Thugs of Hindostan DoP Manush Nandan: Working on a period drama was challenging, but the experience of a lifetime

It was amazing to see a 76-year-old be so actively involved in the action sequences and his energy level was unbelievable - Thugs of Hindostan cinematographer Amitabh Bachchan

Haricharan Pudipeddi November 12, 2018 13:07:14 IST
Thugs of Hindostan DoP Manush Nandan: Working on a period drama was challenging, but the experience of a lifetime

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s Thugs of Hindostan, which features Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Fatima Sana Shaikh, might have opened to mixed reviews from audiences and critics alike, but it’s undeniably one of Bollywood’s most ambitious period films with healthy dose of action and adventure. To get a better understanding of all the effort that has gone into the project, Firstpost caught up with cinematographer Manush Nandan for an exclusive chat on the making of the project and the planning that went into mounting the film on a never before seen grand scale.

Thugs of Hindostan DoP Manush Nandan Working on a period drama was challenging but the experience of a lifetime

Aaamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan in a still from Thugs of Hindostan

A former associate of well-known lensman Ravi K. Chandran, Manush’s journey began as an assistant cameraman on Aamir Khan’s Fanaa, which also marked the beginning of his association with Yash Raj Films. Manush, whose last big Bollywood outing was Shah Rukh Khan’s Happy New Year, said his long association with Yash Raj Films earned him the opportunity to work on Thugs of Hindostan. “Producer Aditya Chopra was well aware of my work. When they had planned Thugs, they wanted a cinematographer who could spend a lot of time on the project. I had just completed two projects when Vijay wanted to meet and discuss. After a few meetings, I came on board and everything else just fell in place,” recalls Manush, who said if not for extensive planning, they couldn’t have pulled off this project.

“A project of this scale would usually take over 200 days of shooting. We finished it in 145 days because we spent close to a year and a half on planning,” said Manush, adding that even before the team went for shoot, they shot the action sequences which were converted into animation. “When we were rehearsing scenes, we shot most of the action sequences. We had the rough action scenes edited even before we went for shoot. On the day of shoot, we knew clearly what was to be shot and this saved us a lot of time. Even the scenes that happen on the ship were shot much before. We did mock marking of the ships and shot most of the scenes and then reshot them with the actors when the ships were built.”

Working on the project was creatively challenging for Manush. “When you talk about a period film in the 18th century, the only sources of light are sunlight during the day and moonlight and fire at night. There was no other source of light and we couldn’t afford to cheat with any other form of light as it would not do justice to the overall colour tone of the film. Even with these three sources of light, we still had the challenge of not making scenes look monotonous. For instance, we had to shoot a song inside a cave and we could’ve easily done it had it been just a couple of actors. But we had to shoot with hundreds of actors so we lit up the cave like they would’ve in that era. We could achieve all this because of the year and a half of planning and rehearsing scenes,” he said.

Thugs of Hindostan DoP Manush Nandan Working on a period drama was challenging but the experience of a lifetime

Thugs of Hindostan poster. Image via Twitter/YRF

Thugs of Hindostan marks the first time collaboration of Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan. Manush admits that this meant the entire team was under a lot of responsibility. Heaping praise on both the actors and how they put their respective images and stardom aside, Manush said: “We had two great actors coming together for the first time. It gave a sense of responsibility to all of us. But what made working with them easy was their professionalism. They saw the film beyond their stardom and were willing to do anything.” Elaborating with an example, he said: “There were an emotional scene between Bachchan and Aamir in a piece of barren land. That scene was supposed to be shot in a day. We shot it quite early in the morning but I felt it needed another day but it meant breaking the flow of emotions between the actors and making them do it again. The challenge was that we weren’t sure if the scene would turn out the same way on the second day. My director understood the need for shooting in two days and he explained it to the actors who immediately agreed. Two stars of that stature could’ve asked us to take care of the scene in post-production. But Aamir and Bachchan ji are exceptions and that’s what made working with them so much fun.”

Manush went on to praise Big B’s commitment in the action sequences. “This was an action dominated film. It was amazing to see a 76-year-old be so actively involved in the action sequences and his energy level was unbelievable. He was ready to do so much more, even when most of us feared for his safety,” he said.

On a concluding note, Manush said that the project offered him great scope to deliver even while working with limitations. “People say a period film will get the work of a technician noticed, but that’s only after a film gets released. Working on Thugs challenged my abilities and it’s an experience of a lifetime.”

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