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A remarkable journey

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In focus Ravi K Chandran with Karan Johar
In focus Ravi K Chandran with Karan Johar

‘My Name is Khan' was more than picture-perfect postcards on the US, says cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran.

Ravi K. Chandran and Karan Johar were to work together for Kal Ho Na Ho but Ravi's calendar had no free dates for the film-maker. Karan returned with a larger canvas, My Name is Khan. “Even before I was on board, Karan and his assistant directors had toured the US six times scouting for locations. He did extensive pre-production work. Later, along with Karan and art director Sharmista Roy, I toured the locations,” says Ravi, basking on the feedback MNIK has been bringing him.

“I've been getting so many calls from cinematographers in Hyderabad — Chota K. Naidu, Ram Prasad, Guhan and others — congratulating my work. When fellow cinematographers, who are well versed in the technicalities, call and appreciate, it feels good,” he smiles. He has reasons to be pleased. Shah Rukh Khan's journey across the US was ably supported by Ravi's camera. “Sharmista came up with the idea of having colours of the US flag — red, blue and white — as the colour theme for the film. We used this subtly, from clothes to artefacts,” he explains.

He credits Karan for giving him freedom to execute his ideas. “Karan didn't want picture postcard frames that promote tourism for the US. Normally, when films are shot abroad, the focus is on landscapes. Though SRK travels across the US, we used very few wide angle shots. The wide angle shot when SRK lands in the US establishes the feelings of a man who has moved to a huge country from a Mumbai chawl.”

Ravi talks about showcasing San Francisco as never before. “We didn't want the oft-repeated shots of the bridge. We went to suburbs where the middle-class lives.” The misty morning scene where Kajol proposes to SRK is clever work of cinematography and postproduction. “We shot for three days in the evenings, when the streets were deserted. We added more mist during postproduction to make it look surreal,” he reveals.

Ravi is choosy about his films and meticulous detailing sets him apart. “When people watch a good film over the years, they notice new things they had missed earlier. When I see Godfather now, I go beyond the acting and the plot. The subtle details in the background interest me. When people see my films, I want them to gather something new,” he says.

He narrates how he used the sunlight glare as a motif for key scenes. “The glare is in place the 9/11 scene and when the gates are opened for SRK to meet the President.”

The scene he enjoyed shooting the most? SRK's haircut by Kajol. “I shot it in so many ways that the editor of the film remarked that it looked like a lovemaking scene,” laughs Ravi.

SANGEETHA DEVI DUNDOO

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