KGF cinematographer Bhuvan Gowda: I’m not here to make money
A still photographer who transitioned into a cinematographer, Bhuvan speaks about his experience of working on the KGF films, his long association with Prashanth Neel, and more
Four years back, cinematographer Bhuvan Gowda might not have been a popular name, but the release of KGF changed everything. Now, four years later, he is gearing up for the release of KGF Chapter 2, which is all set to hit screens worldwide on April 14. Having started off as a still photographer, Bhuvan speaks of how KGF director Prashanth Neel shaped his career. "Even though I was just a still photographer with no previous experience as a DoP, Prashanth trusted me and pushed me to take up cinematography. He liked my framing and lighting, and told me to take the job. He taught me cinematography," says Bhuvan.
Bhuvan, who has worked with Prashanth Neel right from the latter's debut, Ugramm, is pleased about their collaborative journey. He feels this journey was a result of their like-mindedness and their matching wavelengths. "He is comfortable working with me, and I understand his vision, be it the colour tone, framing, or even visualising a scene. We both began with Ugramm, which taught us a lot. Since then, I have been a constant in his directorial journey," says Bhuvan.
It's rare for a cinematographer to invest years on individual projects. Bhuvan, interestingly, has spent close to 8 years on KGF Chapters 1 and 2. "I am not here to make money. I'm here to earn a name for the work I do. If money-making was my agenda, I could have taken up all the other offers that came my way. However, I like investing time on just one film, and when that gets termed as a visual spectacle, I feel that to be an achievement. Working on two films at a time might divert my focus. I don't like the disturbance, which comes when juggling between two sets. That's why I stick to one project at a time. Living in the world of KGF 1 and 2 helped me keep the vision intact," he says.
One of the appreciated aspects about KGF is the sheer grandeur on display. As a cinematographer, how does he bring that to the big screen? "It’s all because of the right kind of support from Prashanth, who had a clear vision. Equal support from the production house and the art department also helped. It is a combined job that helped us achieve this grand look you speak of," shares Bhuvan.
The sequel seems to have more fast-paced visuals like car chases and explosions. Bhuvan speaks of painstakingly building the world of Rocky Bhai, Adheera (Sanjay Dutt), and Ramika Sen (Raveena Tandon). "The success of KGF Chapter 1 allowed us to make Chapter 2 bigger and better. Even though we thought big in Chapter 1, we had to limit our execution. This was not the case with Chapter 2. Every single visual element is ten times bigger than in the first part. However, I have worked on the same cinematography pattern that was in KGF Chapter 1 to maintain the continuity, artistic feel, the distinctive light, the mood… That atmosphere has been retained in Chapter 2."
Big-ticket stars often rely a lot on visuals for brand elevation. With KGF Chapter 2 boasting some of the biggest names in Indian cinema, what kind of homework went into choreographing the shots? "I had some homework to do, especially for the Sanjay Dutt portions. We had to portray that raw look of Adheera, which had a lot to do with the surroundings. We used a lot of grey tones for this reason. There are a lot of surprise elements, which I can't reveal at this moment," shares Bhuvan.
The lighting, especially, came in for much appreciation in KGF Chapter 1. This time around, what aspect of cinematography does he think will receive the maximum response? "I have made sure that my visuals will keep the audience engaged. I have kept the presentation natural, and I hope that will be the discussing point about my work in Chapter 2," he says. For someone who has been part of very few films in his career, how important is it to retain his individuality? "I don't watch other films, looking for cinematography ideas. I may end up getting influenced and adapt it into my work. In fact, again, I must credit Prashant for helping me to maintain my individuality, and refuse to get inspired by other works," says Bhuvan, adding, "I try to be updated with the latest in technology and equipment. I had used the Alexa SXT camera for KGF Chapter 1. Although the company launched three upgraded models, we went with the same model for Chapter 2 in order to carry the same mood and atmosphere."
Post KGF Chapter 2, Bhuvan's journey with Prashanth is set to continue with Salaar, starring Prabhas and Shruti Haasan. "My journey as a cinematographer so far—especially my collaborations with Prashanth, producer Vijay Kiragandur, and Yash—has been a blessing," he signs off.