Govind Nihalani - Writer




Cinematographer. Nationality: Indian. Born: Karachi (now in Pakistan) in early 1940s; lived in Udaipur, India, after the partition of India. Education: Attended S. J. Polytechnic, Bangalore, graduated 1962. Career: 1962–72—assistant cameraman to V. K. Murthy and Promod Chakravarty; also made advertising films; 1970—first film as cinematographer, Shantata, Court Chalu Ahe ; 1974—first of several films for Shyam Benegal; 1981—directed his first film, Akrosh. Award: Indian National Film Award for Possessed , 1978.

Films as Cinematographer (Selected List):

1970

Shantata, Court Chalu Ahe (Karnad)

1974

Ankur ( The Seedling ) (Benegal)

1975

Nishant ( Night's End ) (Benegal); Charandas Chor ( Charandas the Thief ) (Benegal)

1976

Manthan ( The Churning ) (Benegal)

1977

Bhumika ( The Role ) (Benegal); Kondura ( The Boom ) (Benegal)

1978

Junoon ( The Obsession ) (Benegal)

1979

Womb of Power (doc); A Fine Tolerance (doc)

1980

Hari Hondal Burgadar ( Share Cropper ) (Benegal)

1981

Kalyug ( The Machine Age ) (Benegal); Akrosh (+ d); Gandhi (Attenborough)

1982

Satyajit Ray—Film Maker (Benegal—doc)

1983

Vijeta (+ d); Ardha Satya (+ d)

1984

Party (+ d)

1985

Aaghat (+ d)

1987

Tamas ( Darkness ) (+ d; sc—for TV)

1991

Drishti (+ d; sc—for TV)

1998

Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa ( Mother of 1084 ) (+ d, pr)

1999

Thakshak (+ d)



Publications

By NIHALANI: article—


Film a Doba (Prague), vol. 33, no. 8, August 1987.


On NIHALANI: book—

Habibulah, Shama, Govind Nihalani , 1981.

On NIHALANI: articles—

Pradhan, Shalini, in Filmfare , 16–31 December 1983.

Masud, Iqbal, in Cinema India International , March 1985.

Cinema in India , vol. 4, 1993.


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Govind Nihalani is more a master craftsman than an artist. His directorial talent is an outcome of his skill and experience as a cinematographer. Having learned all aspects of cinematography at the S. J. Polytechnic in Bangalore, and assisted V. K. Murthy for ten years thereafter, Nihalani was already a respected cameraman when he came to be associated with Shyam Benegal and Girish Karnad. His association with Shyam Benegal, however, chiselled his cinematographic sense and ability. In Benegal's films, art and commerce meet. The features that Nihalani shot for Benegal are among the best of his works. This vast experience also made him an established filmmaker in his own right. And in the excellent films that he has made so far, it is difficult to separate the able director from the ace cinematographer.

While working in texture films, Nihalani also filmed documentaries and advertisements. This trained him to extract and encapsulate the required information into a small time-frame. It was during these 12 years that Nihalani worked hard, experimented and matured as a cameraman. His vision was enriched by documentary observations and a keen sense of the theatrical. The latter probably came from Nihalani's close association with the well-known Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar, who scripted his Akrosh and Ardha Satya . His debut as a cinematographer was made in 1970 in a Marathi film, based on a Tendulkar play. The undercurrent of anger and violence that runs through the play also characterizes Nihalani's films, which explore the roots of violence and anger in society. Junoon , for example, by Benegal, set against the turbulent Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, was to Nihalani an ideal camera subject, and won him an award for best colour cinematography.

Nihalani, however, does not, like Subrata Mitra, recapture moods, the finesse of reflexes and reactions, or introspection on celluloid. Action, movement, and aggression attract him more, both as director and cinematographer. This perhaps made Richard Attenborough employ him as head of the second unit of the most ambitious film to be produced in India, Gandhi .

—Shohini Ghosh

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