Tribute to K K Mahajan

— Excerpts from an Interview with Cinematographer K K Mahajan

On filming Mani Kaul‘s “Uski Roti “ (1970)

 “I worked on two films with Mani Kaul. Uski Roti” (1970) and “Ashad Ka Ek Din“(1971) Mani was very particular about his shots. He would explain exactly what he wanted. The compositions in “Uski Roti” were all inspired by Amrita Sher Gil‘s paintings. Mani told me that he wanted Sher Gil kind of compositions. I had just finished a film on her before I started
 “Uski Roti“. I had seen almost all her works, about 150 paintings.This particular film ( “Uski Roti” has a lot of resonance with Sher Gil’s compositions.

To achieve this composition, one needed a two-dimensional look ; A certain visual rhythm to the entire film was achieved with the use of two lenses: 135 mm lens (telephoto) and the 28 mm lens (wide-angle). ……I used lots of filters….because the main characters were at the bus-stop which did not get sunlight. We were always shooting against light; we were always faced with a bright sky. So, I had to use a lot of filters to cut off the sky and balance with the face of the woman at the bus-stop.I did a lot of night-work in the film, but we would light (up) with very few lights…Working with very few lights/ working with no lights, and using some other means of devising things—-through this, we achieved results that were appreciated”.



(Direction: Mani Kaul; Cinematography: K K Mahajan)

A brief quote on filming “Ashad Ka Ek Din”K K Mahajan

I did not use a single filter because the background was all green mountains….and most of the action takes place inside a hut. I used soft lighting, but no filters. The visual effect was very interesting.

Excerpt from an article in “The Hindu” by Arun  AK: “Mani Kaul’s Spare and Beautiful World On the occasion of 50 years of the filmAshad Ka Ek Din“.

Half a century later, Mani Kaul’ Ashad Ka Ek Din (1971) retains the austere Bressonian power. Staged as a chamber drama, almost the entire film unfolds in Mallika’s dilapidated hut, situated in the foothills of the Himalayas. Each frame has been crafted with painterly minimalism, accentuating the subject (characters), to heighten the emotional impact while rendering the external environment out of focus in stark white. This ‘whitening’ of the Himalayas by cinematographer K K Mahajan (Mani Kaul’s batch-mate from FTII) creates a transcendental atmosphere and makes the hut appear like a heavenly abode. By situating every conversation indoors, Kaul attempts to transmit the claustrophobic and desolate feeling endured by Mallika for years, amidst the infinite beauty of the verdant mountains, trees and clouds.


A brief Quote from Ira Bhaskar on the film “Ashad Ka Ek Din

“Bhuvan Shome” (1969)”Sara Akash“(1969) and Uski Roti(1970) were stunningly shot by K K Mahajan who went on to do a lot of work with the New Wave filmmakers“Ashad Ka Ek Din” represents the radical, experimental edge of the Indian New Wave. At a rare screening of Mani Kaul‘s “Ashad Ka Ek Din (1971) the limpid, luminescent images of K K Mahajan’s camera unfolded and flowed past on the screen, and the grave tones of Mallika’s monologue communicated not only  her deep pain and the emptiness of her life, but a weighing down of the self…..”

SOURCE: Ira Bhaskar:The Indian New Wave

Compiled and Edited by Praba Mahajan

Gita Sen / Mrinal Sen / K K Mahajan (Courtesy Praba Mahajan)