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J P Dutta Remembers His ‘Eye’ Ishwar Bidri



 Cinematographer  Ishwar Bidri  who passed away  on  28 December  was  a celluloid magician.  The  kind  of stunning visuals he  created  for the films of  the mighty J P Dutta were  not only epic, they were  sheer poetry.

I  consider Bidri one of  Indian cinema’s best  cinematographers. My dear friend J P Dutta is understandably broken by the loss.

“Subhash,  they are all going one  by one.I feel  a deep sense  of loss each time  a friend goes. Ishwar  was  that eye which saw the visuals  in  my  mind. How we started  working together  is  a story.You see, I had been  signed to make a war film  Sarhad with the Nadiadwalas  in 1976. They told me  my cameraman  would be this guy who was  shooting  a Gujarati film. So I was being offered  a regional  technician. How  was  I to know that Ishwar was a world-class talent? Thank God, I   was too raw and  too new to say no. Because if I had refused to work  with Ishwar then I’d have  missed out on an important  collaborator. . He went on to become the visual interpreter  of  the pictures in my head,” recalls JP  with  a catch in his voice.

 They  went on to work together  in  several  of JP’s magnum opuses.

Recalls  JP, “Sarhad  was shelved after we  completed 95 percent  of the shooting. Ishwar and I  parted. But when I was ready  to make my second film Ghulami 9 years  later , I  called him again. And  you  know, the magic  of the Rajasthan’s deserts that we captured in Ghulami, and then Yateem, Batwara , Hathyar and  Border  was what it was.

No filmmaker since then and only Sunil  Dutt in Reshma  Aur Shera , was able to capture Rajashthan the way JP and Ishwar did.

Chuckles  JP, “Yeah , Sunil Dutt had to really  had to really slog it out in the deserts  for Reshma  Aur Shera. We knew the hardships waiting for us from the stories we  heard about the shooting of Reshma Aur Shera. Nothing comes easily.At least nothing worth  trying in life.”

 In  short,  all the J P Dutta classics were shot by Ishwar  Bidri. It is no coincidence  that  JP’s  weakest  films Kshatriya, Refugee,LoC Kargil,UmraoJaan and Paltan were  shot by  other cinematographers , not Ishwar Bidri.

JP sighs, “Perhaps  you are right. There is some magic that  only the two of  us  could create together. I mean I  worked with other  cinematographers and he(Ishwar ) worked with other filmmakers. Lekin woh baat nahin tthi. Hamari  kuch baat hi aur tthi.”

 Now  71, JP says he  has had a blessed career. “If as you say I could snap my finger and  get anyone to  work with me, then  it’s not  my talent. There are so many directors far  more talented than me. Even in my debut Sarhad when I  was an  unknown, I had a  dream cast of Vinod Khanna(one of  JP’s dearest friends), MithunChakraborty, Kader Khan , Naseeruddin Shah, Pran, Mazhar Khan… I just had  to ask them and they would do it without asking for a script.Yes I was  just blessed.”

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