The master of light and shadow

The master of light and shadow

Submitted by alvin on Sat, 2016-11-26 19:35 Sitting in the front garden of the small bungalow, which had a unique charm —just like the beautiful black and white images of his films —we began drinking our evening tea. I was in the house of legendary cinematographer VK Murthy. Soon, our conversation reached the point which I was awaiting eagerly. He started narrating it in a leisurely way, “We were shooting for ‘Kaagaz ke Phool’ inside Mehboob Studio. One afternoon, when we saw a beam of sunlight falling from the ceiling of the studio and the dust particles dancing in that ray, it looked stunningly beautiful. Guru Dutt asked me, ‘Can you create it? Can we use this in our film?’ I said I will try, but had no idea how to create that magic. A few days later, when I saw a makeup man’s mirror reflecting the sun rays, I thought, ‘That’s it. This is what I need to do.’   We used two big mirrors. One placed outside studio in such a way that when the sunlight struck the mirror, a beam of light would fall inside the studio. And one more mirror inside the studio placed in an angle to direct the shaft of the light to create a parallel beam. “It was perfect and ‘Waqt ne Kiya’ song created history. We became the first team to use natural sunlight inside the studio. It was simple yet creative,” said Murthy. I, too, had read the story about the famous beam shot many times. But hearing it from the man himself was something which I had looking forward to. And he didn’t disappoint me. The sparkle in his eyes and the enthusiasm in his voice is still fresh in my mind. The iconic song In 2010, VK Murthy, the man who captured Guru Dutt’s celluloid dreams on screen, got the coveted Dada Saheb Phalke award. His otherwise quite house in the upper middle-class area of Bengaluru, Sahankarapura, was getting quite a few visitors and phone calls. It seemed as if the world and Bengaluru suddenly awakened to the greatness of this man who changed the direction of Hindi cinema through his memorable moving images. “I wanted to become famous. So I ran away from my hometown Mysore to Mumbai to peruse my acting dreams. But I couldn’t achieve much. So I came back and wanted to do cinematography course in Bangalore. My education qualification was not enough to take admission in SJP College. But my stint in Bollywood helped me to get into the course.” That’s how the iconic SJP College got one of its best alumni. After the course, VK Murthy went back to Mumbai and began working as an assistant cameraman. It was during this time that he was noticed by director Guru Dutt. During the shooting of ‘Baazi’, Murthy not only suggested a complex shot but also filmed it. Thus began a new relationship between Guru Dutt and VK Murthy, which resulted in a few timeless classics such as ‘Chaudvi Ka Chand’, ‘Pyaasa’, ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, ‘Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam’. VK Murthy used light and shadow very effectively in his movies and painted each frame with black and white strokes. He was the one to shoot India’s first cinemascope Kaagaz Ke Phool. Murthy and Guru Dutt, with all their difference of opinions, shared a strange yet strong bond till the untimely death of Dutt. VK Murthy’s childhood dream was to act in films and become famous. That dream got fulfilled when he did a cameo role in Rajendra Singh Babu’s Kannada film Huvu Hannu at the age of 74. Did he become famous? Though I always admired Guru Dutt’s movies, what fascinated me more was the magic of black and white photography. Extensively used close-ups (which other cinematographers referred as Murthy’s close-ups) in his movies seemed breathtakingly beautiful to me. The actors looked surreal and the facial expressions got elevated to a different level because of the light and shadow. Though I fell in love with those images from Guru Dutt’s movies, I never thought about the man behind the camera. And that must be the case with many who appreciate Guru Dutt’s films. It was only when Murthy was awarded the Phalke award that I met him for the first and the last time as a journalist. Now to answer the question: Did he become famous? I must say Murthy was not always in the eyes of the world. But his priceless work will speak for generations to come.