Anjuli Shukla's work for ‘Kutty Srank' bags her the National Film Award for the Best Cinematographer.

Anjuli Shukla has made history as the first woman cinematographer to win a National Film Award for the Best Cinematographer for her work in ‘Kutty Srank'. Downplaying the hype, she says she has not given much thought to the fact that a ‘woman' has won it for the first time. “Cinema is a collaborative endeavour and I am glad ‘Kutty Srank' won so many awards, in addition to the National award for cinematography,” says Anjuli, speaking on the phone from Malshej in Maharashtra where she is shooting for Santosh Sivan's magnum opus ‘Urumi'.

Huge responsibility

She says that all during the shoot of ‘Kutty Srank', she felt she had a huge responsibility to live up to the expectations of its director Shaji N. Karun and her mentor Santosh Sivan as she “came from the Santosh school of films.” “Moreover, Santosh has worked with Shaji, himself an acclaimed cinematographer. So I had to ensure that I did not let them down.”

Calling it a great experience to work with such talented directors, Anjali says each shot gave her the opportunity to learn from a veteran director-cinematographer who makes the world sit up and take note of his films. “There are so many talented cinematographers and I consider myself lucky to have been chosen to work on ‘Kutty Srank'. Shaji told me that he wanted a woman behind the camera as he wanted a woman's perspective. He believed that a woman would be more sensitive to the emotional nuances of the characters,” adds Anjuli. She says that she works instinctively, reacting to the situation and mood of a scene.

But she avers that cinema being a team effort calls for discussions to make each shot enhance the narrative of the film. “The director explains his idea and the scene to the director of photography (DoP) and the actors. They react and relate to that space, scene and situation and then it is up to the DoP to transform that visually and use that space and scene to best capture that on film. A film envelopes a space and a world created by a team,” explains Anjuli.

And the world created by her succeeded in focussing on the fine nuances of the film that unfold three stages of a man's life. Transient moods of nature and men have been faithfully reflected on her lens as the story is narrated on the wide canvas of a society in transition. Her camera unobtrusively captures and removes the mist that shrouds the turmoil of the characters as change comes in the form of a man without a name.

A graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India, Anjuli began her career with Santosh. And now she is again working with him for ‘Urumi'. She says working on an epic like ‘Urumi' with a crew and cast comprising the best in India is a rare opportunity for any filmmaker.

She says both Shaji and Santosh have this incredible ability to be in synch with nature. “Their stories, the nuances, detailing, perspective… there is so much to learn from them,” gushes this avid cinema buff who hails from Lucknow.