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The Man Behind the Camera

A documentary on cinematographer V Babasaheb,will be screened at IFFI.

Written by Prajakta Hebbar | Published: November 5, 2013 5:45:17 am

Almost every Indian,who is raised on a wholesome diet of Bollywood films and music is familiar with the scene from the film Seema,where a young Nutan,with long,wild hair is locked in a room. As the words from the song Tu pyaar ka saagar hai,teri ek boond ke pyaase hum,fall on her ears,she becomes impatient and paces around,finally resting her head on the rough,cemented wall,looking the picture of rebellion mingled with regret. This moving scene,from the iconic film was shot by the then relatively unknown cinematographer,V Babasaheb. Now,over 50 years later,the audience will get to know the man behind the camera,at the Indian Panorama section of the 44th International Film Festival of India (IFFI),to be held from November 20-30 in Goa.

It was in the mid-’70s,when a young Bharat Kanhere went to work as a camera assistant on the sets of the film Aakraman. Produced by Jagdish Kumar and directed by J Om Prakash,the war film had Ashok Kumar,Sanjeev Kumar,Rekha,Rakesh Roshan,and Rajesh Khanna in leading roles. Working on the film sets was a new experience for Kanhere,who was a faculty member at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII),Pune. “The glamorous and mindboggling world was made warm and home-like to me by the film’s cinematographer,V Babasaheb,who was kind and attentive to us youngsters,” says Pune-based Kanhere.

All these years later,Kanhere has produced a documentary film,titled V Babasaheb — Life in Full Open,on the life of the legendary cinematographer. In his late nineties now,Babasaheb has worked as a cameraperson,cinematographer or director of photography for films such as Ganga Jumna,Leader,Aan Milo Sajna and Aapki Kasam,among others.

Directed by National Award-winning screenplay writer Avinash Deshpande,V Babasaheb — Life in Full Open,traces the journey of the young boy,Vastad Babasaheb,who started his career with laying cables along the railway tracks. Originally from Miraz in Maharashtra,he landed at Prabhat Studio in Pune to talk to his distant relative,E Mohammed,a noted cinematographer of the ’30s and ’40s. Babasaheb entered the film industry started with odd jobs around the studio,and truly entered the industry in the ’50s,when his films such as Kath Putli,Badal and Daag,made it big.

Deshpande said,“There are so many scenes that are now very popular in the film industry,which are inspired by Babasaheb’s works. Take the train scene from the film Sholay for example. There is a fight sequence,where Sanjeev Kumar,the cop,frees the crooks Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra,to let them chase some dangerous robbers in a moving train. During our research we found that their point of reference was a similar sequence from the film Ganga Jumna,shot by Babasaheb. His style of work was not only immaculate and creative,he was a visionary in his own way,” says Deshpande.

Deshpande’s 52-minute documentary consists mainly of interviews of Babasaheb’s contemporaries and students,along with detailed interviews with the man himself,at his home in Miraz. The documentary was filmed in 15-20 days,spread over a span of two years. “He is so kind and down-to-earth; witty and energetic,and has great anecdotes to share,” says Deshpande,adding that Babasaheb has worked with almost all the famous actors,right from the ’40s till the late ’80s,such as Balraj Sahani,Dileep Kumar,Dharmendra,Rajesh Khanna,Rakhi and Smita Patil. “Funnily enough,he has worked on only one Marathi film Janmathep,that too when he was ready to retire,” says Deshpande. Babasaheb quit the world of films in the early ’90s and has been living at his ancestral home with his son and daughter.

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