About the Bombay
– Goa song
Dil Chahta Hai is a cult film
Chahta Hai and experience working for a new
director like Farhan Akhtar
were two important movies at that time Devdas
and Dil Chahta Hai. When I was offered both,
I had an intuition that Dil Chahta Hai would
work and I accepted the offer even though
others questioned my decision. It was a young
and modern film. I was drawn by the film and
felt Farhan’s ideas new and refreshing.
Now when I look back, Dil Chahta Hai has become
a cult film. Even today when people come up
to me with offers, they want their visuals
to look like Dil Chahta Hai. And I tell them
I was the one who did Dil Chahta Hai. That
is the kind of influence of the movie. Rock
On also is in some ways influenced by Dil
Chahta Hai, you can say.
The title song of Dil Chahta Hai is a road trip from
Bombay-Goa. We sourced ideas from people about travelling
like that and rejected all those ideas to avoid clichés.
We did not want a car commercial so we shot the song
in a hand held camera to give it a candid feel. And
it worked out well. Many tried the same manner of
filming after that song came out.
advancements you learnt in Bollywood
Until I started working in the movie I did not know
who are Gaffer and Grip. There are lots of techniques
not available in our movies but Bollywood has them.
I learnt a lot of technical aspects from them. These
were non-existent here and that knowledge made a difference
in my working style. Since all the visuals were conceived
by the creators, I knew what I have to do in the movie.
It was very systematic work in Bollywood which helped
in meeting the shoot schedule targets.
was an assistant with Rajeev Menon and he
is my mentor, and he is also a good friend.
He treats all his assistants as his friends
and provides freedom. He is also someone who
shares knowledge with all his colleagues.
Even now if I have any doubts I will contact
Rajeev Menon. Although he doesn’t do
that many movies now he is still in touch
with the industry and he is updated about
everything. He also loves to teach. He is
like an encyclopedia who is willing to share
knowledge. I am going to work in an ad film
with him and I’m excited to meet him.
He has all the great qualities of a teacher
and that I think is fantastic. All his assistants
Rajasekhar, Ratnavel and many others come
from his school of lighting.
When I have doubts I will
contact Rajeev Menon
Minsara Kanavu was initially started by cameraman
Venu. He had other assignments to finish and I was
roped in to finish the movie. Almost all the songs
were shot by me except Vennilave song. So both our
names were shared in the title cards. That movie was
modern for its times in terms of style, costumes and
color. Stars were fresh, young and vibrant. Everything
worked for the movie. Kajol was during her Kuch Kuch
Hota Hai period, Rahman’s music, Thotta Tharani’s
set – everything was perfect in the movie. That
movie is thought about even now after many years of
its release for its visual splendor.
Also Kandukonden Kandukonden that had all good looking
stars. All the frames had one of the actors namely
Mamooty, Ajith, Aishwarya Rai, Tabu or Srividya. Everybody
was good looking. Good story and good music. Shankar
Mahadevan won a national award for the movie and the
movie was also shot in a very short span of time.
Songs were shot in just one or two days but they were
trendsetters. In fact, only after watching that movie
Sanjay Leela Bansali approached me for Devdas.
Initially the plan was to shoot a movie called Bajirao
Mastani. That script was being discussed but Bansali
called up one day to express his idea of directing
Black. He also mentioned that the movie has no songs
and asked if I would like to be a part of it. I told
him yes. We met and discussed about the story. I showed
him a Mani Ratnam movie visual from Geetanjali, shot
by P C Sriram. I suggested him that we could do something
in that style – mist and smoke with shaft of
light. He loved it and immediately worked in consultation
with the art director to create huge windows. It’s
very difficult to light up everything when the shoots
are happening indoors. Bansali gave us enough freedom
to explore things and experiment and the movie turned
out to be visually striking.
Resool Pookkutty and Sabasayachi worked with me
in the movie. All of them are incredible to work
with. Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee and Ayesha
– everyone was fantastic in that film.
apology letter to you
Ayesha asked Amitabh if he was
us about Ayesha Kapoor of Black
grew up in Auroville, Pondicherry. She has
never seen films before she started acting
in Black. Amitabh has the habit of rehearsing
with his costars before the commencement of
shoots and he wanted to do so with Ayesha.
The girl was like, ‘Are you nervous?
Is it your first movie?” Obviously she
has no clue who she was acting with and Amitabh
replied that he is not a newcomer. He narrated
it to us and the next day he gifted Ayesha
a coffee table book that had an extensive
collection of photographs of his work with
his autograph. After seeing it, she exclaimed,
‘Aren’t you bored to do the same
work time and again in movies?” It was
an interesting piece of conversation that
brings out the innocence of Ayesha and the
humility of Amitabh.
Black released, ran successfully and we received many
awards. Particularly in Filmfare awards I had two
nominations – for Paheli and Black. At that
time Mr. Bachan was in the hospital and the Filmfare
awards was his first film event after he recovered.
He won both the critics award and the popular film
award. He was overwhelmed and mentioned the entire
crew of Black. Out of oversight, he did not mention
my name. After a month of this incident, I received
a call from his office. He sent me a box of chocolates,
bouquet and an apology letter of sorts explaining
that he forgot to mention my name on stage. He also
sent me the paper clippings of his interview with
Mid-day where he has mentioned my work. He did not
have to send an apology letter; just a phone call
would have been enough. But he made it a point to
go to this extent to make me feel important.
I did not know how to react to this and called
up Abhishek to tell him the incident. Abhishek assured
me that he would talk to his father and I can thank
him the next time I meet Mr. Bachan. And then I
had an opportunity to meet him on the sets of Cheeni
Kum and told him how I felt after receiving his
gesture. Earlier, I had received a handwritten appreciation
letter from him for my award for Virasat. These
two letters are precious to me and I have framed
Tell us about Saawariya
is a fantasy film. It was shot entirely in
sets. It is particularly difficult to shoot
a movie totally indoors and it requires a
lot of money. I was really happy to do that.
Although the movie was not a success or received
any awards, to date that work of mine attracts
many folks in my profession. Only a cameraman
knows how difficult it is to achieve the look
of Saawariya. It is one of the most difficult
and unrecognized films. A movie’s running
at the box office is not a yardstick to measure
how good the movie is. For instance, Raavanan
and Iruvar did not do well in the box office
but these movies have the finest of photography.
To date I consider Saawariya to be one of
my best films. Sets were all the biggest ones
ever done for movies in India, especially
indoors. We used latest lighting systems like
space light, probably for the first time in
India. We worked hard for about three months
to test the systems and readied for shoots.
Saawariya is my best film
Bansali’s lyrical movie making will be visible
in the movie. The meticulousness went into each shot
will be visible in the movie. That is a huge quality
of a movie. Bansali has music and pace for each scene
in his mind and he is very particular about it. Since
he is an editor himself, he has immense knowledge
about how the scene should look. It’s incredible
to work with him.
Mani Ratnam has very good
knowledge of photography
director who gives prominence to photography
Ratnam has very good knowledge of photography.
He is the best among the lot. Next director
who gives importance to photography is Sanjay
Leela Bansali. Everybody else will be particular
about the story but Bansali and Mani Ratnam
are very particular about the visual qualities
of their movies. In India, films that look
visually rich are Bansali’s and Mani
Ratnam’s films and I am lucky to have
worked in 2 Bansali films and 3 Mani Ratnam
films. It’s a rare honor to work with
them. Black and Yuva were shot back to back.
I think it’s an unbelievable combination
to have worked with both the directors, one
after the other.
About Mani Ratnam
know Mani Ratnam for a long time, since the
time I was an assistant. I know him from his
Pagal Nilavu days. He also did a Malayalam
movie called Unaru. My brother Ramachandra
Babu was the cameraman for both these films
and I was his assistant. That is when we were
introduced to each other. Mani used to have
a bike in those days. Although we are friends,
after he became a big director we couldn’t
meet like good old days since I was also busy
with my projects.
I know Mani Ratnam from Pagal
It was like replacing Tendulkar
once called me from Australia when I was in
the sets of Dil Chahta Hai. He wanted me to
work for his Kannathil Muthamittal, which
was earlier called Kudai. Although it was
not a big budget movie, it was one of Mani
Ratnam’s best movies. Visually also
the movie is different from his other products.
The biggest challenge while working for this
movie was that I had to make the movie stand
out from Mani’s other projects since
he had earlier worked with legendaries such
as P C Sriram, Santhosh Sivan and Rajeev Menon.
It was like replacing Tendulkar for a match.
But I approached the movie as I would approach
any other movie. I wanted my cinematography
to be different from these legendaries and
I tried my style. When I was working for the
movie, I thought I wasn’t matching up
to their level of work. But after watching
the first copy of the film, Mani congratulated
me saying that my work looks good in the movie.
After that I worked for Ayuda Ezhuthu and
Yuva with him..
is a meticulous planner. He is a composed
person who plans his work brilliantly. He
never compromises on the quality of his movies.
The amount of detailing he does for each of
the frame is immense. It’s almost like
working on an ad film. He is very patient
and it’s surprising to note that a person
with his kind of responsibility can be so
collected. He is a saint. I hope to reach
his level of composure someday. Although some
of his ideas might sound a bit childish when
they are narrated, they fetch applause in
the theatres. He knows his audience quite
well. He is one of the most respected commercial
directors in India. He is like the James Cameroon
of India. Same way, you can call Mani Ratnam
the Martin Scorsese of India. Even though
Mani is a little above 50, his movies will
still be young with novel visuals and different
Shankar is the James Cameroon
of India and Mani Ratnam the
Murugadoss is one of the finest
script writers in the country
is my second film with Murugadoss. He is one
of the finest script writers we have in the
country. He has an arresting sense of scripting.
He thinks a lot before writing anything and
there wouldn’t be a single change after
he finishes writing. All his scripts are taut
in his movies. Ezham Arivu is one of the best
scripts he has written. It’s very unique
and something never done before. This movie
is of a genre, never attempted in Indian movies.
It’s a rare film that will fit into
all genres; science fiction, period, contemporary.
It’s an unusual story and I’m
really looking forward to watch it on big
Suriya is the most humble, down to earth actor. He
has no ego and is very confident about himself, without
being intimidating to others. When Suriya comes to
sets, you will feel good. His speaks a lot and I have
never seen such eyes in any actors. I have heard so
many actresses go gaga about Suriya in Bollywood.
They say he’s the most handsome guy Indian cinema
has seen. Such is his influence. I need not elaborate
upon his acting capabilities; be it in Vaaranam Aayiram
or in Gajini or in a commercial movie like Singam.
He can slip into any role easily and puts in his sincere
efforts to any of his projects. In Ezham Arivu I wanted
his bare body shot for a song. He worked for about
15 days to get six-packs and I could shoot the song
the way I wanted it. Such is his dedication.
Working for Ezham
know her since she was a child. She was a
kid during our Marudanayagam days. I did not
expect her to grow up so fast and work with
me. She is a charming and multi-talented person.
She is inclined to music and is educated as
well. She tries hard to come out of her father’s
shadow although she respects him immensely.
She is a hard worker and great dancer. I did
not know about her dancing skills until I
shot a song for Ezham Arivu. I was impressed.
Her role in the movie is of greater importance.
It’s going to be a milestone in her
career. What Gajini did to Asin, this movie
will do that to her.
What Gajini did to Asin, 7am
Arivu will do the same to Shruthi
Although there are period scenes in the movie, we
did not take it in yellow tint as is customary. I
do not know why it is a practice. Not that in those
days everything was yellow. It’s actually unreasonable
and you don’t have to do that. For instance
Brave Heart, the entire movie has natural color and
not yellow. So in Ezham Arivu there won’t be
any difference in lighting in period scenes or regular
Peter Hein’s stunts are unbelievable in movies
like Endhiran and Anniyan. He is a dedicated professional
and does all the risky scenes himself. He does even
the trial scenes and not let his assistant do it.
He is completely into his profession and his energy
is very infectious. He is a gifted person.
I play Ezham Arivu songs on my
iPhone all the time
of Ezham Arivu
is my first work experience with Harris Jeyaraj
although I know him for a long time. He has
even scored a Chinese song for the movie and
outdid his work for Gajini. I have the songs
on my iPhone and play it all the time.
Subrato Mitra, Ashok Mehta, K K Mahajan, A K Bir and
Binod Pradhan in North Indian cinema. In south India,
A Vincent, P S Loganath who used to work in Balachander’s
movies, Nivas, Balumahendra, P C Sriram who created
a revolution, Santhosh Sivan, Jeeva, K V Anand, Rajasekhar,
Ravivarman and Manikandan. In the current generation,
I like Velmurugan, Balasubramanian, Kadir, Madhie
and Manoj Paramahamsa. I have all time respect for
Rajeev Menon; he is also my guru so not included in
the list, and of course my brother.
There are a lot of youngsters whose work I like
a lot. I hope they continue their consistent work.
For instance, I liked Myna’s camerawork. A
new wave is sweeping the Tamil cinema and with it
many new talents are coming. I hope they continue
their good work. It’s like playing a cricket
match. You have to be consistent to get selected
in subsequent matches. Working for movies is a bit
like that. Your fitness, your consistent work matters
a lot. You have to practice and work a lot. Cinematography
is an evolving art, which grows on a daily basis.
Read a lot about new technologies to last in the
Refusing to adopt DI is like refusing to use mobile
phone. This is a tool and a new stage of evolution.
If you do not want to embrace it, you will be left
behind. When was the last time you bought films
and took photos? At least 10 years? We have moved
to digital age. So why not movies in digital?
Amir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Suriya and Ajith who
is also a good friend ever since our Kandukonden
days. He is one of the handsome actors in Tamil.
Shah Rukh Khan
special about Shah Rukh is the fact that he
remembers everybody’s name in the unit.
He interacts with everybody on the sets personally.
For instance, my wife’s birthday and
SRK’s birthday falls on the same date.
He remembers that every year and sends me
messages on that day, wishing her a happy
birthday. He has never even met my wife but
he remembers it. I found that quality in him
SRK’s few qualities are very