Sajjad Shah from Srinagar is a Steadicam operator who has been doing this work for the last 21 years. 45-year-old Sajjad is among the few Steadicam operators in the valley who achieved fame in this work. He started his career in 1999 and since then he has been working in films and television industry.
“When I was a child, I had little knowledge about cameras like every other child but whenever I see the camera, I used to hold it and start clicking pictures,” Sajjad said.
He used to click pictures in family functions, family outings and everybody loved those pictures. He got hisbfirst camera as a gift from his father when he was 12 years old.
Sajjad took cinematography as a hobby and never thought of opting it as profession.
Like every other family in 1990s Sajjad’s family also wanted him to become an engineer, but he was not interested in engineering.
“Although, I got admission for mechanical engineering but after completing 1 year of studies, I dropped out. Later, I did my BSc from Amar Singh College and joined my family business till 1998,” he said.
Sajjad’s life took a turning point when his cousin fixed a surprise meeting for him with Akhter Ali Khan who was a well-known producer, director and cinematographer in the film industry.
“This was something that triggered my love for the camera. I immediately joined his production house for 6 months and after that I did a cinematography course,” he said.
Sajjad has worked with the big guns in this industry. He has worked with many Film & Television production houses like T-Series Films, Fox Star Studios, Milky Way Entertainment, Reverberation Films Pvt Ltd, Desert Rose Films Productions Ltd, Reliance Big Pictures, Red chilies Entertainment, Zee telefilms, India Today Group, ETV, Set India, Endemol Shine Group, Colosseum Media Pvt Ltd, MTV Roadies, MTV India, Times Now, Amazon Prime, Snap Deal, Red Tape, Oppo Mobiles, BMW, Audi India, Mahindra Cars and NDTV Good Times.
“I have also done Steadicam in hindi feature films including Pratichhaya, Muskurahatein, Sanam Re, Guddu Rangeela and Fraud Saiyan,” he said adding, “Besides Bollywood, I have also worked in south Indian films and a Hollywood film “ZIA” (Directed by Earl Reinhard) that was shot in India in which I was 2nd unit cinematographer as well as Steadicam operator.”
Sajjad has also done many TV Commercials for Red Tape, Maggi, Duracell, Nescafe, Oppo Mobiles, Samsung Led, Vodafone. He has done at least 25 music videos for Badshah, Harrdy Sandhu, Guru Randhawa and many more. He has also been the Director of Photography for India's most-watched crime-based show Savdhaan India (U.P Fights Back) besides, working for MTV ROADIES, SPLITS VILLA, LOVE SCHOOL for MTV.
Sajjad has won the best cinematography award in the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Film Festival. “I was on the top of the world when I was nominated, I couldn’t believe it when I won the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award,” said Sajjad.
Sajjad has also won Daring Videographer in Exchange for Media Awards and in Wedding Film Industry he won at-least 4 awards.
Sajjad believes this field is full of challenges. “The most challenging part is the lighting itself, if there is no proper lighting there are no proper shots,” he said.
“Sometimes we don’t even get time to eat and drink because we have to complete the shoot within the fixed time,” he said.
Sajjad founded his own company MG's Wedding Cinematography in Mumbai in the year 2012.
“Besides working as a full-time cinematographer in films & television industry, I proceeded with the vision to capture the best moments in life, then I created a name in the field of wedding filmmaking and presently I am shooting weddings in Kashmir as well,” said Sajjad.
He believes weddings, being one of the most special days a person can experience, should be shot by the best.
Sajjad says it has been his family who supported him through thick and thin.
“I have struggled for three long years; I remember my parents used to send me monthly expenses but at some point, in time I was feeling bad. I was in Mumbai searching for a job or some freelance work, but I was failing every day,” said Sajjad.
“I had to lie to my parents about getting a job. I did not have a single penny in my pocket, I used to spend nights at the railway station and opted for driving an Auto Rickshaw at night to be able to sustain,” he said.
Life has not been easy for Sajjad, leaving Kashmir had its own cons for him.
“I couldn’t attend my father’s last rites as I was in Delhi and had no mobile phone for connectivity. When I got back to my rented room from work, my cousin informed me about my father’s demise. I wasn’t able to reach Srinagar on time and my family and other relatives had already buried my father,” he said.
“It’s rightly said that to gain something, we need to lose something. I have achieved a lot till date by the grace of Almighty but during this journey I lost both my parents who have been my backbone in every phase of my life,” he said.