Interviews

‘I aim for cinematography that never overpowers the narrative’

29th Nov 2023 12:01 PM | A Sharadhaa

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Cinematographer Shwet Priya Naik is making her debut with Jayathirtha’s Kaiva, which is earning her a good name with the rushes so far. She strongly believes her journey into cinematography was a destined path right from her childhood. Her passion for capturing moments started during her school days, which had her spending vacations photographing with her parents, exploring history in Hampi, and earning accolades for documenting images of stone carvings.

“Back then, my mother wondered why I focused on inanimate objects,” she recalls, adding, “But my fascination was with photographing stone carvings—that was my perspective. My attachment to the camera began then.” After graduating in photography, Shwet was inspired by legendary cinematographers like Santhosh Sivan, Anil Mehta, and PC Sreeram, which steered her towards her passion.

Starting by assisting DOP Manohar Joshi and furthering her skills in Mumbai and doing a cinematography course in Singapore, she found opportunities in Yash Raj’s team, working with her idols like Santhosh Sivan and Anil Mehta on films like Sui Dhaaga, and a few others. Transitioning into ad filmmaking kept her busy, but her desire to return home and work in Kannada cinema persisted. “I aimed to make my mark in Kannada cinema, and here I am starting my cinematography journey with Kaiva,” says Shwet, who is from Belgaum, and is influenced by the essence of Malnad and North Karnataka. Shwet’s experience as an NCC cadet also helped her in developing an appreciation for various heritage sites.

She is set to embark on this new journey with director Jayathirtha’s Kaiva, which stars Dhanveeerrah and Megha Shetty as leads, and has music by Ajaneesh Loknath. “I didn’t have many industry connections. In fact, it was through someone’s introduction that I met Jayathirtha. Unknowingly, I’d seen and admired one of his films. I remember meeting him on March 8, 2022, to show him my work, and within a day, he approved my presence in his directorial venture. Any recognition I receive now is thanks to him. As a beginner, I hope the movie will speak for itself,” says Shwet.

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“I researched Jayathirtha and his vision, and understood that he emphasises realism in storytelling. This was an exciting challenge for me as a visual storyteller,” says Shwet, adding, “He granted me considerable creative freedom. His appreciation for maintaining natural settings resonated with me, and it added authenticity and depth to the story. He even introduced me to some of the real characters, enabling a stronger connection to the narrative.”

Set in 1983 Bengaluru, the film with themes of romance and crime, focusses on Tigalarapete and the Karga festival. Shwet shares that she researched all of these locations herself, and found Jayathirtha to be adept at exploring diverse layers and opportunities. “My passion for diverse cultures and fluency in five languages influenced my approach. As a Director of Photography, I aimed to transport audiences to that period while capturing its essence,” she shared, highlighting their commitment to authenticity.

“For example, during the Karga festival scenes, we filmed the live event over three days without additional lighting, preserving its originality for archival purposes. I’m conscious of not misleading viewers,” opines Shwet, who shares that working on Kaiva lead her to revisit classic films, particularly drawing inspiration from Puttana Kanagal.

“Capturing the crowd and choosing the right vantage point was pivotal for Kaiva. I have my own camera aesthetic, drawing from old films and connecting with the audience’s tastes. Our discussions revolved around balancing story and visuals, and it was a new learning experience for me. Surviving in this field means continually evolving,” shares Shwet.

Set in a retro era, the theme balanced modernity and the past. “My mentor’s advice—’You may not own property, but every millimeter of the frame is yours’—guides my work. I aim for cinematography that complements rather than overpowers the narrative,” she concluded.

 

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