Just as many great directors of the silent period failed to work out a new aesthetic in the sound period, many great Indian cinematographers have had problems with colour. When Kumar’s ‘Maya Darpan’ opened, we knew that KK was not afraid of either Virginia Woolf or colour. Each colour tone and shade was bathed in the light that would mould it and blend it with the others. After ‘Kanchanjunga’, for the first time the use of colour was justified not as a way of attracting audiences by coloured candy but as a full-fledged aesthetic.
In ‘Khayal Gatha’ we saw the brilliance of Indian miniature paintings, often in full saturation and links were established between an art form of our century and centuries of visual arts, whether painting or textiles. Unlike the West, where the aesthetic of colour is better searched through its painting, Indian sensibility is best seen through its textiles. For a weaver has to take care of the flora and fauna around him, of the nature of the incident light and the skin tones of the wearer. In KK’s work, all of this was woven together, by his lighting and framing.
KK’s ability to enter the soul of the ‘other’, here understood as the director, enables him to give a distinct look to each director’s work while maintaining an overarching unity of his own ‘style’, which is not a collection of fetishistic devices and a bag of tricks, but something that is united in its diversity.
– Arun Khopkar, “Ashadh Ka Ek Din and the Magic Hour: A tribute to K.K. Mahajan”