A cinematographer creates a consistent look for a film and makes images that help tell the story. It’s what’s in the frame, the lighting, getting the mood right – getting images that push the story along and keeps the audience inside, not outside, the film. Believing such ideology, Sumon Sarker shares his journey into the world of cinema with ICE Today’s VERVE.
How did your journey begin?
It began while I was still studying Genetic engineering at my university in Khulna. I believe youngsters truly start to explore their life while studying in universities. For me, it allowed me to veer into a world different from mine. It was at that time where I started to involve myself in various extracurricular activities such as theatre, photography and joining the 35mm film club. I knew from that point on that I want to stand behind the camera.
Did your family take it well?
Like any other parents in Bangladesh, mine wanted my twin fraternal brother and me to be either a doctor or an engineer. Much to their dismay, only one of them pursues the career of an engineer.
Where did you learn your basics?
A decade ago, I completed my higher studies and moved to Dhaka to work at an IT Firm. After spending a reasonable amount of time there, I realised that I have more to offer to myself with the things I love doing. Hence I joined a six-month course at the Bangladesh Film Institute. This course consisted of everything that has to do with film making. It first gave me the theoretical knowledge of cinema and then it offered a practical session for me to apply what I learned theoretically.
Later I got to work as the fourth assistant director of Kaushik Sankar Das. That led me to gain as much knowledge as I could get while working in various projects. Those times were tough; I had to juggle my day job and my passion at the same time.
What was your first camera?
It was a Canon 7D. I bought it with the money my parents wanted to send me abroad with. I had to convince them that I do not wish to pursue studies abroad, which was not easy. I wanted to hone my skill with a piece of the right equipment. With that camera, I used to take behind the scene footages for any and all projects I was involved in at the time.
Who do you look up to as your mentor?
Rashed Zaman and Pankaj Palik. These two people laid the foundation I am standing on today. Pankaj Palik was my teacher, and Rashed Zaman was my mentor. They gave me the knowledge and the perspective which set me on the path of becoming a competent cinematographer.
How did you get your first break?
In the early 2010s, I submitted a short film of mine, “Since We Separate” at the Robi Axiata Limited Film festival. The movie received good reviews at the competition and won an award by the end of the event. The award was handed over to me by the renowned figure Amitabh Reza Chowdhury. I still remember him saying that “we should talk at my office.” After that, I worked with him, and on one fine day, he asked me to be the director of photography in one of his projects. From that point on, I never had to look back.
What is Cinematography to you?
Many might have a definition of their own. Some might give a technical answer by using jargons, and some may present you an abstract meaning of the art. But when it comes to me, Cinematography is more than just pointing a camera and capturing images. Cinematographer’s craft is visual storytelling. Putting different elements and subjects in a frame and then showing its meaning to the world through your perspective is what I call cinematography.
Your all-time favourite movie?
If I had to dub movies which are the pinnacle of art, it would be Baraka and Samsara. It changed my perception I had towards movies overnight. It inspired me to become the cinematographer I am today.
What do you have to say about the Oscar-winning movie Parasite?
It won four Oscars: Best Picture, Best DirectorBest Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film. I like the movie myself; however, if you ask me, the Best Director award should’ve gone to Sam Mendes, a man who directed the film 1917. It was a work of art. Very few people can pull off what he did with 1917. But that is only my opinion.
What do you have to say about the youth who aspires to be a part of the art we call cinema?
Get rid of the notion of “I know everything.” Hard work, sacrifice and patience are things you have to strap yourself with to succeed at anything in life. Learn how to make your craft and then learn some more.