The award-winning works of cinematographer KK Mahajan

The talented cinematographer of Bhuvan Shome (1969) and Choti Si Baat (1975) made his mark early on in his career with four National Awards, out of which one was for the Bengali movie Chorus (1974). We take a look at the other three which won KK Mahajan great acclaim in Hindi cinema.

Sonal Pandya

Sara Akash (1969)

In his second film (his first was Bhuvan Shome), KK Mahajan showed his mettle and talent at the young age of 26. With Basu Chatterjee, who was also making his directorial debut, the two brought to life the first part of Rajendra Yadav’s novel 'Sara Aakash'. The film was an intimate look at a middle-class household in which a newly wed couple, Samar (Rakesh Pandey) and Prabha (Madhu Chakravarthy), first embark on having a relationship.

Samar is bullied into marrying an educated young woman and as is seen in this scene above, the couple has a huge chasm to overcome from the wedding night itself. Mahajan ropes us into Samar’s growing panic well by placing his unease right in front of our eyes. The film was shot in black and white at Yadav’s ancestral home in Agra.

Uski Roti (1971)

Filmmaker Mani Kaul and Mahajan first came together on the black and white film Uski Roti based on a short story by Mohan Rakesh. Once again, Mahajan was working with a first-time filmmaker. Kaul had previously acted in a small role in Sara Akash (1969) and asked Mahajan to work on his debut. He was quite specific about what he wanted his first film to look like.

In an online interview, Mahajan explained, “Mani was very particular about his shots. He would explain exactly what he wants. The compositions in Uski Roti were all inspired by Amrita Shergil’s paintings. Main told me that he wanted Shergil kind of compositions. I had just finished a film on her before I started Uski Roti. I had seen almost all of her works, about 150 paintings. That particular film has lot of resonance with Shergil’s compositions. To achieve this composition one needed a two-dimensional look.” This underrated film won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie in 1970.

Maya Darpan (1973)

KK Mahajan had a special relationship with filmmaker Kumar Shahani. They went way back to their FTII days when Mahajan worked on his graduate film, The Glass Pane. When Shahani made his first film, he turned to Mahajan once again. The mostly silent film has largely been unappreciated by audiences in India, despite winning the Filmfare Critics Awards for Best Movie in 1972.

In the same interview, KK Mahajan recalled, “Maya Darpan was something special. It was one of my earlier films and in colour. Kumar was a very close friend and we would chat for long hours on lot of things. One day he told me that he wanted unsaturated colour. I said, sala everybody wants saturated colours and you want unsaturated colours? What are you talking about? He said, I don’t want red to look too red, blue to look too blue, green to look too green. These colours should look diffused. I didn’t understand. And at the same time usko blue to chahiye hi nahi tha pure film-me. No blue in the entire film. I said, but you have outdoor shots. How will you shoot the sky and other things? Blue is bound to be there excepting of course if you take shots against light or in the evening or some thing like that so you can have white sky. He said, ha OK, we will do that. We will shoot at a time when the sky looks white.”