is your background and how you became a cinematographer?
I was born in Hyderabad and raised in Rajahmundry.
I studied till intermediate in Rajahmundry. As my
parents are in leather industry, I am sent to Chennai
to do graduation in Leather Technology. I joined Footware
Institute in Guindy, Chennai. We are supposed to under
go a workshop program before taking up lessons. On
the day one, they sent me to work shop where I saw
guys and girls stitching chappals by sitting on the
floor. I got so scared that I did not return to that
is my cousin and Shiva was just released. He took
me to watch Shiva film. Watching Shiva film
changed the direction of my life. I was never interested
in films earlier and did not watch films when I was
in Rajahmundry. Rasool studied the operation of steady
cam in USA and used it for the first time in Telugu
films for Shiva. Rasool was working as assistant
to S Gopal Reddy for the department of photography
for Shiva film. That is when I decided that
I should enter the field of cinematography.
approached S Gopal Reddy and asked him to take me
in his department. He said that there is no wide range
for cinematography and asked me to learn graphics.
He also spoke to Ramesh Prasad and made me join in
Graphics Department of Prasad Labs that is headed
by Sai Prasad. I did not like it over there.
day, I noticed a brand new Beta camera (used for TV)
lying there on the floor. I opened that camera. Read
the manual and took it on to the building of Prasad
Labs. I learnt how to operate it by reading the manual
and tried to zoom it on to the road near by. Then
I realized that it was Ilayaraja and Venkatesh who
were having chitchat. I shot them with Beta camera.
I went down, took out the cassette and played it on
a high resolution monitor. When I saw the result,
it struck me so hard that I wanted to become cinematographer
approached S Gopal Reddy again and asked him to give
me a chance. He said that there was no vacancy. That
is when I met Teja. Teja was selected as cinematographer
for Ram Gopal Varma's Raat. It was Teja's debut
film as cinematographer. I approached Teja and Teja
immediately took me in as his assistant. I worked
with Teja for films like Antham, Rakshana, Money
got my break as cinematographer with a Hindi film
titled Bhai (Sunil Shetty, Sonali Bendre and
Pooja Batra), which is a remake of Telugu film Anna
(Raja Sekhar). Later on I did five Hindi films Jaanwar,
ek Rishta, Hum Tum Par Marte Hain etc. Those projects
used to take more than an year each to complete.
that time, a Hollywood film titled 'Crocodile 2:
Death Swamp' (2002) is being shot in Ramoji Film
City in Hyderabad. Rasool was the cinematographer.
He wanted me to be the cinematographer for the second
unit of that film. I accepted it. Then I was offered
the job of cinematographer for a Hollywood film titled
'Quicksand' which was to shot in RFC.
Kiron Movies was planning to produce Anandam
film in the direction of Seenu Vytla. They took me
in for that film. Anandam is my first Telugu
film as cinematographer. After that worked for films
like Kalusukovalani, Jayam, Manmadhudu, Malliswari,
Nijam, Satyam, Naa Autograph, Dhairyam, Avunanna Kadanna.
am currently doing Modati Cinema in the direction
of Venkat Kuchipudi. I would be doing Teja's latest
film which would be going to floors on 10th September.
I signed a Tamil film in the direction of Nivas (Shool
is cinematography is all about?
I feel that cinematography is all about how you control
the light and manipulate it to suit the mood and requirement
of scene/film. One need to use commonsense and the
experience derived by observation. Technical courses
might help you technically, but it is commonsense
that differentiate the right one from the rest.
about the lighting aspect, I observed that you threw
better light more on the actors/actresses that are
important and give inadequate lighting for others
in Avunanna Kadanna film?
Yes, there are many scenes in that film that involve
more than 10 people at a time. But only one or two
people are important and others would be standing
there just for the sake of it. To make sure that audiences
are focused on the important characters, I deliberately
disparaged the artists with different kinds of light.
kind of coordination Cinematographer need from director
to give good output?
If a cinematographer were involved from the script
level, we have netter understanding of mood and soul
of the film and shoot the film to complement it. All
the new directors are doing lots of homework and making
cinematographers involved from the script level. Venkat
Kuchipudi gave me a bind script even before starting
of the shooting of Modati Cinema.
also needs to set the mood for a film. There are certain
good directors who can't express what they want. It
is the responsibility of cinematographer to understand
and grasp what the director wants.
is the role of cinematographer in exploring locations
We have very limited locations where the films are
shot. And our directors specify certain locations
which are already exploited in numerous films. For
example, Venkat Kuchipudi asked me to shoot a song
for Modati Cinema in Warangal where a song
in Varsham film was shot. He wanted me to watch
the video of the film to get an idea. I refused to
watch that film and went to Warangal location along
with my departments to choose the locations and framing
patterns. We have to exploit the places from new angles.
kind of cameras cinematographers use now?
We used to work with ARRI3 cameras earlier. And now
we use 435 cameras.
is the advantage of 435?
We can do certain things like ramping shots and changing
the frame rate from high speed to normal using camera.
For cameras used earlier, we need to do ramping and
change of frame rate by using visual effects by transferring
spool into digital format and. Transferring the spool
into digital format and revert it back would cause
the loss of quality. Usage of graphics needs more
money, time and manpower. By using 435, we can do
these things right on camera by using some user-friendly
you mention about ramping shots and altering frame-rate,
do you think certain mass directors tend to misuse
these felicities by overusing it for unwanted scenes?
That is right. We should use them selectively for
the right scenes to produce right impact. When we
go to films with family, my mother used to ask me
why camera is shaking so much (for ramping shots).
He used to tell me not to shake the camera so violently
in the films I do. These ramping shots and altering
frame-rates do disturb family crowds if they were
used in unwanted scenes.
about Super35 camera which is used for Sarkar
Super35 camera helps in getting sharper images. 435
camera cans films in scope (70mm). Super35 camera
shoots film in 35mm. Then it would be blown in 70mm
later in post production stages. Sarkar and
Kisna films were shot using Super35 camera.
about digital cameras? Why have they become a failure?
George Lucas made 'Star Wars: The Fanthom Menace'
using digital camera. The work of digital camera was
not appreciated due to loss of glossiness in film.
Digital camera creates artificial colors, which would
not look pleasing.
is your best work till date?
Anandam is my best work so far. It was a very
good script. Seenu Vytla had faith in my ability and
never interfered. There were many our-door locations.
We shot the film by following odd timings in order
to give importance to the lighting. We used to start
shooting at 5 PM when we needed fog effect. When waited
for the right time in order to have good backlight
for certain scenes. A cinematographer needs lots of
time in order to get his best work out and I got it
all for Anandam film.
had debut artists and who could come to sets anytime
you want and could wait for what ever time you need
to get the right light. What about senior artists?
When we make films with small time artists, we have
the luxury of enhancing the quality of the output
with nice cinematography. When busy artists and big
stars are involved, their time becomes more important
that any other time. When a busy character artist
or comedian comes, all he asks is when we are going
to let him free as he has another crew waiting for
him for another film. When we are faced with certain
conditions, we can't perform our duties to the fullest.
do feel about working with Nagarjuna in Manmadhudu.
It was Nagarjuna's Shiva that inspired you
to become cinematographer?
It is like my dream come true. Nagarjuna is my favorite
actor. I was impressed with Shiva on the screen.
When I worked in photography department for Antham,
I was in awe of him. I carried reflectors for Antham
film and I was the cinematographer for Manmadhudu
film. It feels so good. I have put in extra efforts
and more passion in my work to do justice to the opportunity
provided by Nagarjuna to me.
good the cinematographer is, if it were released in
a bad theater the total work would be useless. Right?
In many of the theaters, they try to save the cost
of burning less carbon which effects in bad projections.
In some theaters, the size the screen does not match
the film and upper part of the film (usual hair) of
actors get cut. I find only few theaters in Hyderabad
to have right projection system. After Prasad Multiplex
has come up, I stopped watching films in other theaters
of Hyderabad. However, I find that the projection
systems in most of the theaters in rest of AP are
seem to have done 90% of your films to the directors
from Varma School. You have done most of Teja's films.
Is it not dangerous to be associated to one group,
which restricts others from approaching you?
I have soft corner for Teja because whatever I am
today, it is because of Teja. I am proud of film and
would love to associate with all his films. At the
same time, I am open to all the directors.
you follow certain ground rules while shooting scenes
of various types (comedy scenes, action scenes, songs
Comedy scenes: People come to theater for entertainment
and laugh their hearts out. When we shoot comedy scenes
we make sure that the image on screen is clean without
any distractions. We use glossy light for pleasantness.
Fight sequences: We select a scheme depending
on whether the film is shot outdoor or indoor. Since
lots of fight sequence have rope work we need to use
contrast light in order to make the graphics guy life
easier to remove them during postproduction stages.
are uses of trolley shots?
To build up tempo. Trolley shots enhance the film's
you follow any books for reference?
I am an avid reader of a monthly magazine called American
Cinematographer. It gives complete technical details
and analysis about latest Hollywood films. Since most
of the films are simultaneously released in India,
the technical aspects mentioned in that magazine help
me to analyze the cinematography in Hollywood films.
I would get an understanding about what kind of shots
can be taken by using certain lenses and cameras.
film impressed you the most recently?
Black is one film that made lasting impression
on me. I could not sleep for 2-3 nights as I felt
my work is so inferior to what Ravi Chandran has done
for Black. I also admire Thiru's work for Hey Ram
film. I love the work of Hollywood cinematographer
are you favorite Indian cinematographers?
Santosh Sivan and KV Anand
of the nationally acclaimed cinematographers are from
Tamil film industry. Why is it so?
It depends on the director. If director has the different
script, then the cinematographers explore new techniques
and methods. It also depends on the audiences and
Tamil audiences encourage wide verities of films done
with different subjects. They support experimental
films as well.
is your future ambition?
When PC Sreeram name appears during title cards, the
people in Tamil Nadu clap for him. That is the kind
of status any top cinematographer should enjoy. I
want to be the top guy in my profession and win the
any man in film industry, the ultimate goal is going
to be direction. I am also interested in the direction.
But first I want to be the top most cinematographer.
Marthand K Venkatesh (Editor)
Sayaji Shinde (Villain)
Gowri Mumjal (Heroine)
MS Raju (Producer)