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Cinematographer Dani Sanchez-Lopez: Sai Pallavi emerging from the tent in camouflage clothing is a powerful moment in ‘Virata Parvam’

Dani Sanchez-Lopez, cinematographer of ‘Virata Parvam’, on taking cues from documentaries and Russian cinema for a practical depiction of Telangana villages

Dani Sanchez-Lopez, cinematographer of ‘Virata Parvam’, on taking cues from documentaries and Russian cinema for a practical depiction of Telangana villages

Dani Sanchez-Lopez was barely seven when he had made up his thoughts that he would develop up and be a a part of cinema. His preliminary fascination was for performing till he found that actors spoke traces written by others. He grew in writing, route and enhancing and acquired an introduction to all of those. It was whereas finding out filmmaking at Chapman University, California, that he realised he loved narrating tales visually. 

He had discovered his calling in cinematography. What Dani, of Spanish origin, didn’t foresee was that he would take up tasks in India and work in Telugu cinema. His collaboration with director Nag Ashwin for the Savitri biopic Mahanati had him experimenting with visible textures that complemented each decade of the story. Post Mahanati, Dani got here on board for director Gunashekhar’s Hiranya, starring Rana Daggubati as Hiranyakashipu. The undertaking is in the works and, in the meantime, he was roped in for Virata Parvam. Incidentally, his first Indian undertaking was speculated to be Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court. “We spent countless evenings in Versova, Mumbai, discussing the film and how we can portray India. By the time Chaitanya got funding and the project was ready for filming, I was in Pakistan working on another project,” Dani remembers.

Content, not scale

Dani has completely different brokers coordinating tasks for him in Spain, India and Los Angeles and says his focus has been to take up movies which might be thrilling, regardless of their scale and funds. 

The Sai Pallavi and Rana Daggubati starrer Virata Parvam directed by Venu Udugula is a area of interest undertaking that is getting seen for its offbeat method to filmmaking. 

Dani (excessive proper) along with his assistant  Nishant Katari, Rana Daggubati and Sai Pallavi whereas filming at Athirapally Falls in Kerala
| Photo Credit: Sridhar Chadalawada

Dani, who gave the movie a distinct visible high quality, says he was impressed studying a 30-page synopsis translated from Telugu. “When I first met Venu, he apologised stating that his English was not good. I felt awkward and said it should be the other way around — I am the outsider who does not know Telugu.”

Soon, Dani and the director watched documentaries filmed in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to watch how the villages have been portrayed realistically. The two additionally share a frequent curiosity in Russian movies. “I like the hypnotising camera movements in Andrei Tarkovsky’s and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s films. We wanted that kind of camera movement and realism.”

Through his lens

Dani studied movie and visible arts in Chapman University, Cornell University, and the UK and Spain. He often conducts workshops and masterclasses for establishments similar to FTII (Film and Television Institute of India), Chapman University, University of California Irvine, New York Film Academy and the UCA Film School in Spain.

Defining moment

For Virata Parvam, which is set in the Nineteen Nineties of Telangana throughout the Naxal motion, Dani needed an earthy color palette that may be in sync with the jungle environment. “Earthy tones dominate the colour scheme for Ravanna (Rana) and his comrades. Vennela (Sai Pallavi) is the outsider who arrives with bright colours. The scene in which she emerges from the tent, wearing camouflage clothing similar to theirs, indicates her transformation. It is a powerful moment.” 

Dani checking the sunlight on Sai Pallavi, accompanied by his assistant Nishant Katari and the gimbal operator Sunil Kattula, in the jungles of Kerala

Dani checking the daylight on Sai Pallavi, accompanied by his assistant Nishant Katari and the gimbal operator Sunil Kattula, in the jungles of Kerala
| Photo Credit: Sridhar Chadalawada

Dani’s staff used gimbals to seize Vennela’s motion, as she restlessly units out on an journey. Dani attracts an analogy to elucidate how he appears at the methods employed in cinematography: “If a dolly (shot) is like God, a handheld shot is like the person you can sense near you; the gimbal works like a ghost by narrating the story without bringing too much attention to the camera. The gimbal movements let the audience follow the character.”

The method he has used for Virata Parvam is vastly completely different from what he employed for Mahanati: “I do not have a signature style. I try to adapt like a chameleon and do what is required for a film.”

Virata Parvam was initially filmed by cinematographer Divakar Mani and owing up to now and scheduling points, Dani stepped in. Going by way of the footage filmed by Divakar, Dani needed to make sure synergy. “The colour grading helped maintain a similar tonality in the portions filmed by Divakar and me. For some sequences during the pandemic, my second unit DoP Krunal Saadrani pitched in.”

Days earlier than the first lockdown, Dani had flown out of India to be along with his mother and father in Spain and was amongst the first worldwide travellers to return to India in November 2020. He credit the movie’s producers for serving to him with all the paperwork that was necessitated by the pandemic. “We followed all precautions while filming. The truly daring people were the actors who had to perform without masks. The Bonalu sequence was filmed once the lockdown restrictions eased.”

Back in time

Virata Parvam was filmed in widescreen format (1.85:1 side ratio) to recreate the look of the Nineteen Nineties.

During the making of the movie, Dani and Venu Udugala exchanged notes with editor Sreekar Prasad on how they needed the movie to look. Dani reckons that his studying of enhancing comes in helpful in such conditions: “It helps me to communicate my idea of visual design. We had a collaborative method of work.”

Dani with director Venu Udugula and Nandita Das

Dani with director Venu Udugula and Nandita Das
| Photo Credit: Sridhar Chadalawada

Artistic contact

Dani needed the visuals to align with the poetic method whereas narrating Vennela’s story: “Our task was to enhance the beauty of the real world. Production designer Nagendra, for instance, used trees, branches, logs and everything available in Nature to add an artistic touch to the surroundings.”

The climax sequence is amongst Dani’s favourites in the movie: “Vennela is tied to an uprooted tree. I thought it was metaphorical and signified that she is being uprooted from the Naxal movement.” He and the crew cross three gorges to reach close to the desired waterbody for the closing sequence. “We could have filmed in a studio and worked with computer graphics. But taking the actors to the spot gets them in the right frame of mind and that, I think, contributed to the scene.”

Currently dividing his time between India and Spain, Dani is wanting to strive completely different genres. Having watched a few movies throughout languages in India, he lavishes reward on Malayalam cinema: “They are among the best in terms of quality. Jallikattu, for example, is a high-concept film that reminded me of Spanish movies of the 1970s. I also liked Liar’s Dice.”

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