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What makes Kaagaz Ke Phool special?


A look at legendary cinematographer VK Murthy's contribution to the film on its 58th anniversary today (2 January).

Sonal Pandya

VK Murthy's work on Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), India's first CinemaScope film, won him his first Filmfare Award for Best Cinematographer. His camerawork was almost ethereal, creating a mood and atmosphere that captured the essence of the film. Murthy shared a special bond with Guru Dutt who claimed that Kaagaz Ke Phool was made just for him. He felt Dutt was very precise — he preferred big closeups and a lot of movement for the camera. Dutt never interrupted him during his work even though he felt Murthy took too much time lighting a shot.

 

The film was a commercial disaster but yet it lives on in cinematic history as one of Dutt's best works. Murthy pioneered a new technique on Kaagaz Ke Phool, in particular using mirrors to create a sunbeam in studio settings during the song 'Waqt Ne Kiya'. Dutt gave Murthy ten days to prepare and deliver the scene. In a symposium conducted in Mumbai, he recalled that in the song, "The floor was empty, there was just one bullock cart lying there, that’s all. I used the bounce light system in that song. Bounced sunlight off a mirror outside, then bounced it off another mirror on the gallery on the second floor, then it entered as a strong highlight onto the floor. Dutt liked it immensely and you can see that he used this throughout the film. Afterwards, a lot of people started saying, ‘bounced light! bounced light!’ whenever they talked about camerawork. But I used it as early as in Kaagaz Ke Phool."

Murthy with Guru Dutt

In 2008, Murthy became only the second cinematographer to be awarded the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award after Nitin Bose for his work in Indian cinema.