Few would know that late cinematographer Ashok Mehta had a brief role in the 1987 Naseer-Rekha starrer, Ijaazat. But lyricist Gulzar, who directed the film, cannot forget the fact.
“I didn’t have to convince Ashok to face the camera. Ashok played Naseer’s colleague who puts his head in Naseer’s room in a scene and asks him, ‘Maya has called again. What should I tell her?’ It was a small scene and Ashok was doing the cinematography of Ijaazat. We let him play himself, and of course, he wore that trademark hat of his. What would Ashok be without his stylish hats?” says Gulzar.
As a person and as a cinematographer, Ashok had great style, remembers Gulzar. “He taught me a lot about lighting and mood when we worked in Ijaazat. The most important thing I learnt from Ashok was how to differentiate the colour tone and mood between present and past while doing a flashback. There was a very subtle difference in the colour texture in Ijaazat to show the time transition.
Many wouldn’t even be able to recognise it. But it’s there, and I owe that to Ashok,” says Gullzar. Gulzar remembers Ashok as a skilled master when it came to shooting interiors and exteriors in different lights. “You didn’t have to be told that a character had moved outdoors. Ashok’s camera said it all. He was a wonderful team player, and contributed immensely to the scenes and shots,” says the veteran lyricist.
In the song Khali Haath Sham Ayee Hai, which was picturised on Rekha, Ashok suggested that a patch of sunlight be brought on the floor as Asha Bhosle sang about the melancholic evening. He then added an unfinished cup of coffee to the scene. “There was always something extra to a scene when Ashok was around. I wanted to work with him again after Ijaazat in Lekin. But Ashok was busy. So Manmohan Singh stepped in. If Manmohan is a poet with the camera, Ashok Mehta was a painter with the medium,” says Gulzar.