The Good Road, from director Gyan Correa and cinematographer Amitabha Singh, was recently named the National Award Winner 2013 for Best Feature Film in Gujarati language at the 60th National Film Awards ceremony of the Directorate of Film Festivals. The award honors the best in Indian cinema. The film was produced by NFDC (National Film Development Corporation).
The film is a modern Gujarati story about three sets of people travelling on a highway, cutting through the Banni, bordering the Rann in Kachchh. Each on a journey to achieve their individual pursuits, but over a 24 hour period, the travelers discover something altogether different and unexpected about their lives.
The Good Road is Gyan’s first feature, but the director and Amitabha have previously collaborated on numerous television commercial projects. The duo discussed the visual design for the film and agreed it should have a documentary-like realism.
“The camera had to be very unobtrusive to facilitate the actors – most of whom were not trained performers, including two children,” explains Amitabha. “I didn’t want my cinematographic approach to translate on to the psychology of the actors, most of whom were facing a film camera for the first time – that something big or significant is happening. I wanted them to feel relaxed and free. So, there were no lights to catch and no marks to follow. They were offered complete freedom to be able to perform in as natural a way as they wished.”
The filmmakers investigated their options, and decided that Super 16mm film was the best medium to tell the story.
“Film is very true in terms of the color response and its exposure is very close to the human eye,” notes Gyan. “The Good Road was shot in the desert, and it was important to capture the extreme nature of the noon sun and heat. We knew that only film would do it justice.”
“As filmmakers, we have to understand the uniqueness of our filming location,” adds Amitabha. “In the given desert, the days get the brightest of the sunlight, and the nights are the darkest of dark with practically no street lights, city lights, or ambient light with no human habitation within a 120-some mile (200 km) radius. The 16mm stock gave us phenomenal latitude in the overexposure zone for the harsh day scenes, as well as equally exceptional latitude in the lower to under exposure zone for those dark nights.”
With prolonged shots both indoors and outdoors, Amitabha relied on a variety of 16mm stocks including KODAK VISION3 50D Color Negative Film 7203, 250D Color Negative Film 7207, 200T Color Negative Film 7213, and 500T Color Negative Film 7219 to achieve the desired look. His camera package included an ARRI SR 3 and ARRI SR 2 (for rig work). He used Zeiss lenses extensively, including a Mark III, and an ARRI Zeiss 10-110mm zoom.
"We had to shoot the interior of a truck and jeep without any modification to the original body. Moreover, a considerable number of scenes were enacted inside these vehicles while in motion” adds Amitabha. “We had to make do with what we had, and shooting Super16 on Kodak film allowed us to do that. It was the only choice, given with the constraints of small spaces and limited scope of lighting.”
“Most importantly, we wanted to keep the filming in that documentary zone,’ he adds. “The visuals needed to be aloof and serve as an observer to the human drama unfolding. I purposely shot the film in a manner that the camera does not make any statement through a deliberate movement or otherwise.”
Amitabha prefers getting the desired results in camera rather than manipulating it in post. The scanning of the film was at done at Avion Film & Sound in Prague.