City-based cinematographer Karthik Ganesh narrates his experiences of shooting Aurangzeb

Once in a while, there comes a film where the landscape is a vital character in the plot. Yash Raj Film’s recently released Aurangzeb is one such movie. The film captures the many facets of Gurgaon — gritty, affluent, fast-growing, crude and modern. The eye and brain behind the camera that captured this essence belongs to N. Karthik Ganesh, a young cinematographer born and bred in Chennai.

An unexpected turn

How he clinched Aurangzeb is interesting. “While shooting my final film for diploma, I was more interested in experimenting with images rather than cooking up a great show reel; but I was sure this was not going to fetch me work. So imagine my surprise when Atul Sabharwal offered me the tele-series Powder after watching my film at Lensight Festival. He also offered me Aurangzeb, my debut Hindi feature film,” says Karthik, who’s from Besant Nagar.

Karthik, a Physics graduate, did not think of cinematography until he turned 28. He quit his job at an Internet agency and decided to marry his penchant for films and passion for photography. And pursued cinematography at FTII Pune. Karthik recalls being inspired by the work of wildlife photographer S.U. Saravanakumar when he was part of the production team that shot the documentary for the BBC. “My interactions with director Naga of tele-series Marma Desam-fame and wildlife filmmaker Alphonse Roy too during the documentary shoot nudged me towards cinematography and FTII Pune.”

What was his greatest challenge while shooting for the big-budget Hindi film? “With so many stars around — Rishi ji, Jackie da and many others... — whom I venerated as a kid, it was difficult stopping myself from asking for autographs,” laughs Karthik. Karthik has also shot a feature film in Bangladesh. What next? “I would love to work in Kollywood.”

His most memorable moments from his journey? His father giving him a Zenith camera loaded with a full film roll and asking him to shoot as he wished.

“As a still photographer, the time that I spent in the dark room was very special. We couldn’t really see what was going to happen until we fully printed the photo. And those 30-odd seconds when the image appears is truly magical and I believe in magic,” he smiles.