Indian cinema has evolved over the last 100 years. Advancement of technology has added a new edge and finesse to translating the vision and story onto the big screen. Yet a film’s success is mostly credited to the director’s vision and actors’ prowess. Seldom is a film editor or sound engineer or cinematographer lauded or recognised. From not being invited to promotional events to not sharing the limelight at award functions, editors and cinematographers have been working silently behind the scenes, unknown to the multitudes. But times are changing, as is the audience. And their skill is gradually being lauded by cinegoers.
National Award winning editor Sreekar Prasad, who has worked on films like Firaaq, The Terrorist, Vaanaprastham, Raavan, Shaitaan and Kannathil Muthamittal, says that over the years audiences have begun discussing other aspects of filmmaking too. “Usually, the audience is attracted to the actors and director. But when a film lacks pace, the editors are blamed, which is not fair — because a film is the product of a director’s vision. It is hard for an audience to understand our work because it is not visible like a cinematographer’s is. The audience doesn’t know on what basis to appreciate an editor’s job. The viewer should not even feel the presence of the editor, it should be so seamless and subtle,” says Sreekar. But there should be more awareness about what technicians do, he feels. Social networking sites have now started stepping in to right the wrong. Krrish 3 got a thumbs down from netizens but the outstanding effort of its cinematographer Tirru was one of the most discussed topics on the social media.
Cinematographer Tirru, of Krrish 3 fame, observes, “People who work behind the screen, whether in films or theatre, have never been in the limelight. It’s a human tendency. When driving a world-class car, we never realise how many engineers’ hard work and innovation have gone into it. In the early days of cinema, the techniques of filmmaking being unknown, the technician was respected. Today, we are still waiting to be recognised.”
Acclaimed cinematographer P.C. Sreeram, who wielded the camera for films like Cheeni Kum, Paa, Saathiya and Nayagan, says every technician goes into filmmaking knowing it is a collective effort, and with the rise in number of films being made, it is impossible for an audience to remember the name of a technician. “A cinematographer is like a co-author. The author is the director and the truth about one’s work lies between the author and co-author, and as long as they know what they are doing, that is enough. Good work will always get recognised. If the film is visually good, it will create a buzz. Regional cinema has always been good to technicians,” says Sreeram.
Well known cinematographer Santosh Sivan, who has worked on films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Raavan and Dil Se, concurs, “In Mumbai (and generally, in the north), lots of people get involved in the making of a film. Because of this one doesn’t always get due credit, as they can be overlooked.”
But an outstanding job always gets recognised irrespective of whether a particular person’s role in the process of filmmaking is noticed or not, feels film editor Anthony, who has worked on films like Ghajini and Ek Deewana Tha. He says it is important to him that the film fraternity knows the kind of work he does and the director recognises his efforts for when it comes to awards, “some organisers don’t even include editing in the categories”. While they work hard without paying much heed to recognition, amateur critics often sit in judgement on the social media. Anthony says, “The average audience can’t see our work because he doesn’t see what we cut out in a film and how we improve a film. So naturally, their feedback won’t be reasonable all the time.”
Anthony believes visibility for the unsung technician has grown. “There used to be a time when people watched films because they were edited by the veteran Lenin. Although we are not there yet, we also have a great fan following; college students who aspire to become filmmakers come to us for inspiration,” he says.
Unlike actors and directors, cinematographers and editors are not invited to be part of promotional events for films. “We are not often called up on stage because what will we say on stage? Can we say that the director had actually done a very bad job and we had to cut a lot? There are certainly things about the film which we can’t say,” says Anthony.
Tirru says pragmatically, “What is the commercial benefit for the producer to invite a technician who is not known to audiences? This is a business. If cutting edge professionalism comes into demand in India, we may definitely get recognition.”