Cinema

My First Break: Govind Nihalani

Director Govind Nihlani. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

Director Govind Nihlani. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.   | Photo Credit: K_Bhagya Prakash

I was into ad films and started my career as a cinematographer with renowned director Shyam Benegal in his films ‘Ankur', ‘Nishant', ‘Manthan' and ‘Junoon'. Cinematography is a difficult but exciting work as it requires a lot of concentration, aesthetics and technical knowledge. The sort of cinema initiated by Shyam Benegal after Mrinal Sen's path-breaking ‘Bhuvan Shome' and M.S. Sathyu's ‘Garm Hava' was unknown to the general Hindi film audience as entertainment and box office formula was not the main criteria for such films.

We thoroughly enjoyed shooting a live documentary on India's greatest filmmaker Satyajit Ray and during the process learnt a lot about cinema from him. Here was a director in complete control of the medium and making films he believed in – some of which are considered amongst the best in the world. Both Ray and Sen pinned high hopes on our abilities and in my heart of hearts, I desired to switch over to direction some day.

How it happened

My long desired debut as a director was with ‘Aakrosh', 30 years ago. I did not receive even one-third of the finances which were put for commercial blockbusters like ‘Bobby', ‘Deewar' or ‘Sholay'.

With shoe string budget I shot ‘Aakrosh' first in 16mm and then expanded to 35mm for the big screen. The film based on rural Nagpur had a theme of protest against the existing system with a coveted cast which included Om Puri, Smita Patil, Nasiruddin Shah, Amrish Puri and Nana Paluskar.

How it felt

‘Aakrosh' had a taut script written by noted playwright Vijay Tendulkar. I directed and cinematographed the film with great enthusiasm keeping an eye on minute details. I opted for expressions and body language more in the performances of Nana Paluskar and Om Puri.

Too many dialogues by them would have never appeared realistic.

I am proud to say even today that my entire cast gave memorable performances and ‘Aakrosh' was highly applauded nationwide. It was a success at the box office also.

How life changed

Then I went on making a variety of films and television serials like ‘Party', ‘Vijeta', ‘Ardha Satya' and ‘Tamas'. In fact Subrata Mitra, the greatest Indian cinematographer complimented me saying that he considered my ‘Drishti' a very well lit film.

Times have drastically changed in the past three decades. The emergence of multiplex and corporate culture has changed the face and concept of cinema to a great extent.

The stress is on realistic cinema, but with an appeal for only the urban audience.

My last film was “Dev” in 2004. I promise to continue making purposeful cinema which moves according to the present day.

As told to RANJAN DAS GUPTA

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 2:28:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/My-First-Break-Govind-Nihalani/article16145853.ece

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