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Ace lensman recalls magic moments

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PROUD POSSESSION: Seen with a portrait of his guru the ace cinematographer Marcus Bartlay. --Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam.
PROUD POSSESSION: Seen with a portrait of his guru the ace cinematographer Marcus Bartlay. --Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam.

G.V. Prasada Sarma

Ambu Rao specifically mentionsMayabazar

VISAKHAPATNAM: For the young apprentice in the renowned Vauhini Studios in Chennai, his first experience turned out to be memorable. Not surprising. He was working for an all-time classic in the making, the bilingual Mayabazar, and was part of a team headed by the well-known cinematographer, the one and only Marcus Bartley.

Some 50 years later, sitting in his house at Burujupeta here, the 73-year-old ace photographer D.S. Ambu Rao recalls the beginning that led to his association with a string of films and narrates the events in vivid detail. He got a thumbs down when he first met Marcus Bartley, fresh with a diploma in cinematography and sound engineering, but luckily got the break a few months later.

Cherished period

Working with Bartley, the next one and a half years turned out to be the most cherished period in his life. He later met Bartley twice. A rare autographed, self-portrait of Bartley of 1982 is a prized possession with him now. He says the meticulous Bartley had total control over the department, with the famous Nagi Reddy-Chakrapani duo running the Vijaya and Vauhini studios and Vijaya Productions respecting his work and providing everything he wanted. The result was a masterpiece!

Apart from the shooting going strictly by the screenplay and light set by Bartley, Mr. Ambu Rao specifically mentions a few magic moments in Mayabazar that mesmerised several generations of filmgoers and continue to do so. The evergreen song "Lahiri, lahiri lo'' was shot at Ennore near Madras (now Chennai) at noon. The outdoor shooting lasted only for 10 to 15 seconds. "Bartley was a genius in creating the illusion of moonlight and Mayabazar is the first Indian film to do so,'' he asserts.

Another masterstroke was the creation of Dwaraka. Some 300 miniature houses, no two alike, were created in about 50 x 60 ft space and electrified. Credit should also go to art director Madhavapeddi Gokhale, says the ace photographer.

Mr. Ambu Rao later worked for 14 films, including Lavakusa, Venkateswara Mahatmyam, Namminabantu, Jayabheri and Mahamantri Timmarasu in the studios with several prominent directors like C. Pullayya, P. Pullayya and Kamalakara Kameswara Rao over a period of six years from 1956. "I have learnt discipline and love for work under him. But I regret that I could not make use of even one-hundredth of what I had learnt of cinematography,'' sighs Mr. Ambu Rao.


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