Cinematographer Jay Pinak Oza, among the 10 selected participants for the talent initiative BAFTA Breakthrough India, has had a fascinating journey so far, from being a production assistant to Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra in “Rang De Basanti” to director of photography in Mehra’s upcoming film “Toofan”. He looks back at “Gully Boy” as the film that changed his career.
“Coming from a middle-class family with no background in film, I started my career in the film industry from zero, just after college. In 2005, I was one of the production assistants on the set of ‘Rang De Basanti’. I would watch Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra (ROM) and, in my head, on my bucket list, I was like, ‘one day Jay, one day, you are the DOP of a ROM film’. It is 2021 now – yes, almost 15 years but see, ‘Toofan’ is coming! I made it! It took time but I achieve my dream,” Oza tells IANS.
Asked about how the year-long BAFTA talent initiative will help him to take his career to the next level, he says at this stage of his career getting a chance to be guided by international experts through BAFTA will be a win-win not only for him but everyone who takes part in the programme.
A major reason he was picked for the BAFTA programme was his work in “Gully Boy”. Oza feels the Zoya Akhtar directorial added weight to his profile.
“To be honest, how I bagged ‘Gully Boy’ is a story in itself and I think that is my breakthrough film. I think the BAFTA Breakthrough India jury members also considered me because of my work in that film. That will remain a special film for me because of Zoya, who is a fantastic captain of the ship. She knows how to bring every right people on board to create the world that we did with a story like ‘Gully Boy’. You know, she would say that with each frame, I want our audience not only to get a visual feel of the place, of the slum where we shot a major part of the film, but also people should be able to smell the place — the struggle and suffocation through my visuals. Zoya is accurate with what she wants!” says Oza.
Oza has been shot some noted films and series before he got his breakthrough film.
“I shot ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’, we shot ‘Ghoul’ featuring Radhika Apte, which released as a mini-series on Netflix. I also worked with Irrfan sir in ‘Blackmail’. These are indie films but as I said I started from zero, every film was learning for me,” shares Oza.
The hardship of struggle did not distract him, he recalls. “To become a DOP, you not only require creativity and knowledge in your craft but also a huge part of administration, because a lot of money and the production of the day is running on your shoulder. So, managing logistics, people, handling location shoot — there are a lots of responsibilities we have to deal with. So, when I started as a production assistant on film set, I learn them all. But yes, after ‘Made In Heaven’ and ‘Gully Boy’, people know that I can handle scale as well as indie films,” he says.
Oza ends with a message for budding cinematographers: “Dreams do come true, look at me. When we go through struggle and hardship, we must not forget why we started our journey and if we are focused on our work, even though it takes time, it happens. I never gave up, why would you?”
(Arundhuti Banerjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)