26-year old Mitesh Mirchandani has broken into the front ranks of cinematographers in India thanks to his innovative work in the biopic Neerja. As the film’s DOP, he made some interesting choices, beginning with using a handheld camera for much of the film.
“I wanted viewers to feel engaged right from the start,” he said. “Starting off fast-paced, as the action mounted, I didn’t want the camera to be aggressive when the hijackers did their job. Finally, we used a static camera for the climactic speech sequence.”
Mirchandani revealed that around 65% of the film was shot on a specially designed set of a plane where he employed a four-camera (Arri Alexa Xt) setup to ensure that the actors could freely move about. “Since the narrative was compelling, I didn’t want the distraction of film lights and stands to inconvenience the actors,” he said. So, in tandem with the production designers he preplanned the spaces he would require for his shots and incorporated light that looked intrinsic to the set.
An alumnus of the New York Film Academy, Mirchandani had done just one film earlier, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, but was brimming over with ideas. Like most cameramen featured in this list, he understands the importance of visuals and their place in a film.
He opined, “If the narrative demands that something be vocalised visually, then it surely can take center stage. But, by and large, my job is to complement the narrative and not to draw the audience’s attention to the visuals.”