Magazine article American Cinematographer

Creating the Mood for Ram Leela

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Creating the Mood for Ram Leela

Article excerpt

Ram Leela is a Hindi drama based on the classic tale of William Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet." The script called for a subdued and hidden violent mood, but with romantic overtones. Cinematographer Ravi Varman felt that look could only be achieved using motion picture film.

"This was a particularly challenging job," notes Varman, whose 27 features include the renowned Barfi. "As always, my goal is to capture the mood of the film and enhance it through colors, light and darkness."

Varman chose a variety of stocks, including KODAK VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 5213, KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219 and KODAK VISION3 250D Color Negative Film 5207. His camera package included an ARRICAM Lite, ARRIFLEX 435 Xtreme and ARRIFLEX 235.

One particularly challenging shoot took place at Jaipur Palace, which is surrounded by a large body of water. Varman and his team were given only one day to light an area of 2 kilometers (1.24 miles). Varman and his crew had to speculate how the area would look at night, and light it during the day.

"We needed a huge body of water to dazzle in light," explains Varman. "We didn't have much light for the large area, so I used locally available lights like gas lamps and halogen lamps to fill it up. After it was lit, the people of the area were so happy, flabbergasted even. r They told me that it had been 25 years since it was lit up like that for a visit from the late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. They asked me whether it was possible to light it permanently. Unfortunately, I had to tell them it wasn't."

Varman uses long shots in Ram Leela, mimicking a style he learned from director David Lean (Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia) and Akira Kurosawa films (Seven Samurai, Rashomon). "In a sense," he reflects, "meditative lighting was also used to convey the conflict element. I used almost all techniques in the book to achieve the look the script demanded - keeping the camera opposite to the sunlight to get the glare effect, opening the sets to let sunlight seep in on the faces, using night film for daylight and daylight film to shoot night shots. You name it, I used it."

The script was written and directed by the prominent Indian filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whom is known for his exotic visuals, grandeur, and pleasant colors. …

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