We had the good fortune of connecting with Aakash Raj and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Aakash, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
I think for me I never work hard for success, instead I always strive for perfection and gave priority to my growth as an artist and a human being. Even though my approach towards perfection has changed in all these years, the core idea of creating something true to yourself and not thinking about it bringing you success remains the same. Being successful is never my goal, my goal is to always grow as an individual and an artist, gathering as many life experiences and going through different emotions and experiencing different feelings. In the end to live a meaningful life and creating your own artistic instinct will make you a unique artist which will bring us to so-called “Success”

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My journey always had a lot of turbulence. I always have a hard time satisfying myself and thus I always end up challenging myself. This has always pushed me to work harder and keep raising the bar higher for myself. After graduating from my first film school Whistling Woods International, I started assisting Cinematographers like Kiran Deohans, Rajan Kothari, Petra Korner and some other big cinematographers who taught me a lot about how to handle big productions while keeping your artistic intentions intact. While I was gaffing/operating for them, I was also collaborating with other directors to shoot some independent films and commercials. After assisting on almost 11 features and more than 300 commercials I decided to focus only on my cinematography career. I decided to put gaffing/operating work on hold so I can concentrate only on cinematography, which was a hard decision. Even though the first few years being independent was difficult in getting constant work I chose to keep my patience and be positive. I was taking whatever job that came in my way and never saying no because I wanted to be out there and keep working. Back then the social media platforms like instagram or any other app to connect with other filmmakers were not that popular, it was just a word of mouth. It took some time for my independent work to pick up the momentum. Once I started getting enough work in the Indian film industry I felt that the stories were not diverse and global in many ways. This made me think how I was not really growing as an artist and there was nothing challenging in terms of exploring different cultures and visuals attached to them. This feeling was so strong that I decided to leave my whole network and move to a more global market. Leaving everything I worked so hard for and starting from scratch was one of the most difficult decisions. I moved to LA to complete my masters from American Film Institute which developed my skills and built my experience on an international level by opening my doors to the film industry here. I met new people and made many friends and that’s something I will cherish forever. One of the first short films I shot here called ‘Arabian Alien’ premiered at Sundance Film Festival. This film was very unique and the visual language was something I have never done before. It was Abstract, had little dialogue and was film noir, which makes it a visual delight and a dream for any cinematographer.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am not really great with planning trips and I generally go with the flow. I am a regular at this salsa dancing club called ‘La Descarga’ where there is a salsa class for an hour which breaks into social dancing later. There is live performance and music which I love. Would highly recommend hiking up to to the Hollywood sign. My favourite day trip would be going down to Malibu beach. Most of my free time i spend exploring museums and art galleries which have some amazing work.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A lot of people have helped me reach the place where I am today. I might not be able to mention all of them here but i can’t thank them enough for being there for me. But above all i would love to mention my mother who has truly been my inspiration, my work is influenced by rhythm and music and seeing her love for classical music and singing has helped me develop my art of cinematography. Filmmakers like Ron Frike, Akira Kurosava and Satyajit Ray have a very positive influence on my work and me. Nusrat fateh Ali khan’s music has helped me connect with myself and further enhanced me as an artist. I would definitely like to give a shoutout to director Daria Gai and Producer Dheer Momaya who offered me my first feature {Three and a half} as a cinematographer which earned me the very prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Best Cinematography award.

Website: https://www.aakashrajdp.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aakashraj1/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aakash-raj-2b9717104/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/akash.raj.9085790
Other: https://vimeo.com/296750333

Image Credits
Aakash Raj