The legendary cinematographer, recalls his dear friends from Mysore, the inimitable Gurudutt and Kamal Amrohi

V.K. Murthy's house is among the very few surviving old bungalows of Bangalore; it borders Chamarajpet and Shankarapuram, among the very few localities of the city that still cling to their old-world charm. The 89-year-old legendary cinematographer, known in the world of cinema as “Gurudutt's eye”, belongs to the Bangalore of yesteryears. Warm, simple and hospitable, if you didn't know Murthy, you could pass him by on the street like you would a stranger.

The frail Murthy, comfortable in his white vest and white cotton pyjamas, is a winner of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, IIFA's Lifetime Achievement Award, and several Filmfare awards.

Almost inseparable

It's impossible for a cineaste to imagine Gurudutt's films without Murthy's touch.He worked like a painter, who not only brought his own tones to Gurudutt's canvas, but used natural light to bring in a range of emotions.

When Murthy won the Dadsaheb Phalke award, he instantly disowned it. “All this would not have been possible without my friends who supported me during my struggling years,” recalled Murthy, when even two meals a day was unthinkable. “It was my good fortune that I met Gurudutt, who evinced immense trust in me. He was a remarkable artiste, intense and passionate; a thorough gentleman.” Gurudutt was extraordinary with his detailing but he never interfered with Murthy's work. He gave Murthy his artistic space and never underestimated his seriousness or capabilities. “I have had many fights with him. But they would be settled immediately, and we would have lunch together,” said Murthy, slipping back in time.

His favourite works

Everybody talks of the wonderful work of Kaagaz Ke Phool but Murthy's personal favourites are Pyaasa and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. The heart-wrenching silences that Murthy wove into that immortal scene of “Waqt Ne Kiya”, and the tragedy looming large on Meena Kumari's face as she broke into “Na Jaoon Saiyyan” are unforgettable.

Kamal Amrohi is his other favourite director. “When I reached the sets of Pakeezah, Kamal Sahab would say, ‘Murthy a gaya, ab humein fikr ki koi zaroorat nahin'. He had great respect for me and gave me a lot of freedom. Those were indeed great times and they were fabulous people.”

Murthy is no longer a busy cinematographer, but is busy attending seminars and workshops where aspiring cinematographers admiringly hover around him. “Those were golden years. Today, technology has changed so much. I don't know how it will be to work now,” Murthy pondered.


Soap BoxJanuary 13, 2011