Telugu Movie Analysis

Telugu Movie Reviews and Analysis

Monday, 25 June 2018

Mahanati - storytelling through lighting, chromatics and emotions

Mahanati has been a sensational hit with critical acclaim for performances and direction. There is one aspect of the film that has been relatively less appreciated: the cinematography. The lighting of the film, which played a key role in setting the tone of the film, went unnoticed. The movie was successful in evoking the same emotional response from almost all the audience which in itself is an achievement. The colours we notice in the film are no accident but were carefully planned keeping the emotions in mind. The cinematographer of the film, Dani Sanchez-Lopez, is an LA-based cinematographer from Spain. He worked in Bollywood films such as Tamanchey, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, Dil Dhadakne Do etc. This is an in-depth view of the lighting and colour palette of the film. Read Mahanati movie review here.

Mahanati - storytelling through lighting, chromatics and emotions

There was a lot of thought put into the lighting and colour palette of the film. The placement, quality, intensity and colour of light has been carefully planned for each scene. The natural lighting was used in some of the outdoor scenes. The practical lighting and motivated lighting were used frequently throughout the film. As the film was set in 1940s to 1980s, the practical lighting has been different for each time period. During childhood of Savitri, oil lamps were used within the frame. The electric lights were shown as she grows up, and the lights in studios were used as practical lights. As she becomes an actress, the electric lamps and candles were used for lighting. The motivated lighting mostly enhances the sunlight falling through doors and windows to illuminate the scene.

Lighting in Telugu movie Mahanati

The introduction of young Savitri is portrayed through a combination of fire, smoke and rain which symbolises the turbulence in her life. The scene is dark and illuminated with oil lamps.

Savitri introduction in Mahanati

The backlighting is frequently used in the film to symbolise that Savitri is constantly battling against odds.

Keerthi Suresh in Mahanati

The practical lighting is used in some scenes for composition. Other than illuminating the scene, the lighting helps to highlight the element of interest in long shots.

Rajendra Prasad and Keerthy Suresh in Mahanati

As the backlighting is heavily used, we see lens flares in several scenes. The lens flares signify film making in some scenes.

Lens flares in Mahanati

The smoke is frequently used throughout the film to diffuse light. The sunlight is diffused using smoke in several outdoor scenes.

Smoke and fog in Mahanati

The characterizations were also conveyed through lighting. The introduction of Mahesh is shown through backlighting with his eyes darkened. There is an old saying that the eyes are the window to the soul. The character’s eyes can be hidden for Two reasons, that is to show them either as lifeless or dangerous. Here, Mahesh is established as a cunning person on the very first scene.

Jabardasth Mahesh in Mahanati

During the scene, where Gemini Ganesan asks Savitri to drink, the face of Gemini Ganesan is hidden under shadows for most of the scene while the face of Savitri is illuminated. This is to hide the intentions of Gemini Ganesan while expressing the emotions of Savitri.

Dulquer Salman and Keerthi Suresh in Mahanati

Madhuravani track was shot on a handheld camera with organic lighting. It was partly shot on film stock using a super 16 mm camera for the grainy texture to depict the 80s.

Samantha Akkineni as Madhuravani in Mahanati

Colour palette:
The analogous colour scheme is mostly used to intensify the emotions. The opening sequence, where Savitri gets hospitalized, has a yellow hue which symbolizes hope. This is not supposed to be a depressive scene so the yellow hue is used in combination with flooding morning sunlight. The other scenes where yellow hue is used are: when Gemini Ganesan announces that he married Savitri in public, when the first daughter of Savitri is born and when Savitri succeeds in convincing Gemini Ganesan to leave the bar. All these scenes symbolise hope of a better future.

Yellow color in Mahanati

The childhood of Savitri has a lot of greens which signify stability and growth. She learns dance and becomes a stage actor during this time.

Green color in Mahanati

The red colour is used as an expression of power and love. As soon as Savitri becomes actress, the red colour joins the canvas and the love track of Savitri and Gemini Ganesan is entirely portrayed through red hues.

Dulquer Salman and Keerthy Suresh in Mahanati

The colour discordance is rarely used in some scenes. In extreme long shots, the red colour is used to draw attention of the audience.

Color discordance in Mahanati

The stardom of Savitri is expressed through the warmer shades of red, pink and orange. The bright colours are frequently used along with heavy lighting.

Keerthy Suresh in Mahanati in red color

The fall of Savitri is portrayed through black and blue colours. Although black is not used in costumes and sets, it is generated with the help of low lighting. The blue colour symbolizes the depression and frustration due to her personal and professional issues.

Keerthy Suresh in Mahanati in blue color

The story of Madhuravani is told through cyan, which signifies the independent, repression of emotions and inward thinking personality. Madhuravani is interested in making a name for herself instead of trying to fit in her job. Once she decides to rebel against the family restrictions, the pink colour is used.

Samantha Akkineni as Madhuravani in Mahanati

Mahanati is not just impressive because of a great story, the technical standards of the movie are much greater than many contemporary Telugu movies.

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