Friday, December 4, 2009
Cinematography: Subrata Mitra
Discussion on favorite cinematographers and their aesthetic and technique at Indian Auteur Forum. The discussion kicked off with the works of the legendary but largely forogtten cinematographer Subrata Mitra. Join in to discuss this and more at the forum:
'Subrata Mitra is perhaps the greatest ever Indian cinematographer who revolutionized prevailing aesthetics in Indian Cinema with innovations designed to make light more realistic and poetic.
Mitra was born into a middle-class Bengali family in 1930. Even as a schoolchild he would cycle with classmates to the nearest cinema to watch British and Hollywood films. By the time he was in college, he had decided he would either become an architect or a cinematographer. Failing to find work as a camera assistant he reluctantly continued studying for his science degree.
In 1950 the great Jean Renoir came to Calcutta to shoot 'The River'. Mitra tried to get a job on the film but was turned away. With the efforts of his father he was given permission to watch the shooting. Out there he used to make extensive notes and meticulous diagrams detailing the lighting and the movements of camera and actors. In fact one day the cinematographer Claude Renoir asked for his notes to check lighting continuity before doing a retake. Also visiting the sets on Sundays and holidays to watch the shooting was a graphic designer. Mitra became friends with him and would visit him every day and describe in great detail what he had witnessed at the shooting. The other gentleman was planning a film and one day he asked Mitra to photograph the film for him. And so at the age of 21 Mitra became a director of photography.
The film he was to photograph - 'Pather Panchali', and the director - Satyajit Ray. 'Pather Panchali' was shot over four years in chunks whenever Ray was able to find funds. In fact for 18 months the production shut down entirely until Ray's mother talked to a friend of a friend of the Chief Minister of West Bengal who agreed to finance the remaining part of the film. 'Pather Panchali' led to a collaboration with Ray which produced 10 films in 15 years.Read More