Generally when a film gets applauses the contributions of people behind the scenes are forgotten. While the film escalates to a `hit’ status, the winning actors may not remember those who realised the victory for them. But if it is not a commercial success, each and every department would be taken up and dissected mercilessly for errors not known. Among the thirteen of my films two are getting released this month. In hits I have been acutely aware of the heights of contribution achieved by my lesser known colleagues and regarding flops I feel the flaws in coordinating their contributions. Neelathamara is the flower of grinding hard work of a group of youngsters! 49 days of shoot! The film is such that on seeing it nobody would realize the toil and strain! The count should be 98 not 49! We shot continuously for 49 days and consecutive nights! A cinematographer with only one independent work to his credit, an art director who has embedded his presence in each frame that does not overtly show art direction and a makeup artist whose subtle approach that has challenged existing patterns – I can’t forget their contributions in giving life to the script. This section in the blog is the reflection of my feeling that I am yet to learn a lot after twenty years of film making experience from these friends who are relatively new! Let us hear them speak…..
`Neelathamara: My first film’ Vijay Ulaganath
I am fortunate in a lot of ways…My father is a still photographer. And he draws beautifully. He has specialized in spontaneous drawing… I mean he can draw anything at the quake of a moment! He has got compliments from people like Karunanidhi! I have been envious and proud of him. He inspired me and I always wanted to work with visuals. Joining Adayar film school to specialize in cinematography was a natural turn.
My favourite cinematographers are Balu Mahendra, P.C.Sreeram and K.V. Anand. To work with any one of them is a wish come true! When I got a chance I snatched the opportunity to work with K.V.Anand. I like his movies; Kadal Desham, Mudhalvan and Josh to name a few. Needless to say that I learned a lot from him! He would be a very close friend after shoot and a hard task master during work hours! That quality gave me space to express my opinion about each shot, light up and style. Even when I used to be his sixth assistant he gave the freedom to critisise. He used to tell me, “You are not a good assistant but you would be a good cinematographer”!! From Nayak in 2002 till Shivaji in 2007 I was with him. Now after doing two films on my own, I understand more of what he used to tell us about cinematography… I am humbled as I travel more in this medium.
Madambi, the first film I worked as an independent camera man, happened all in a hurry. I was called at 11 O’clock in the night and the director, B.Unnikrishnan, wanted me on sets the next morning! So I could not get minimum time for anything. From day one, about 30- 40 shots were taken. Looking back, I don’t remember much. Because I was doing things as I was told and couldn’t bother more about my style of work! The single thought that saved me was, K.V.Anand also started with a Mohanlal movie, “Thenmavin Kombathu”!
For me `Neelathamara’ is going to be `my first film’!! I am proud to work with a director whom I consider at par with Rajkumar Santhoshi and Shankar. I realized Lal Jose’s passion for visuals when I started working with him in the Tamil film `Mazhai varapokuthu’. He would carry his still camera and take pictures wherever we went for location hunt. I started feeling the challenge as I went ahead discussing and seeing his perspective of the story. He is thoroughly dedicated and sensitive to the needs of his medium. Any single element is taken up with maximum care. I read M.T’s stories and worked closely with art director Gokuldas to bring forth the tone of Neelathamara. We treated the two periods differently. The present time period has flat lighting without any foreground properties. I took care to highlight the greens in the past. It also did me good as we were shooting in almost continuous scene order. In certain scenes I could not put enough lights due to space constraints but tried keeping up the mood with minimum sources. My conscience advises me to travel more in mind spaces to work up to Lal sir’s expectations! I gathered energy viewing specific movies like Wong kar wie’s master piece film `in the Mood for Love’! To be precise I watched it around 23 times!!
As a lover of visuals I have been enriched by watching Iranian and Scottish films that are lower on budget and score high on theme and storyline. I am glad that this film also tells me the worth of having a great theme with sensible treatment!