One of the reasons why Raees trailer is looking different is its cinematography by KU Mohanan. A graduate from FTII, Mohanan has earlier worked on films including Don, Talaash and Miss Lovely. In an interview with indianexpress.com, Mohanan explains how the look of Raees evolved:
We did quite a few recces in old Ahmedabad before starting this film. We scouted almost all the areas in the city to get a feel of the place. Initially, we were supposed to shoot the film in Gujarat. However, due to various reasons, it couldn’t have been done. For instance, taking a star like Shah Rukh Khan to a place like Gujarat would have been a nightmare for the production house. So we decided to shoot the film mostly on sets in Mumbai. For that, we needed a lot of research. There is A fictitious place in Raees called Fatehpura. In my initial discussion with Rahul Dholakia, I was shown some beautiful pictures of a place that was around 160 kilometres from Ahmedabad. I can’t recollect the name of that place.
We stayed there around one week during our first recce. We walked around lanes and took pictures of old, interesting-looking buildings. We studied architecture and the kind of colour people use in their buildings. We used those photographs as reference for creating our sets and the whole facade of the film. Raees is very realistic but has a sense of modernity. We have shot the film in a very contemporary style. My sensibilities come from watching world cinema including European films. So, even though Raees is a commercial film, I have approached the film with a realistic cinematography.
On ’70s look of Raees: During the regular meetings between core members, we discussed the look of the film including hairstyle, costume and other things. In many films based on the ’70s, makers take a reference from Hindi films of that period. We didn’t approach the film that way. We collected photographs from different places of that period-70’s and 80’s. Costume designer Sheetal Sharma collected a lot of pictures from that period. Production designers Anita Rajagopalan and Donald Reagan-also collected photographs. The style of Raees is developed from those photographs.
I am an instinctive cinematographer. I don’t follow a particular syntax. I develop kind of a style based on the narrative. I try not to repeat that in next film. There were a lot of nightlife visuals in Talaash and Miss Lovely. While Miss Lovely was realistic, Talaash was high on style. The look of Raees evolved with time. I created my own look within my mind and colour palette while reading the film. However, the final look evolves from locations and place. The process is very organic and depends on a lot of elements. I don’t believe in imagining and imposing my style on the film. The look should evolve from script and locations.
Giving a visual identity to Raees: After seeing locations, we came up with a colour palette. You will see cooler colours that are dominant throughout the film. We have used warm colours at a few places especially in songs. We used a lot of shades of green, blue and grey. We stayed away from brown. This was important to give a visual identity to the film. That makes the film unique.
Shooting Close-up shots between Raees and Majumdar: It was Rahul Dholakia’s idea to end scenes between Shah Rukh Khan (Raees) and Nawazudding Siddiqui ( Majumdar) with extreme close-up shots. We started scenes between the actors with the wide frame and ended them in close-up shots. Rahul wanted to develop this cinematic style for the film.
On Shah Rukh Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui: Nawazuddin Siddiqui has always been a talented actor. I enjoyed shooting close-up shots between Shah Rukh and Nawazuddin. They are competing with each other in those scenes. We have known Nawazuddin as a serious actor. However, I must say, Shah Rukh Khan is on top of his game. You will see a very different Shah Rukh Khan in the film. He is a fascinating actor to work with. Both of them have acted well.
On Laila Main Laila: The song is set in a certain period. It’s a cabaret dance form. In regular Bollywood films, one sees the use of new, intelligent lights (moving lights for creating multiple effects). I used lighting from 70’s and 80’s to create a certain kind of mood.
On shooting Nawazuddin crushing bottles scene: We had a lot of difficulties while shooting the scene. It’s a very beautiful visual. It actually happened in Gujarat in the 80s. I have seen some pictures in different newspapers.
This is my fourth film with Excel Productions. Ritesh Sidhwani called me and that’s how I met Rahul Dholakia. When I heard the script, I thought this is something that I wanted to do. The cinematography in Malayalam films is very realistic. Young people are doing a great job there. Dangal and Kahaani were very well shot. People are trying to bring much more realistic cinematography in Bollywood films.