It is heart-rending to note that the veteran cameraman and what’s more my very dear friend and steadicam pioneer in India -Deep Pal, who was born on 16 April 1953, is no more amidst us – Jyothi Venkatesh
Following his affliction with the dreaded Cancer, he breathed his last on October 7 and is survived by his wife Yardley as well as his two children-namely son Joyojeet and daughter Debika from his first wife, who he had divorced long back.
Deep Pal is the son of the late grand old publicist Colin Pal and grandson of director Niranjan Pal and also great grandson of Bipin Pal, who happened to be a great freedom fighter and social reformer before India turned Independent.
Deep was born into a family which had strong links with cinema and literature and also arts.
After pursuing his graduation in Mumbai which was then known as Bombay, believe it or not Deep Pal actually went to Germany to do a diploma course in cinematography where he took intensive training in steadicam, underwater photography and also skydiving photography in the USA before he returned to India.
Pal was known as one of the pioneers of steadicam camerawork in India. Pal’s first major steadicam work was in Ram Gopal Varma’s Nagarjun starrer Shiva, which was considered a path breaking film on visual technique in Telugu cinema.
What marked him and gave him a separate identity of his own was the fact that besides being the best in his profession, Deep was also not only an intrepid traveler but also a wonderful singer with a voice of his own
Deep Pal’s later work included none other than Bandit Queen directed by Shekhar Kapur and Dil Se, directed by Mani Ratnam.
Before he plunged into full fledged cinematography, Deep Pal directed documentary films including Cages (1984) on prostitution which was very rampant even then in Falkland Road in Mumbai, and also Give us this Day our Daily Lunch (1985) based on the Dabbawala network’s food delivery system in Bombay.
In fact, if I am not mistaken, it was the first time some filmmaker had even thought of making a film devoted to the dabbawalas of Mumbai
In 1993, he became Director of Photography (DOP) of the Hindi Feature Film Pehla Nasha directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar.
On and off, Deep Pal continued to work on steadicam as he was perhaps the only one who was trained in all aspects of steadicam operation in India and no wonder J.P.
Dutta also chose him to be the steadicam camera operator for his ambitious film Border.
After Border, Deep was also the Steadicam operator for Sooraj Barjatya’s Hum Saath Saath Hain, We Stand United and last but not the least Mani Ratnam’s Roja (1992) and Dil Se.
Deep had earlier also worked in the film Satte Pe Satta (1982. Meghna Gulzar’s Filhaal and Ghaat (2000) besides Amal were also films in which Deep showed his prowess as a steadicam operator.
It was when he started working as a cameraman for the film Stripped and Yardley started assisting him for the film which marked her debut as a steadicam operator in Bollywood that the two fell in love with one another and decided to get hitched as man and wife.
The two went on to various film institutes including the FTII in Pune to deliver lectures and conduct workshops in the various aspects of cinematography with emphasis on steadicam camera operation.
I remember how way back in 1976 when he had just started off as a photographer, he used to come to my house at Worli in his car and take me from Worli where I used to stay at that point of time to different actors and actresses like Sarika, Bindiya Goswami, Sachin, Ranjeeta etc to do their photo cum interview sessions.
While he used to take their photographs, I used to wait patiently and interview them since I was also a new reporter then.
Even a month ago, Deep Pal used to phone me regularly to give me feedback on the various articles which appeared in various publications online that I used to send to him and ask me to send him the links of the various films that I set out to review from time to time.
Every time he rang me up, Deep used to coax me to take time out of my hectic schedule and visit him and Yardley at Secunderabad and stay with them for at least a week if not more and every time I used to tell him that I will certainly take time off and visit him soon.
Alas now I cannot take his invitation seriously because he has left us heartbroken.
I will miss you a lot my dear Deepu. May God help you keep your soul at peace and grant strength to all of us here to bear your loss since you have left behind you a deep void which can never be filled up. Om Shanti!