Acclaimed Bollywood cinematographer WB Rao died in Mumbai on Tuesday, a day after he was admitted to the Arogya Nidhi Hospital in a critical condition.
In a career that spanned four decades, Rao had worked in about 30 films including Hum (1991), Khuda Gawah (1992), Rangeela (1995), Raja Hindustani (1996), Dhadkan (2000), Judwaa (1997), Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega (2000) and Talaash: The Hunt Begins (2003).
Rao entered the Hindi film industry as an assistant to cinematographer, screen writer and director Pravin Bhatt. His first break as a cinematographer came in 1987 with Mukul Anand’s Insaaf starring Vinod Khanna, Dimple Kapadia and Suresh Oberoi.
Rao would go on to work with Anand in six films including Hum, Khoon Ka Karz and Khuda Gawah.
Rao also worked extensively with filmmaker Dharmesh Darshan, collaborating with the director on some of his biggest hits, inclduing Raja Hindustani and Dhadkan.
In an interview with actor Sajid Khan, Rao had said that if he had to pick a favourite film from his career, it would be Khuda Gawah, the epic romance starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi and Nagarjuna.
Rao believed that a good cinematographer needs to be an expert in lighting. “I always prefer to shoot early in the morning before sunrise or just after sunrise,” Rao told Khan. “Or, late evening around 6.30 pm, too. I generally ask a director if we can shoot then to capture the magic of the light.”
Rao also played a small role in In Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela, appearing as a cinematographer to director Steven Kapoor (played by Gulshan Grover). A few minutes into the film, Grover’s character, an eccentric filmmaker, walks dramatically, tracking a shot with his hands. He comes near Rao and screams “Cut” twice to which a calm Rao looks at him and says “Camera start kab hua tha?”
Some of Rao’s recent projects included Puneet Issar’s I am Singh (2011) and Ravindra Pipat’s Pata Nahi Rabb Kehdeyan Rangan Ch Raazi (2012). He also held a senior position at the Western Indian Cinematographer’s Association.
Actor and host Naved Jafri and filmmaker Sangeeth Sivan offered their tribute to Rao on Twitter.