Simple is a great way to work : Cinematographer, Mitesh Mirchandani
Mitesh Mirchandani is a young and leading cinematographer and an alumnus of New York Film Academy. He has to his credit memorable films like Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, Neerja, Uri : The Surgical Strike. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Cinematography for Neerja. He has worked on several ad films for top brands.
‘Keeping it minimalistic and simple is a great way to work’ is the mantra adopted by Mitesh, who reveals much more in a Q&A with Broadcast & Film.
Tell us about your journey as a cinematographer. What attracted you to this field?
I started by shooting a Marathi film that I was offered because of my short film work as a film school student. I was all of 20 years when I was offered this film. I was really overwhelmed when the director offered it to me and didn’t believe it until we actually started prepping. I then got Luv Shuv, as the director saw my work and got me on board. I worked on a lot of television commercials post that and got a chance to work with Ram Madhvani on a few of them. That really gave me some sort of clarity on how I like to shoot and keeping things minimalistic and simple is a great way to work. I waited for 3 years post Luv Shuv and then Ram offered Neerja to me to which I instantly responded by saying- Yes. Three years later again when I was in search of what to do next, Sonia, the Producer of Uri stumbled upon an Indian Air Force commercial that I had shot. The ad was sent to the director who then offered me the film – Uri : The Surgical Strike.
What are your most memorable films which you shot as a cinematographer? What were the unique challenges that you encountered during the shoot?
Honestly for me each and every film I choose, I choose because of the very challenges It has to offer. For my first film I was trying to figure out my language and what kind of things I liked and how I could keep my sets minimal and organised. Luv Shuv was shot a lot during the day. EXT planning, those according to the moving sun is not at all easy to do. I learned a lot about planning the day and scheduling everything according to the Sun. Neerja was more about shooting long takes and capturing the moment without any film lights. I was really worried as to how I was going to make this work for the big screen. But it worked out really well. I didn’t end up using any film lights in that movie. No flags/ thermacols etc... Kept it extremely natural and planned my practicals in specific places. Then came Uri which was a massive scale film for which the budget didn’t really match up to the things we needed to make it look how it looked. I had to think and figure out ways of how I didn’t compromise the film and still make everything look the way I had envisioned. I kept my team and crew very minimalistic. And every lighting setup was planned before as not to cause any confusion with diagrams. And we actually ended up shooting all of the action in 40 days which is actually unheard of in a film of this scale. So, everything has been an incredible learning experience that I have applied to my next.
How do you look at the transition from the analogue days to the digital era of films. Specially shooting in the Kodak days to the shooting on digital cameras now. Your comments on the advantages of shooting on digital cameras.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the pleasure to shoot much on film. I did a lot in film school and shot a lot of commercials on film. I’m hoping in the future to still shoot it for the nostalgic side of things and of course if my script demands it. I honestly, I’m growing to like it and sometimes dislike it as digital you get to see too much and sometimes, I like to leave things to ambiguity. I feel like too much details and giving away too many things doesn’t serve the story I usually like to tell. It’s great for the director as I can always explain exactly what look I’m going for and how I am planning things to look so everyone including the edit has the same LUTS. So that also no one is shocked post the DI as to how much things have changed.
Which are the cinematographers you admire and were you influenced by anyone? Which films in Bollywood and Hollywood stand out for their cinematography?
Actually, for me I grew up watching a lot of Western cinema and since I studied cinematography in the US and realised my love for the craft. A lot of my inspiration comes from there. I love the work of Roger Deakins and Anthony Dod Mantle. And honestly there are so many movies that are just phenomenal and you get to learn so much from, its very difficult to square it down to just a few. But some of the work that absolutely stood out for me was Kaminey, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Bluffmaster etc.. We have some really amazing talented people who are doing some amazing work .
Which has been the most satisfying moment in your career?
I truly love my job and what I do. For me the most satisfying moments are with my crew. I’ve been working with a lot of them for 5-6 years plus and some are very recent. I love that that they always make sure that their available for me. I truly love working with them and they are my anchors and support through every process.
It was great when Neerja got appreciated at Filmfare. That way my entire crew get appreciated for all the hard work that they had put in.
And honestly every day when I wake up and go to work, I’m satisfied with all the films I’ve worked on knowing that that’s the best I could have done at that time with the constraints and the problems we had.
Do you have any specific genres of films you like? And I understand that you are also in ad films. Which do you enjoy the most – shooting movies or ad films?
I love shooting something that challenges me and that I haven’t shot before. I’m really looking forward to shooting a Sci-Fi at the moment. I would love to explore the work of fantasy and really anything that can challenge me and push the limits I’ve set for myself. I think both have their own charm. But I’m more inclined towards shooting narrative and commercials are usually really quick.Films allow me to explore a different side sometimes.