Those who know cinematographer Vijay C Kumar in the film fraternity may tag him as an introvert, but what speaks volumes about him is his work. After having worked for the first extensive CG film ‘Ammoru’ he teamed up with Sekhar Kammula for Anand, Godavari and recently for Happy Days and captured finest scenes with the third eye. An exclusive interview with this creative cinematographer of Telugu film industry.
My father C Nageswara Rao was a famous cinematographer who worked for classics like Pandava Vanavasam, Paramanandayya Sishyula Katha, Gudigantalu, Aastulu - Anthastulu etc. But he died when I was seven years old and my mother wanted me to follow his footsteps and continue in the same profession. She joined me in Sarada Enterprises (currently known as Anand Cine Services) outdoor unit at the age of 13 as an apprentice. I worked under various cinematographers for eight years and earned lot of practical knowledge. Then I joined as an operative cameraman under Lok Singh for Vijetha film.
Producer Jaya Krishna gave me first break as cinematographer with 'Aha Naa Pellanta' film under Jandhyala director. Then I did 'Neeku Naaku Pellanta' with the same combination. I got a gap of one and half year after that. Then Shyam Prasad offered me to do unfinished work of Ankusam (official cinematographer was KS Hari). Then I worked for Agraham and Ammoru. Later on I worked for various films like Bachelors, Sampangi, Sreevarante Mavare, Jai Bhajaranga Bhali etc. Then I got some more gap. That was when I met Sekhar Kammula and he offered me Dollar Dream. Since then I was part of all his films. Later I did Dil, Andhrudu and Samanyudu.
Tell us about Ammoru?
Ammoru was the first Telugu film in which extensive graphics were used. We used blue mat for graphic related shots. I had to be very careful about the lighting for those shots.
What kind of ground work do you do when you get a project?
The photography should reflect the subject. I try to gauge the mood of the film and the scope of photography. Then we decide on the equipment and lighting schemes. Sekhar Kammula always encouraged me to experiment and let me take my own time.
Do you think you can do good work if given more time?
It depends on the sequence and situation. And weather should cooperate when we shoot out doors. For Happy Days we used backlight technique which lets us concentrate on the subject (person) and ignore the background. We shot most of the Anand film with sunrise effect. Generally sunrise stays for five minutes. We used artificial lighting with orange tint using window lights. For Godavari, it was a much difficult task as we shot it without using reflectors. It was difficult to adjust lights when we shoot using multiple boats. It was the toughest job of my life to shoot Godavari across the river for 3 months.
Which one is your favorite film among the ones you had done?
Happy Days. We used tele photography for that film. We used hawk zoom lens (300 - 900mm). It elevates the subject against the backdrop.
Why do you maintain such a low profile?
I am very bad at PR. I don't approach producers. I accept the projects that come in my way in a selective manner.
Why is there a demand for Tamil cinematographers in Telugu film industry?
It is completely up to the producer and director. The Tamil producers and directors give more preference to the technicians and that is the reason why Tamil films have rich technical values compared to Telugu films. We rarely get technically brilliant Telugu films. Our producers want us to finish the shooting as soon as possible. We do not get quality if producer want to wrap the movie up in minimum number of days.
How do you keep yourself updated about technology in cinematography?
I believe in the practical experience. I spent many years working under various talented cinematographers. I learn a lot about exposure, lighting schemes, cameras, lens from them and it helps a lot.
What is photography?
Photography is an art and a cinematographer should have an artistic bent to excel in his field. We should be able to generate maximum output using minimal resources. One should know how to create and capture mood using right lighting.
Who is your favorite cinematographer?
PC Sreeram and Govind Nihlani.
What is your future projects?
I am currently doing Nitin's film in the direction of Ravi C Kumar.
Do you have any suggestions for wannabe cinematographers?
One should have practical knowledge. One should study about equipment and lighting scheme besides having artistic bent of mind.
Sekhar Kammula (Director)
Ram Gopal Varma (Director)
Srinivasa Reddy (Director)
Mickey J Meyer (Music director)
R Narayana Murthy (Producer)
Baba Sehgal (Singer)
Buddhadev Dasgupta (Director)
Tom Alter (Actor)
Kundan Shah (Director)
Priyadarshini Ram (Director)
Selva Raghavan (Director)
Vijaya Bhaskar (Director)
R Ravinder (Art director)
Chandra Sekhar Yeleti (Director)
Mohana Krishna Indraganti (Director)
Dega Deva Kumar Reddy (Producer)
Nidhi Prasad (Director)
Hema Chandra (Singer)
Vijay C Chakravarthy (Cinematographer)
VN Aditya (Director)