BS Basavaraj, a veteran cinematographer finally completed his 15- minute documentary titled Drishya Garudiga. What is special you ask? Well, the film is all about the doyen of cinematography in India — the late VK Murthy.
The film presents a complete picture of Murthy, who carved a niche for himself with his striking images in black and white on Indian celluloid.
Murthy passed away in 2014 at the age of 91 and his demise marked the end of a glorious chapter in the history of the Indian celluloid. He was the first cinematographer to be chosen for the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award. That is not all, he also received the International Indian Film Academy Award in 2005 for his contribution to Indian cinema.
This documentary opens with black-and-white images of his works from the 1940s and ends with the hit song ‘Waqt ne Kiya’ from Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). The visuals are considered a classic, especially, the beam shot used by Murthy in it.
The cinematographer, in the past shared that he used a pair of ordinary mirrors to achieve this effect. Throughout the documentary, Basavaraj uses shots of some of Murthy’s famous works, including Pyasa, Baazi and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam.
There have been many documentaries on Murthy, but Basavaraj’s Drishya Garudiga focuses on why Murthy, who dreamt of being an actor, became a cinematographer.
“Murthy was so passionate about being an actor that he watched many films at the Krishna theatre near Dodda Gadiyara Tower, Mysuru. Then he said that one day, at age 16, he saw his reflection and decided he was not fit to be an actor. However, his passion for cinema pushed him in the field of cinematography,” shares Basavaraj, who is an alumnus of Silver Jubilee Polytechnic, Bengaluru, where VK Murthy also studied cinematography.
“Murthy’s works influenced me the most, because he showed the audience not just visuals, but visions using his lens and created a magical feel using just light and shade. His black-and-white visuals for Guru Dutt’s films are masterpieces in themselves.”
Then Basavaraj shares a few revelations from the legendary cinematographer. “While today’s technicians take technology for granted (referring video assist and Steadicam), Murthy created his visuals using his creative and technical skills. “The legendary cinematographer also shared with me an incident that happened on the sets of Kaagaz ke Phool. ‘ When Guru Dutt asked me to shoot a beam of light into a shed. I wondered how to go about it, when suddenly an inspiration struck. The afternoon sun was reflecting on a make-up man’s mirror. Removing some tiles from the roof of the house, I let the sunbeams fall on two large mirrors and the effect Dutt wanted was created. We blended sunlight with artificial light.’”
Till date it is this particular shot in ‘Waqt Ne Kiya’ that has made the song memorable and also resulted in Murthy winning the Filmfare Award as the Best Cinematographer.
The documentary mostly focuses on Murthy’s works with Guru Dutt, as he was a constant companion of the great actor-director. It also dwells a little bit on Kamal Amrohi’s masterpieces, including Pakeezah. “Images of the song ‘Chaudavin ka Chand’ is still etched in my memory,” says, Basavaraj, who has worked with directors like Puttanna Kanagal and Siddalingaiah. Basavaraj has also made documentaries on cinematographers like RNK Prasad, DV Rajaram and filmmaker N Lakshminarayan.