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He could have asked me why I dumped him: Sudhir Mishra pays tribute to cinematographer Rajesh Joshi

Joshi, who worked with Mishra on Main Zinda Hoon (1988) and Dharavi (1991), passed away on 1 July due to cardiac arrest.

Sudhir Mishra (Photo: Shutterbugs Images)

Keyur Seta

Cinematographer Rajesh Joshi passed away earlier this week on 1 July in Mumbai due to cardiac arrest. He was 66. He shot a number of acclaimed films like Ghashiram Kotwal (1977), Main Zinda Hoon (1988), Dharavi (1991) and Shaheed Uddham Singh (2000), among others.

He also shot the first episode of Kundan Shah’s celebrated television serial Circus (1989) and a TV film, titled In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones (1989) — both had actor Shah Rukh Khan.

Joshi worked with filmmaker Sudhir Mishra on two films Main Zinda Hoon and Dharavi.

In a brief conversation with us, the filmmaker offered his tribute and shared his experience of working with the late cinematographer.

“My earlier work was with him. He did two films with me and both are very well shot films. He was a soft-spoken man. He worked with great detail. People like Rajesh have been unsung heroes,” Mishra said.

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While speaking of Joshi’s qualities, he said, “Rajesh was always quiet with his head down. You never notice him work. There are cameramen who shout and make an exhibition of how they are doing stuff. With Rajesh it was not like that. We shot 40 days in a chawl and also in Dharavi, which is difficult. We had a lot of night scenes there. To make it look like ambient lights in those days in 1991 was quite a task.”

In fact, Mishra was working with Joshi to restore his film. “At the moment we were working on the restoration of Main Zinda Hoon. He was working on the restoration of the negative. He also helped me with the restoration of my first film Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin (1987), which he hadn’t even shot. We were reconnecting in a sense after some time,” reminisced Mishra.  

The Daas Dev (2018) director added that he cannot label cinematographers as a technicians. “He was more of a member of a co-creative team. I have never thought of camera persons as technicians. I consider them co-artists. I think the industry or cinema world needs to think,” he said.

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“Somebody does a five-minute-part and you go gaga over him in a review. I have never seen anyone talking about cinematography. It is a world where right now dialogue-writers and actors are ruling the roost. So, cinema as a visual medium is going hard at the wind. It’s sad that the translation of a script from page to visual is not considered important. People think it’s a mechanical job,” Mishra added.

Speaking on why he didn't work with the cinematographer after his first two films, he said, “He could always look at me accusingly and say, ‘Why did you dump me? What happened? Why didn’t we work together later?’ And I have no answer to that, except that we sometimes move on and do different work with different people and we want to explore different sides of ourselves. People with you collaborate change. It wasn’t due to any unhappiness I had with him in my first two films.”

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Mishra had also taken a break from filmmaking after Dharavi was released. “It’s just that I didn’t make a film for four years after Dharavi. I made my next film Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996) five years later. People kind of banned Dharavi. There was personal vendetta and people were scared to work with me because I had been banned by the Shiv Sena. So, for five years the industry didn’t give me a film. Hence, I had moved away at that time,” he said.