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Madhu Ambat turns director

Ace cinematographer Madhu Ambat makes his directorial debut with "1:1.6 — An Ode To Lost Love", an English film starring Prabhod Das Gupta, Atul Kulkarni, Rathi Agnihotri, Masoomi and Sonali Kulkarni. M. L. NARASIMHAM meets him

AFTER WORKING wonders with the camera, Madhu Ambat, ace cinematographer, is now wielding the megaphone, thus realising a long-cherished dream. "I have been toying with the idea of translating onto screen, a short story I wrote in English, 20 years ago. But preoccupations made me postpone the project all these years. It was only last December that I went ahead with the shoot of "1:1.6 — An Ode To Lost Love". NFDC is producing the film," says Madhu Ambat relaxing in his office at his aesthetically done up residence in Mahalingapuram.

In fact, he initially planned to make the film in Kannada; but soon realised that there are some scenes, which are difficult to make in any language other than English. "Moreover, the characters in the film hail from different parts of the country. The lingua franca for them is English. It is a film within a film, a relation-oriented subject with an emotional feel. I found a perfect set of artistes — Gulshan Grover (filmmaker Prabhod Das Gupta from Bengal), Atul Kulkarni (M the cameraman from Kerala) and Rathi Agnihotri (Mrs. Bhatt who is the heroine's mother from Karnataka). Masoomi, niece of producer Gul Anand, plays the heroine Sushmitha. And in the film within the film, her character is Shanti, a naxalite. Sonali Kulkarni's is another key role in the film. M plays her jilted lover. We began the shoot in the mist season at Masoomi's sprawling residence in Pune," says Madhu giving an insight into his ambitious venture.

But what does the title mean? "1:1.6 is the ratio of a film frame. When one begins to work for films, this ratio gets fixed in his eyes and he cannot help viewing what happens around him through this frame. Even one begins to draw ideas for movies from personal tragedies instead of getting affected by them; in short, cinema becomes more important than life. This is what M says and gives the title 1:1.6 to the film he is making. But his heroine Sushmitha feels the title is not complete, `the loss of your Asha (Sonali Kulkarni) has made you think like this. Hence, is it not apt to call the film 1:1.6 — An Ode To Lost Love,' she asks. M is convinced. And thus was born the title for my film," laughs Madhu.

Is the character M autobiographical? "No... No... I was inspired by Kafka's poems. He always referred to the main character as K, creating an aura about it."

He says he has no idea of taking up direction as a full-time job. "It is only a hobby. My passion and profession is cinematography." He is currently cranking the camera for a Telugu film "Avuna!" directed by C. Umamaheswara Rao whose earlier work "Ankuram", which won national honours, was shot by Madhu Ambat.

Madhu says he had an enriching experience working with such masters as G. V. Iyer, K. R. Mohanan, Lenin Rajendran, K. S. Sethumadhavan, Maniratnam, Bharathan, Girish Kasaravalli and Prema Karanth. He won the National Award for Best Cinematography for "Adi Sankaracharya" and the Andhra Pradesh State Award for "Hrudayanjali". He was the first Indian cinematographer to work for a Hollywood production; the film was M. Night Shyamalan's "Wide Awake" shot in the U.S. British filmmaker Timotty Fodder impressed with his skills made him cameraman for his "Binodini" in English, based on a short story by Tagore.

Through all his achievements, he remains a simple man. A gold medallist from the Film and Television Institute of India in 1973, Madhu held the `muhurat' for his maiden directorial venture under the very tree in the campus where he gained the knowledge of cinema. And he had invited Sathish Bahadur, the man who introduced him to good cinema at the institute, to switch on the camera.

"Art director Krishnamurthy has been of great help. Isaac Thomas has composed the background score. The film lasts 110 minutes with 102 scenes and 30 locations including the stunningly beautiful Gokarnam Beach in Karnataka. I promise that the film will not be monotonous," says Madhu with a smile.

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