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In conversation with… Cinematographer Apoorva Shaligram

Apoorva header from Ammu
By: The Cooke Team  |   2 min read

Apoorva Shaligram is a Cinematographer from India, who recently tested Cooke SP3 lenses for a an upcoming project. We caught up with Apoorva to learn more about her, talk about the recent test as well as some of her other projects.

Tell us a little about yourself, how did you become a cinematographer?

Apoorva: My career as a cinematographer began more than a decade ago, when I joined UNICEF as a documentary filmmaker, which involved visiting more than 11 states in India. At times I interacted with people who had never seen a camera, or had never been exposed to people from different cities. It taught me how to blend into such surroundings and made me more aware of human relationships.

My expertise as a documentary filmmaker undoubtedly aided me in shooting my first feature, ‘Cinemabandi’. I shot this project without using any cine lights. It was a conscious decision to rely on natural and available light sources, and this is where I was most critical on the selection of camera and optics.

My other projects, an action feature called “Agents” and a documentary “Ugly Side of the Beauty,” pushed me towards doing a lot of handheld work, and enabled me to be quick and develop efficient ways to operate.

What does cinematography mean to you?

Apoorva: For me, Cinematography has always represented freedom and independence. I feel liberated, highly confident and motivated whenever I’m behind the camera. Cinematography has empowered me to break away from the usual norm, and enabled me to perform beyond my bounds. It’s my home away from home.

So how did the test of SP3 go?

Apoorva: I rely on my instincts whenever it comes to any aspect of cinematography while shooting. Which is how I end up achieving a look closest to what I want, while filming itself leaving only a little room to enhance in the post production. Here, I was trying to achieve the 90’s look. My palette was mostly golden yellow, with a little bit of green and brown. I also prefer testing the lenses without lights. It gives me an understanding of how I can push the lenses in extreme situations.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the result of Cooke SP3. I truly liked how it reacts to the sunlight and ambience. SP3’s allowed me to get the softness on skin tones. It also gave me soft and controlled highlights.

SP3 test 2
SP3 test still (Shot on Sony A7)
SP3 test 1
SP3 test still (Shot on Sony A7)

For the night sequence, I lit up the scene with my car headlights by using it as a backlight for the character as well as the foreground. To get the details from the shadow area, I used a phone torch through a white handkerchief. With such minimal lights, I could get soft and controlled highlights as well as details in shadows.

We are glad to hear you like the new lenses. Can you tell us about the other projects you shot on Cooke?

Apoorva: I recently shot a feature narartive called ‘Ammu’ on Cooke Anamorphic/i FF.

Ammu is a Tale of Love, Loss, and Sacrifice through the eyes of Ammu, the protagonist. Her idea of a fairytale marriage was shattered when she ends up in an abusive marriage with her cop-husband. With Ammu, I was seeing a quick transition from balanced and symmetrical framing to a lot of negative compositions. To bring Ammu’s inner turmoil, I framed her close-ups with wide focal lengths. Cooke’s full frame Anamorphic/i allowed me to push the camera closer to the subject, thereby getting a very intimate perspective. To show her loneliness and isolation I framed her with tele lenses and also pushed towards negative compositions. The overall colour palette also switches from warmer tones to muted. I wanted high contrast imagery to bring the grittiness of her husband, which was achievable with Anamorphic/i FF without relying much on post.


Ammu 1
Still from Ammu (shot on ARRI Mini LF)
Ammu 2
Ammu 5
Still from Ammu (shot on ARRI Mini LF)

Do you shoot on Cooke spherical lenses, too?

Yes, I shot an advertisement for Aavas Financiers Limited. This was a commercial intended for digital release. The narratives take place in four states of India, so I wanted to treat each one of them differently. The setups were divided into early morning, middle of the day, evening and late night. Since I had shot with Cooke lenses before, I was aware of how beautifully they bring the textures together. I like how they control the highlights and bring in the details in the shadow areas. Since this project had different looks, I decided to go with Cooke lenses.

Aavas 4
Aavas stills (Shot on Sony Venice)
Aavas 5
Aavas 2
Aavas stills (Shot on Sony Venice)