Murthy unhappy with the industry


Born in 1923, V. K. Murthy  is an Indian cinematographer. A violinist at one point of time and also a freedom fighter who was jailed, Murthy was Guru Dutt’s regular cameraman on his movies. He provided some of Indian cinema’s most breathtaking images in starkly contrasted black and white. He also shot India’s first cinemascope (75mm) movie, Kaagaz Ke Phool. For his contribution to the Indian film industry he was awarded the IIFA Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony held at Amsterdam in 2005. On 19 January, 2010 he was honored with the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for 2008.
Best remembered for his stunning camera work, V. K. Murthy, who became the first film technician to bag the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke Award, is unhappy with the current state of Indian cinema which he says is full of gimmicks.
“It is not good cinema but gimmicks which sell. There is definitely a dilution in the purpose,” the sprightly 87-year-old said. Murthy is the first cameraman to win the Phalke award in its 40-year-long history, but the honor rests lightly on his shoulders worn-out by years of lugging his heavy camera in the studios of Mumbai, the city of dreams.
Murthy moved to Mumbai at the age of 23 in 1946, after completing a course in cinematography from the Sri Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic in Bangalore.
“It is a great honor to be chosen for the highest award in Indian cinema. I am too overwhelmed to express my happiness in words,” said the cinematographer known for his work in Guru Dutt classics like Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam and Pyaasa.
Cherishing the “golden years” that he spent in Mumbai, Murthy, who shot India’s first cinemascope movie Kagaz Ke Phool, said he was “most fortunate to be trained by stalwarts like Phali Mistry, the number one cameraman in the country.”
Recounting with child-like glee his first meeting with Guru Dutt at Famous Studios where he was shooting for his (Dutt’s) debut film Baazi, Murthy said, “I could feel Dutt’s keen observant eyes on me as a technician of the studio.
“While Guru Dutt was picturising a song for Baazi, I hesitantly went up to him and suggested how to do the shot. To my pleasant surprise, the great man that Guru Dutt was, he asked me to do the shot. Once we packed up for the evening, Guru Dutt hugged me and said we would work together from his next film onwards,” Murthy said.
The veteran, who did the cinematography for all of Guru Dutt’s films including hits like Aar-Paar and Mr. and Mrs. 55, described him (Dutt) as a “volcano of talent”.
Murthy, a freedom fighter, who worked with some of the biggest names in the industry in more than 35 films, recounted the saga of his five-decade-old journey in the celluloid world.
Recalling a snippet while shooting for Pyaasa, which broke new grounds in cinematography, Murthy said, “while shooting the film, I noticed a beautiful beam of sunlight falling into the studio hall from the ventilator and told Dutt about it. Lo and behold he asked me to create a similar ambience on the set which was quite difficult.”
“I was literally at my wits end as to how to get that shot, when I saw a makeup man passing in front of the studio with a mirror in his hand which was creating a sunbeam of the wall of the studio and I knew it,” he said.
Just by using two mirrors, Murthy was able to create “something, that had never been done in cinematography,” eliciting appreciation from the seniormost cameraman of yesteryear, Dwarka Diwecha, who said, Yar tum Madrasiyon ka hi itna achcha dimag chalta hai, (only you Madrasis have such brilliant brains). His perspective of the song Chaudavin ka Chand is still considered one of the best cinematographic works that Hindi cinema has seen and his work in classics like Kagaz Ke Phool and Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam won him Filmfare Awards.
Now spending his retired life in a sprawling ancestral house in one of the oldest localities which still retains its tranquil charm, Murthy enjoys his morning walks in the big courtyard.
“This is the secret of my being fit even at this age”, chuckles Murthy.

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