us about your entry into films?
Mentally, I entered films in my childhood. Even when
I was studying 6th standard I could appreciate Sreedar’
s films and those of Bharathiraja, Balachander, Balu
Mahendra, Mahendran... I lived in a small village near
Thanjavur called Needamangalam where films used to be
screened in tents and would reach there 3 months after
release and big films even after 6 months. It was here
that I started watching films and was familiar with
the work of big cinematographers like Vincent, B.S.Loganath,
Balu Mahendra and others. I was very involved. I was
a good student who secured ranks. While I was doing
my 10th standard exams I decided my way of expression
is a camera and cinematography and my place is the film
industry. I decided not to study well because then my
family would want me to go to IIT or study something
else. I wanted to just pass my + 2 and join the Film
Institute. That was my big dream..
How did you get
the break with Rajiv Menon?
I secured admission in the Film Institute at Chennai
but could not pursue the course as my dad was sick and
I had to go back to the village and take care of the
family grocery business. I stayed there 5 years and
then returned to Chennai. I became a photojournalist
for Kalki. My photograph was nominated for an international
competition at Netherlands in 1994. It’s like
the Oscar for photojournalists and even gaining a nomination
was a big thing. However, it disturbed me a bit; I started
asking myself, is this what I came to Chennai for? I
then happened to see Satyajit Ray’s Charulatha
and could not sleep the whole night and then I knew
I had to move towards my goal of cinematography. Immediately
I told my boss, that I would not work for more than
three months there and completed my commitments there.
I did not have any source to approach Rajiv Sir and
even did not even have his phone number. However, I
had faith in myself and went to see him. I also knew
printing and I demonstrated this at his lab. He told
me that he could not take me on immediately but asked
me to return after 6 months. I then asked for permission
to observe his ad films, the 2nd day I joined him! It
was June 15.
was it working with Rajiv Menon?
He is abreast of the latest
trends. He is a perfectionist and expects a
lot of performance but he teaches standards
of an international level. He had every facility
in-house and his previous work was well-documented
and one could refer to it. Rajiv Menon is like
" Rajiv Menon is like a
How did you get
the opportunity to work on your first film?
After Minsara Kanavu where I was an as associate, I
started looking out for independent opportunities as
I had been instructed. The cinematography in the film
was much talked about and I worked for both DoPs Venu
and Ravi K Chandran. I expected lot from myself and
did not want my first film to look like a first film.
I wanted to equip myself before starting my first independent
film and did a lot of clash work. This which gave me
a lot of experience especially with big artistes and
Dharani is a very
fast director "
In January 2001 my
friend told me of an opportunity which he could
not take up as he was already committed to two
films. Then I met director Dharani but had no
expectation and had not shown any of my work.
Next day, I got a call from the company and
when I went there, Dharani sir and the producer
told me that I was on as cameraman for the film.
It was a pleasant shock and I never expected
it as I knew many big cameramen had met them.
The next couple of days were spent in location
hunting and non-stop shooting. I had no tension
because of the prior experience. Dharani is
a very fast director and very clear about what
he wants, it was a learning process for me but
I had no fear despite it being my first film.
We shot for 70 days.
You have worked on 5 films with director Dharani,
how was your experience and how did your relationship
It is always been good. Even before our first film
ended, we had bonded well. We became like brothers.
I call him anna and he treats me like that. He is
a good teacher and trusts me. He is very classy especially
when it comes to mass entertainment and commercial
films like Ghilli. Working with him is wonderful as
he communicates what he wants clearly and leaves you
to achieve that.
What was your
experience working with Vikram?
My first film Dil was with Vikram and so can’t
forget him. He is very co-operative and has a passion
for cinema. Even during the shoot, he never treated
me like a first film cameraman. He is very involved
in his craft even to the extent of changing his looks
and body to suit a role and even works for 2 years
for a film.
You have done
a lot of action. Is this a conscious decision?
Well, it has happened like that since I have done
a lot of action. Action works when the situation it’s
placed in is correct. The story, the place, the villain
and hero conflict are all important in building audience
interest. For instance, the song in Dhool that appears
during a fight sequence Singam pola with Paravai Muniamma
is something that no director would have thought of
and it was a trendsetter. He wanted the placement
there and was strong in that; you need guts for that.
The tempo helped the success of the film. To me, working
for the need of the script is important, if an element
like the composition or lighting dominates the scene,
the emotion and mood of the performance will be lost.
Would you call
yourself a director’s cameraman or do you have
an individualistic style of work?
My style of work is working for the script. That
is tough. Today, My Name is Khan is extraordinary
work by Ravi K. Chandran. He worked for director’s
vision and artiste’s performance, there was
no major scope for camera and light but it was one
of his best. As a DoP, when you want your work to
dominate a film, it’s because you fear that
you will be lost. You want to show you are there.
This is team work and the base is the director and
script. Those who are mature in cinema understand
many risky shots. Is there anything dangerous that
you have attempted?
There have been many risks, action itself is risk.
The risk the stuntman faces is the same for the cameraman.
I will be in the most dangerous spot; I do not let
my assistants to do it, because in my experience I
know how much risk I can take. The Sumo chase in Ghilli
left me with a sternum fracture, where even my life
was at risk. However, I took it in my stride and have
taken many others too. Once I had to shoot amidst
a hailstorm where the temperature was so low, bones
would be chilled. For a song in Kuruvi, I had to shoot
alone in a chopper, I single-handedly had to focus,
turn the camera on and off and balance. At that time
I don’t think of my wife and kids, only about
canning the shot. And when the audience appreciates
the shot, all the risk is forgotten. All my films
have fights and I have a good rapport with the stunt
masters. I am like their assistant and have learnt
a lot from them.
How did you like working with Vijay? What is
Vijay is mature for his age.
In word or deed he is balanced, I want to learn
a lot from him. On the sets, if he is given
a position, he will stay there however long
it is needed and won’t move until told
despite being a big artiste. Despite having
assistants, when it comes to things like holding
his umbrella, he insists on doing such things
for himself. If the director asked him to come
to the sets at a particular time, he would be
there before us. Vijay is 100% professional
and very involved.
" Vijay is 100% professional
and very involved"
Vijay is very good
with fights and dances. How did you like working on
When it comes to song sequences, he becomes very happy
and his whole body language is different. He loves songs
and dance and nobody can match his timing and most of
the songs I have shot with him have become big hits.
His timing and performance are good and this works for
all elements like action, song and comedy.
Trisha has the capacity to
succeed not just in
Bollywood but even in
do you see the growth of Trisha as an artiste?
Do you think she will be successful in Bollywood?
She has definitely grown a lot. In Ghilli, when
I looked at her through the camera, I saw her
involvement, the anxiety to perform well and
the determination not to get upset with whatever
the director says and perform. She had a good
timing. In Kuruvi, she attained a new level
of maturity. She is very open, very friendly.
When I was hurt in Ghilli, she would speak to
my wife and show care. I count on her as one
of our people. Trisha has the capacity to succeed
not just in Bollywood but even in Hollywood.
How was it working in Vettaikkaran?
Babu Sivan, the director is my friend. He was the AD
in Dhool and Kuruvi. I had never worked with a new director
and it was the first time. However, everything went
smoothly, it was an AVM production which had good planning
and was a commercial mass entertainer. The director
was clear that a Vijay film has to be like this. If
you work with Vijay you never get bored because he goes
to the next level, the next time you see him.
Naa Azhagappan was a film that was totally different
from the ones you have been working on. Tell us about
I felt that I needed a change and I got this film which
was a total contrast to the kind of work I have been
associated with. I met the producer and the hero Vadivelu
and everything worked out. It was challenging and turned
out well and very different from other films.
What was your experience
working with Anushka? What do you think her future In
Kollywood will be like?
Her future is there. She is equal to big heroes and
is very talented; good height, features and performance
that is very rare. I had recommended her in films but
only worked for this. Very disciplined and involved.
How important is
cinematography to success?
Cinematography alone cannot make a film a success
but its very important for a film, what really
matters is how much it helps the script. If
you look at mass commercial films, the MGR types,
the heroism is maintained through the cinematography.
The cameraman must be clear about how to portray
this to the audience. 80% of our audience does
not look at the film from the top but look up
in awe from down. The Satyam theatre audience
is different but beyond Tambaram there is a
change in mindset and the DoP has to bear this
in mind right from the lensing. This is what
works to create super duper hits but the script
should be good too. What makes Ghilli and Basha
evergreen is the script. When Okkadu was remade
as Dhill, the base was retained but it was like
a new film.
" What makes Ghilli and
Basha evergreen is
A perfect script will have the right balance of performance,
cinematography, music, editing and so on. A good scene
will inspire you to light well and help translate the
script from paper to visual.
What plans do you
I have not signed any new film yet. I always give some
time for relaxation after a film, for instance after
Ghilli, I had an 8-month break. That is because once
I get into a film, I am 24 hrs into it. Even after it
releases, I go to the theater to check the print.
Do you have any
plans to direct?
Direction must happen as it is the ultimate for everyone.
I want to work on good films with good directors for