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Interview Hindi

Cinematographers like WB Rao won't come again: Director Dharmesh Darshan

Darshan had Rao on all his directorial ventures. The director spoke of his long time collaborator who passed away in Mumbai today.

WB Rao

Shriram Iyengar

In the time when technical fields in Indian cinema are slowly emerging into the limelight, the passing of WB Rao marks the end of an era. The cinematographer, who worked on some cult films like Hum (1991), Khuda Gawah (1992), Rangeela (1995), Raja Hindustani (1996) and Dhadkan (2000) was admitted to Juhu's Arogya Nidhi Hospital yesterday in critical condition, and passed away Tuesday, 16 January, morning. 

Cinestaan.com spoke with director Dharmesh Darshan, who collaborated with Rao from his first film, Lootere (1993) to his last film, Aap Ki Khatir (2006). An emotional Darshan recollected the kindness and respect with which Rao treated him, then a young director in 1993.

"I was two and a half decades younger than him, almost, and yet he would listen to me as his director. That was not a very easy thing to do. It was a deep kind of a respect. I adulated him without being blinded by his ability," the director said.

Crediting Rao, Darshan said, "Although I get a lot of credit for transforming my heroines through a metamorphosis, like Karisma Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty, Juhi Chawla, Sushmita Sen, Kareena Kapoor (Khan) and Priyanka Chopra, it is duly and equally shared with Mr Rao." 

Shilpa Shetty and Suniel Shetty in Dhadkan (2000)

Praising Rao, the director said, "He was an extraordinary and selective cameraman." A standout aspect, the director pointed out, was his varied lighting for films. Whether it is the bright visuals of Raja Hindustani or the dark, emotional intensity of Dhadkan, Rao could create 'atmosphere' on the screen. 

A senior member of the Western India Cinematographers' Association (WICA), Rao was respected for his ability to light up scenes. But Darshan maintained that the cinematographer was skilled at every aspect of the art. "He was adept at everything — whether shooting songs, or an emotional sequence. He was truly a director of photography."

Darshan said, "If you notice, Dhadkan's climax song was shot in candlelight, which is very daring to do in a commercial film. Generally, this is associated with off-beat films, not commercial ventures. With him, I dared to do it. And he did it so nicely." In the same film, the director said Rao's ability to create close-ups enhanced the performances on screen. 

"What I loved and participated in with him, which he allowed me at times, was the framing. Rao Sir's framing was extraordinary. In Dhadkan, at the later stage, I wanted to do something Pyaasa-esque, with tight close-ups. Trying to get to the soul of the character," Darshan added, "Still, I learnt that with him, and he allowed me to use the tele lens (telephoto lens). How to get into extreme tight close-ups. I think that contributed magically into the actors getting those award-winning performances in the films. The camera work, along with the performances played into it." 

As for the person, the Darshan said Rao was a very "sweet and romantic man". He said, "We didn't meet so much personally, but on sets, we were very very close."  The director added, "Rao Sir was a very romantic person. His sense of romance of cinema was incredible." 

Recalling Rao's fondness for hats, Darshan said, "He was a very stylish man. I can never forget Rao Sir's hats. He was a persona," before signing off with "WB Raos don't come again and again, let me tell you that."