Ashok Mehta, one of India’s most respected cinematographers, ran away from home and school in Delhi, in the 70s to pursue his dream of becoming an Actor. However, on arriving, he realized that life here was a struggle. He saw no point in returning home empty handed. So he started off as a canteen boy, worked as a hawker, a light man, a camera attendant, before he finally became a cameraman. With "36 Chowrangee Lane" he had his first tryst with recognition as a Cinematographer. No formal training groomed this National Award winning Cinematographer, who also turned Director with the film "Moksh", starring Arjun Rampal, Manisha Koirala. He has several hit Films to his credit like” The Bandit Queen”, “ Ram Lakhan”, “Saudagar”, “Chalte Chalte”, “No Entry”, “Waqt: Race Against Time” amongst few
Mr. Mehta began the lecture by focusing on the qualities required to be an Actor. If story is the soul of the film, the Actors make it evident by adding verve to it. Actors are suppose to live the characters they play, which means they have to be instinctive with the mannerisms, characteristic traits and the temperaments of the role played by them. Another important factor for an Actor is to have a good memory in order to deliver dialogues with ease. He suggested that students read at least one page everyday and try to register the content of the page in their mind, which in turn will improve their memory.
An Actor is expected to understand the role precisely and play it with utmost clarity and consistency. Techniques can be learnt but the job of an Actor is to be natural, he/she should design a patter in the mind and act accordingly in order to concentrate on the frame. Above all Filmmaking is work of creation, which requires lot of commitment and conviction to reach greater heights and be accepted in the industry.
He further informed the students to not just remain mere technicians but to become creators and explore various forms of art to become a creative person. That can be done only when one learns the skill to transform technique into art, which has a longer shelf life and remains for years to come inspiring generations all together. Talking further on this, he said, “Technique should not overpower the content otherwise it becomes gimmick, it should remain and follow the subject. Be clear about what you need, how are you going to design and light up the event, be precise about converting techniques into art, that is a must”.
Talking about inspiration he said that being inspired is essential for any creative person, it enhances the core of an artist further helping him/her deliver the best. Inspiration comes from anything one should have the ability to pick up from any source. Even your six senses teach and inspire you. We all have an aptitude to learn and grow, even Mother Nature teaches you a lot of things, just be open to the elements. Inspiration does not mean imitating anyone, it means getting encouraged to do something better.
Mr. Mehta further stated that innovation is the most essential criteria required to be in a creative field. It is mandatory to be different from your previous work, and most importantly work for yourself to prove yourself and not others. Design yourself in such a way that your previous work acts as a challenge for you to excel in your next venture.
He further mentioned that knowledge is the key to any door of success. Adding to this, he said, “Keep reading and be updated about everything, there are so many books you can learn and improvise yourself from…get inspired from everyone and do not be egoistic”. Knowledge acquired is always less.
If a Director is aware about other aspects of Filmmaking it becomes easier for him/her to contribute and communicate better, since you cannot understand other’s mind communication helps to bridge that gap. A Director is expected to have the capacity to at least understand the jargons of other department of Filmmaking to explain better to his team members.
Any creative genius should create an impression through his/her work, put your soul in your work for it to last. People who have contributed to the world of art are still respected, admired and cherished. It all depends on how well you communicate your views to the audience.
On asked about how important Lighting is he said that, using camera is a technique but how to change the mood and look of a particular scene depends on how well you illuminate it. It is critical to understand framing and composition and lighting will differ from scene to scene.
In his parting lines he advised the students to work hard and be open for learning from various sources. Elaborating on this, he said, “Everyone has a journey in life even blessed people have to work for it. Use your wisdom and decide whose experience and wisdom you should take and learn from”.
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