After years of trials and tribulations, Manoj Khatoi of Odisha, now one of the most sought after Directors of Photography (DoP) in Mumbai film industry, has already worked with top stars of the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Vicky Kaushal and Irrfan Khan
Once you secure a degree from a recognised film institute, expectedly, the next you plan is to make a career in Hindi film industry. Young Manoj Khatoi of Tarakor, a sleepy village about 10 km from the Sun Temple (Konark), is no exception. Armed with a diploma in cinematography from Biju Patnaik Film and Television-Cuttack, he too, like thousand others from across the country, landed in Mumbai oblivious of what fate has in store for him. It is said that the City of Dreams offers a chance to those who come here with a vision. Manoj too had his share of opportunities which he grabbed with both hands. After years of trials and tribulations, he is now one of the most sought after Directors of Photography (DoP) in showbiz. The lad from Konark is literally rubbing shoulders with the biggest of names – Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Vicky Kaushal and several others. The leading DoP took some time off from his packed schedule to talk to Sunday POST on a host of topics:
On Career-changing moments
Though I had earlier worked with top stars like Mammootty in The Power of Silence, a Malayalam movie, the Salman Khan starrer Notebook in 2019 made all the difference and opened quite a few doors for me. People started recognising me as a cinematographer and there was no looking back after that. That was the defining moment for me.
On being Mohanan’s protégé
I feel blessed to work with a mentor like Mohanan sir (senior DoP K.U. Mohanan). I learnt from him how to work at pre and post production stage with discipline. Also how to handle human resources and pressure situations, adjust the lighting flawlessly and coordinate with directors, producers, cast and crew of a movie. These lessons helped me to make it to the next level.
On director-DoP relationship
Proper coordination between the director and the cinematographer is the key to the success of a project. Both of them have to understand each other’s viewpoints and maintain honesty. This apart, the two, much like a married couple, should complement each other.
On collaborating with top directors
I have maintained good and professional relationships with all the directors I have worked with those including Farhan Akhtar, Rahul Dholkia, Nitin Kakkar, Bejoy Nambiar and others. All of them have their own perspectives of looking at things and I coordinate with them in my own way. I have never faced any difficulties. I have collaborated multiple times with Farhan Akthar and his production house Excel entertainment. He is very witty and has a good understanding of movie making at international level.
On opportunities in Odisha
Sadly, Odisha doesn’t attract too many filmmakers from other states to shoot their films here largely due to the state’s poor infrastructure and lack of official support. We have good talents in Odisha but they don’t get the backing of the government like their counterparts in southern states and West Bengal. I am telling this from my experience of working in other states and at international level. The state government should promote realistic movies made in Odia language at festival circuits to create good impressions about Odia movies outside.
On difference between working
in a movie and a web series
Format is different but the making is more or less the same. Moreover, working for platforms such as Netflix which is streaming in more than 200 countries has its own charm. In fact, I love to work for web series because they give us freedom to work with no pressure and without rush.
On Konark’s role in career
Konark is not just a scenic spot, it has a historical significance. The childhood days that I spent here have certainly played a big role in my life and helped me grow as a cinematographer. At the beginning, I didn’t have any idea about filmmaking or cinematography as no one from my family was remotely connected with the film industry. But my education in film institute attracted me towards movies and I left for Mumbai to carve a space for myself.
On upcoming projects
At present, I am working on the Netflix series Mismatched Season 2 starring Prajakta Koli aka Mostly Sane from YouTube. Then, there is an untitled movie of Karan Johar’s Dharma productions. I am also shooting for Uunchai, directed by Sooraj R Barjatya, with an ensemble cast that includes Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Parineeti Chopra, Boman Irani, Neena Gupta, Sarika and Danny Denzongpa.
Arindam Ganguly, OP