You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cinematographer Russell Carpenter Brought Outsider Perspective to Hindi Indie ‘Parched’

Among the credits for Hindi indie “Parched,” which Wolfe Releasing is making available on DVD on Aug. 9 following a limited U.S. theatrical run, one name stands out: Russell Carpenter, the Oscar-winning cinematographer of “Titanic,” whose more recent credits include the highly admired “Jobs” and the box office hit “Ant-Man.”

Parched” follows the bittersweet lives of four women who live in a drought-stricken rural area of the western Indian state of Gujarat. Oppressed by a patriarchal society, they must try to break free. The film’s director, Leena Yadav, is married to Bollywood DP Aseem Bajaj, but he had his hands full as a producer on the film and wasn’t able to lens it as well.

Yadav says Bajaj told her, “If I’m not shooting your film, I have to find you somebody I admire.” They reached out to Carpenter, whom they had met when he was lensing the India segments of “Jobs.” The timing worked, and Carpenter took the gig.

One advantage of hiring Carpenter, Yadav believes, is that non-Indians are able to spot attractive aspects of the country that are invisible to its natives. “There’s some beauty that we forget to see,” Yadav says. “Foreigners come and click much more interesting photos of India.”

Yadav says she explained to Carpenter that the mood of her movie was upbeat. “I told Russell, ‘I want to celebrate the beauty of these women; I’m not making a dark, depressing film.’ ”

But there are subtle differences in the ways Americans and Indians look at beauty. “In mainstream American filming,” says Carpenter, the mission is to “make your actress look great, and if they already look great, you have to make them look better. Here, there wasn’t that mandate.”

Other differences between Hollywood studio films and Bollywood productions include budget size (far lower in India) and length of the shoot (much shorter).

Among Yadav’s concerns was that Carpenter wouldn’t have all the resources he needed. She recalls that when the DP had a requirement, “Aseem said some-thing I didn’t understand to someone who passed it on [to someone else]. It was like ants building. I thought it might be something unsafe. OSHA wouldn’t like it, but it worked.”

The language barrier wasn’t an insurmountable obstacle between the producer and the cinematographer. “Maybe he understood a third of what I said,” Carpenter says of Bajaj. “But he understood the language of cinema and the language of storytelling. Cinematographers understand where the story shifts and where it comes back, and that is an art form.”

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • 'The Durrells' TV Show

    Greece Sweetens Production Incentives as Struggling Country's Economy Rebounds

    It’s taken the better part of a decade for Greece to show signs of recovery from the crippling crisis that almost pushed it out of the Eurozone. Now, with the economy slowly on the mend, the government is doubling down on efforts to jump-start the local film industry, giving a dramatic overhaul to the incentive [...]

  • John bailey Academy President

    Former Academy President and DP John Bailey to Receive Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Award

    John Bailey, the cinematographer and former president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, will receive a lifetime achievement award from the 27th Camerimage film festival in Torun, Poland. The Fest, attended by top DPs and other artists from around the world, will run on Nov. 9-16. Bailey’s credits include Lawrence Kasdan’s “The [...]

  • Alita: Battle Angel VFX

    How Previsualization Helps Create Pitches for Projects Like 'Alita: Battle Angel'

    Filmmakers are increasingly using previsualization, a now-standard technique for planning highly technical shots and sequences, as a tool for pitching a project to production companies, investors and studio executives — before a single full scene has actually been shot. More creatives are relying on the technique, dubbed “pitchvis,” to fashion a compelling and engaging presentation [...]

  • A Quiet Place

    Production Growth Stretches Crafts Talent Pool, but Experience Is Still Needed

    The growing number of outlets for movies and television means that demand for qualified artisans is at an all-time high. But while job opportunities have multiplied, the path to success — and potential elite status — is still a difficult one that requires on-the-job training, experience and skill development to deliver top-notch results. Some of [...]

  • Queen and Adam Lambert Live

    How the Queen + Adam Lambert Tour Brought the Opera to Arenas

    Just as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, wowed moviegoers last year, stage design firm Stufish Entertainment Architects has helped Queen + Adam Lambert’s current U.S. tour deliver a screen spectacular of its own. The tour, which plays New Orleans on Aug. 20 and Atlanta on Aug. 22, touched down at [...]

  • Mark Damon, CEO & Chairman, Foresight

    Mark Damon's DCR Finance Receives $150 Million for Financing Georgia Films (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mark Damon’s DCR Finance Corp., co-headed with financer Adi Cohen, has received a $150 million investment from Go Media Productions for Georgia projects, Variety has learned exclusively. Damon, whose credits include “2 Guns” and “Lone Survivor,” made the announcement Monday with Cohen. The deal calls for Atlanta-based Go Media Productions to join a private placement as [...]

  • The Handmaid's Tale -- "Household" -

    ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Crew on Why the Lincoln Memorial Shoot Was Worth the Effort

    Shooting on location at a national monument may seem glamorous, but it often involves extensive prep to comply with strict regulations, restrictions and crowds — all for a short on-screen moment. For the cast and crew of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the seven months of planning and negotiations required for a one-day shoot at the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content