow will come back to you as a mirror image…whatever path you follow the question comes back to you about whether you are right or wrong…I believe that films do impart values, if only subtly to society…so at some level it is important to be a good human being to be a filmmaker…there is that responsibility…” 
His concluding advice about what it takes to be a good director was that one needs to raise one’s level of understanding, awareness & constantly evolve until one reaches a higher level of consciousness without which no creative artist can create a real work of Art.  

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Sanjay F Gupta, the renowned Cinematographer of films like ‘Singh is King’, ‘Mujhse Shaadi Karoge’, ‘Qayamat’, held a workshop for the students of Digital Academy – The Film School, Mumbai (Bombay) India.
Sanjay F Gupta is also the managing director of Grey Partridge (P) LTD with over 20 years of experience in commercials, features and music videos. He has a degree in Cinema from Columbia College, Los Angeles.
Mr. Gupta started a discussion about the roles of a DOP (Director of Photography); Talking about an industry, where very few Directors can discern the role of a DOP, he spoke of how frustrating it can be to work with a crew that didn’t understand photography. Expounding that, he said, “Now when you are looking into the viewfinder & your fingers reach for the record button…being a little idealistic, I think its starting to make History…its going to be on a negative, then it will become digital and finally permanent…hopefully we are creating Art of some sort…lets hope so…”.
He clarified that although the conditions today are not favorable to Cinematography as an Art form, it is extremely important that the students clearly understand & appreciate the role it plays in a film. He emphasized that one needs to know all that a Director of Photography should do to make the film look its best, for example, how many windows are present in a set, angle of light, position of the sun etc. He encouraged the students to break down cinematography into its many elements: Framing, Lensing, Lighting, Camera Movement, Exposure, Focus, Film Stock, Filters and discussed them in detail.
Talking about Framing he said, “The Frame has to be dedicated to what it is trying to communicate…it’s not just about beauty…” Then he recounted an incident on a shoot with renowned International Director Shekhar Kapur who made ‘Elizabeth’ & ‘Bandit Queen’, wherein he had framed the shot of a horse running in the sunset according to the one third rule, keeping the horse on the edge of the frame; but on Kapur’s odd request he decided to keep the horse at the other edge revealing behind it a trail of beautifully backlit dust, which transformed the shot, making it look magnificent. And so he advised that it is not necessary to follow the one-third rule of framing dogmatically, but rather let it guide you into discovering things.
 _MG_0160Another important responsibility of the DOP according to him was to know about how the light will follow through in the course of the day and understanding the area along with the light sources & shadows etc. with a digital camera if possible. But knowing the way Producers work, he said that most of the time it is not easy to do recces of this kind due to constraints. However he said, “You have to outsmart your producer. If you love your Art then you will do that, maybe send an assistant to check the area out beforehand…”
Certain fundamental things that he believes need to be sorted out at such recces are: 
For outdoor locations check the position of the sun, shoot the wide & master shots first, do close-ups last (because they are easiest to do in bad light conditions) and match the shots through out (the biggest challenge)
For indoor locations check the number of practical lamps and the number of halogen lights, check if chandeliers, bulbs, lampshades & all other lights are on dimmers, whether identical lights are on the same dimmer and if tube lights are flicker-free (i.e. Kinos). If some bulbs are burning out in the frame then use an orange or yellow gel with the correct degree (1CTO, ½ CTO etc.)
He added that knowledge of things like ‘which filter is used when’, comes with experience & ‘home-work’, “Do your homework, because no one else will…the more homework you do the better your work will look. Also the use of story boarding is very essential as it helps to communicate to the crew-members and sometimes even understand the shot yourself…”
Stressing on the fact that the ultimate idea is the mood of the image- He broached the topic of Depth of Field, which is affected by three factors: a) The kind of lens used, b) The f-stop (aperture) & c) The distance between the camera & subject. A shallow depth of field generally produces an interesting effect, directing attention sharply it can add a certain drama to the image. Video has a larger depth of field, which makes its image quality very crisp & clean eluding the traditional feel of film. In spite of this he added, “Better learn to work with video…it is the future…”
One of the other things that can change the mood of a shot without changing much else is the exposure. With exposure one can over-expose, under-expose or expose selectively with surprising effects. According to him correct exposure is subjective and can be achieved in many different ways, “You have to be very selective & very careful with what you expose for…don’t be dogmatic, look around for the options to create the right mood…”
Divulging one of his many tricks of the trade he said that choosing a particular f-stop and lighting around it can make things a lot easier. In lighting for proper chroma key, he suggested that the green screen be evenly lit, with a slight over-exposure of half a stop & the subject kept at least 10 to 15 feet away from the green screen, so as to not allow any green to bounce onto the subject.
On the subject of lighting he spoke about the two fundamental types of lighting: hard light & soft light. He described their attributes as hard light having a) more intensity, b) sharp shadows, c) better details and soft light having a) less intensity, b) very soft shadows, c) more spread (creating an overall pleasant look). He gave examples of how the monthly Indian magazine ‘Femina’ shot its pictures with everything in soft light, which could get boring, whereas a magazine like ‘Vogue’ used hard light very innovatively & beautifully. However, he summarized by simply stating that when one is in doubt, one should resort to soft light. Soft light needs a large light source, which can be done using bounces or using diffusion material in front of the light.
He felt that as a DOP another one of his tasks is to be an effective communicator with the Director, the crew & the cast.
In his message to the Direction students he said, “As a Director, you need to know a little more than everybody else, you need to know little bit of everything…how are you going to do that? By reading a lot & going to as many shoots as you can…” He also suggested that visualizing the entire look of the film beforehand was a good idea because it helps greatly to supplement the script & communicate one’s vision.
Speaking about Digital Academy- The Film School and their students, he said, “It was a delight…these guys are really enthusiastic & really want to learn…it’s a great school. It seems very intimate. Seems like everybody is personally supervising everything…like its being taken care of from the heart, which is very obvious…”
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