cinematographer as the co-author



an anecdote

mrinal sen




An eminent cinematographer was engaged by an eminent filmmaker to make a feature-length non-fiction film on an eminent political leader.

One day they went to a museum to look for a particular document which, so the filmmaker felt, should be copied for the film. The document was located -- just a leaf from the leader's personal diary. The leaf was placed on the table with love and love. The cinematographer placed the camera, did the lensing, and started lighting. According to the filmmaker, the cinematographer took a long time to do his job. But the filmmaker, being a civilised person, allowed him to go his own way until he finished his lighting.

Having finished the lighting to his satisfaction, the cinematographer made space for the filmmaker to look through. The filmmaker looked through, and yelled:

'Where is the text gone?'

'I am fascinated by the texture of the paper.'

Text: The filmmaker's choice.

Texture: The cinematographer's passion.

Why not a dialogue to start from here? Why not a debate on this?

To assure, the anecdote just presented is not a fiction, it is a reality.

For information,
The filmmaker: Shyam Benegal
The cinematographer: Subrata Mitra
The film: Nehru





cinema: the art of light

sunny joseph


When cinema was born it was born as cinematography. An endeavour practised by a single person. There was only the 'motion picture photographer'. He looked for interesting occurrences in the physical and humane world around him. He recorded it triumphantly, because it was for the first time in human history that we could record, playback, and analyse the phenomena of 'time'. As a critic declared "death was no more an absolute reality". What was even more wonderful was that man could project his or her dreams on to a big screen for common sharing, in the cosiness of a primordial dark chamber of a cave / womb. Even the camera / processing machine / projector was one. There were no directors, no editors, no actors and no projectionists. Because then, cinema was all about pictures which could be handled by a single person. More than 100 years have passed now. Cinema has become much more complex. It has become a narrative tool to tell stories and there by a medium of entertainment. Cinema has also become the most important tool to travel deep into the unknown realms of human mind and imagination. We all know that human mind assimilate knowledge through pictures. It is no wonder that 'eye' has become the search tool for the microscopic and macroscopic exploration of our physical world, both in its seen and unseen domains.

Plato's [350 BC] awe of eye and vision was stated thus:

"Vision, in my view, is the cause of greatest benefit to us, inasmuch as none of the accounts now given concerning the Universe would ever have been given if men had not seen the stars or the sun or the heaven. But as it is, the vision of day and night and of months and circling years has created the art of number and has given us not only the notion of Time but also the means of research into the nature of the Universe."

So we have the microscope and telescope. Human experience of self consists of the awareness not only of the world outside of him but also the awareness of his inner self. Cinema's greatness and success lies in the fact that the 'camera-eye / cinema-eye' has become the microscope and telescope all in one, to know the hidden, magical wonderlands of human mind.

Cinema has the unique gift of creating wonder, more than any other arts form, by the sheer power of its images and ordering of these images. I have even a fleeting thought that ordering of images is also part of imaging. It is an established fact by now that cinematographer has a great role in the creation of the very soul of the cinema - 'the images'. Isn't it wonderful to think that cinema is after all the art of light? Why does light give so much happiness and peace to human beings? Whether it is the fierce fire-works displays, or a star lit night sky or even a building or city illuminated by tiny lamps has a magical spell on us.

It is not by chance that a great filmmaker like Orson Welles had chosen to place his name and his cinematographers name in one single credit card.

How correctly Orson Welles establishes the nature of a creative collaboration between a Director and Cinematographer. This credit card gives a lot of respect to the cinematographer's work. I am sure if Orson Welles were to give this credit today, he would have used the term 'cinematography' instead of 'photography'

Finally, we all know that light is the food of our body. May be light is also the food of our soul.



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