Saumyananda Sahi, a cinematographer from Bengaluru, makes it to the BAFTA Breakthrough India list

He was selected for his film that captures the monkey menace in New Delhi 

author_img Monika Monalisa Published :  14th March 2022 06:09 PM   |   Published :   |  14th March 2022 06:09 PM
A still from Eeb Allay Ooo

A still from Eeb Allay Ooo

Saumyananda Sahi was busy shooting in the scenic Northeast states of India when he got the news that is possibly one of his biggest career milestones so far. Sahi made it to the list of ‘Breakthrough India Participants for 2022’ announced by the British Academy Film and Television Award (BAFTA).

The 35-year-old was selected for his movie Eeb Allay Ooo! and is the only cinematographer to make it to the list. The winners were selected by a cross-industry global jury of industry experts, including Apurva Asrani, Anupam Kher, AR Rahman, Ratna Pathak Shah and Shonali Bose. The other Bengalurean who has made it to the list is Sumukhi Suresh for her show Pushpavalli. 

Sahi, who prefers being behind the camera, says these bring attention to people who work behind the spotlight. “For instance, after Resul Pookutty won the Oscars, there were many people who wanted to be sound designers. It has also come at a special moment in my life when I am working on my debut film as director. This is a huge motivation for me to continue my work in cinematography. I am using this support to explore the work as writer-director,” says Sahi. 

Eeb Allay Ooo! is the story of a young migrant who battles scores of monkeys in the heart of New Delhi as a contractual monkey repeller. As this comedy-drama revolves around stray monkeys, Sahi, who hails from Silvepura village in Bengaluru rural, recalls the biggest challenge faced while shooting the movie — uncertainty. “The crew was small and Prateek (Vats) and Shubham, the directors and writers, were open to improvisation. We had to document the monkeys as per the script and then work backward to put things together. The background in the documentary really helped,” recalls Sahi. 

The movie was first screened in the Jio MAMI Mumbai International Film Festival, in 2019 where it won India Gold, and later went on to be screened at Berlin International Film Festival. It was released in Indian theatres later and is now available on Netflix. 

From working on mostly independent films and non-fiction in the past 10 years, Sahi says that commercial cinema is mostly where the money is.  However, he prefers independent cinema. “Somehow, because I was busy with these sort of films, I haven’t been able to explore anything else,” says Sahi, who has worked in two Tamil and two Kannada films. He has also shot for the critically-acclaimed Kannada movie Tithi. Right now, his next project is with director Prashant Nair, which is set to be released mid-year on Netflix.