Released in the US over the weekend, the Indian film Neerja has been receiving numerous praises for actress Sonam Kapoor’s portrayal of the life of the courageous Neerja Bhanot, who sacrificed her life while protecting the lives of 359 passengers on the hijacked Pan Am flight 73 in 1986.
Working as the cinematographer with one of the best Indian directors in the business, Ram Madhvani, was New York Film Academy alumnus Mitesh Mirchandani. The NYFA grad has worked on a few commercials with Madhvani and working with him on Neerja was a no brainer.
“When I first met Ram, he said, ‘Mitesh, I would like to shoot this film in a particular way—no lights, 360 degree shooting, long takes, really long takes, freedom for the actors and let’s be completely candid in our approach,” recalled Mirchandani. “At first I was a little reluctant as it was a feature, but soon enough I realized what we were after. We had close to 45 minute takes in almost every sequence without any rehearsals or marks for the focus pullers.”
With four cameras rolling at all times, the cast and crew gelled together seamlessly, as though there was only one camera rolling on set. The entire film was shot without using any lights.
“You really need crew that’s as crazy as you to pull this off,” said Mirchandani. “I was really blessed to have the best crew ever assembled. I didn’t want the film to feel framed and lit, it needed to be as if we were there capturing what was happening at that moment.”
The hard work paid off, as the Fox Star Studios film has been doing well both critically and at the box-office.
“I learned a lot from NYFA—the faculty was amazing and really helpful,” added Mirchandani. “The access to equipment really prepared me to get out there and be confident about what I was shooting.”
Mirchandani is currently busy shooting TV commercials.