People in India and Canada can die for films, says cinematographer Tom Cowan

Feb 27, 2018, 10:38 IST | PTI

Eminent Australian cinematographer Tom Cowan says India and Canada are some of the countries where watching films is not a mere pastime, but it is a passion

Eminent Australian cinematographer Tom Cowan says India and Canada are some of the countries where watching films is not a mere pastime, but it is a passion. The 75-year-old filmmaker recalled the time when he had come to India to shoot for 1970 Kannada film, "Samskara". He said he was thrilled to see people waiting eagerly to watch the next movie, especially because film industry was largely non-existent in his home country.'

"India was a much more developed industry when it comes to films in that time. Such intensive production. It was interesting for me to be in a country where people were dying to see the next film. That wasn't the case with Australia. We weren't making anything. "I was enthralled with Canada, where people were just waiting for another film. They might have made good films at the time. They were pretty terrible but they were entertaining the people," Cowan said at a Q&A session today at the ongoing Bengaluru International Film Festival.

Cowan was here to deliver Dadasaheb Phalke Award Winner - V K Murthy Memorial Lecture. This year marks the 50th year of the making of "Samskara", directed by Pattabhirama Reddy on which Cowan worked as the principal cinematographer. The film was based on UA Ananthamurthy's novel of the same name. "Samskara" was a path-breaking movie, which is said to have kick-started the parallel cinema movement in Kannada film industry. The movie, which won the National Film Award for best feature film in 1970, was initially banned by the Madras Censor Board as its strong anti-caste undertones were feared to spark tensions among the masses.

Cowan said one needs to tell a story that comes from the heart and not worry about the genre. "We never get tired of a good story," he added. The DOP said his expertise in the craft was an added advantage for him when he went back home to work in Australian cinema. "I have been very lucky. Whatever money I had earned back home, it was due to the work I had done overseas. And when the industry started in Australia, I had an advantage of having worked in films in England, India, America, Canada, etc. I was in demand. I got a lot of work," he said.

Cowan said the best method to avoid ego on the sets of a film is to first control one's own. He said it is important for the DOP to be calm as he/she is the "leader of the technical crew" "Cinematographers should not forget that they are employed to serve the interests of the director, not their own," Cowan said.

"Best way to control the egos on the sets of a film is to try and control your own. Because if you get upset and start arguing, it shows inexperience and lack of confidence. You are, to some extent, a leader... A leader of the technical crew. So you have to show by example," he added Cowan has also worked as a director on seven films. His 1972 film "The Office Picnic" was screened at the 8th Moscow International Film Festival. Borrowing from his experience as a director, he added, "Communication is only other thing that you can do. A lot of the ego (hassles) are also because people are worried about their next job."

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