Remembering the celebrated cinematographer K. K. Mahajan who ushered in a revolution in the use of lighting in Hindi cinema, on his 10th death anniversary.

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K. K. Mahajan (2 October 1944–13 July 2007) was a noted cinematographer. He won four National Film Awards for Best Cinematography for Basu Chatterjee’s Sara Akash (1970), Mani Kaul’s Uski Roti (1971), Kumar Shahani’s Maya Darpan (1973) and Mrinal Sen’s Chorus (1974). He is best known for his work with Kumar Shahani, Mani Kaul and Basu Chatterjee’s early films and his extensive work with Mrinal Sen.

Starting in the late 1960s, he worked simultaneously with parallel and mainstream films for the next four decades. In all he shot 84 feature films, around 100 commercials and over 20 noted documentaries and several television serials. He got the chance to work with prominent film directors like Mrinal Sen, Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani, Basu Chatterjee, Ramesh Sippy, Subhash Ghai and Mohan Kumar.

He started his career worked on advertising films, short films and documentaries most notably Shyam Benegal’s Child of the Streets (1967), Kumar Shahani’s A Certain Childhood (1967), and BD Garga’s Amrita Shergil (1968) and Mahabalipuram (1968).

Prior to this, while still at FTII, he had shot, Kumar Shahani’s avant-garde graduation film, The Glass Pane (1966). Subsequently, upon viewing this film, Mrinal Sen offered Mahajan, Bhuvan Shome (1969), which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film and became an important film the parallel cinema movement. This paved way for lifelong collaboration, as he went to shoot many films with Sen, including, Interview (1971), Calcutta 71 (1972), Padatik (1973), Chorus (1974), Mrigayaa (1976), Oka Oori Katha (1977), Ek Din Pratidin (1979), Akaler Sandhane (1980), Chalchitra (1981) Kharij (1982) and Khandhar (1983) and Ek Din Achanak (1988). Another director he worked extensively with was Basu Chatterjee, with whom is worked on middle cinema classics, like Piya Ka Ghar (1971), Rajnigandha (1974), Choti Si Baat (1975), Chitchor (1976), Swami (1977) and Manzil (1979).

He also shot Ramesh Sippy’s family saga on television, Buniyaad (1986), which was shot on video (high-band) and shown of state-run for Doordarshan channel.

In 2003, Indian Society of Cinematographers (ISC) awarded him an Honorary Membership, along with A. Vincent and V. K. Murthy. In 2002, he received the Ezra Mir Award for Lifetime Achievement at the IDPA Awards 2005 of Indian Documentary Producers Association (IDPA).

After Char Adhyay (1997) directed Kumar Shahani he did few films, Ekti Nadir Naam directed by Anup Singh was the last film shot by him in 2002. He was diagnosed with throat cancer and as a result, his voice box was removed. Thereafter he shot no other feature film, though he shot a small documentary in 2005, directed by Kumar Shahani about the mounting of an exhibition of painter Akbar Padamsee.

His cancer returned in his last months and eventually, he died in Mumbai on July 13, 2007. His last release was Yaar Meri Zindagi starring Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha. The film was shot in 1971, but released only in 2008, due to legal issues.

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