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Interview with Malini Dasari
Date: July 9, Hyderabad
Malini Dasari

She is an alumna of IIM Bangalore and worked in a high profile job in a big corporate house. But her passion towards cinematography made her resign to her job and apply for cinematography course in Pune Film Institute. It is just a child’s play to get into Pune film institute for somebody who entered IIM beating so much of competition. After graduation, she worked for Amir Khan’s productions like Tare Zameen Par and Jaane Tu… in cinematography department. She is making her debut as feature film cinematographer with Hari Yellti’s debut film ‘Ankith Pallavi & Friends’ (APF). After watching the graded first copy of that film, Hari Yelleti confessed to me that her work is as good as that of PC Sreeram’s work in ‘Chini Kum’. Telugu film industry needs educated and professionally qualified technicians. And Malini Dasari is going to contribute her might to Telugu film industry with APF. Here are the excerpts of an exclusive interview with the cinematographer of next generation - Malini Dasari


Tell us about your background?
I am born and brought up in Hyderabad. My father Shankar is a still photographer who handled a lot of commercial and industrial photography. I did my graduation in St. Anns, Mehadipatnam. Then I got admission in IIM Bangalore and completed my MBA with marketing specialization. Later on, I worked in Xerox India (Modi Xerox now) for one and half year. I quit the job as I felt that it was monotonous. I came back to Hyderabad and worked as a consultant to CRY (Child Relief and You). It gave me immense job satisfaction. That is when I saw an advertisement inviting applications for various courses offered by Pune Film Institute. I was fascinated by photography as I grew up watching my father doing still photography. I observed that my father used to clean the camera and the equipment everyday like it’s a prized possession. I also used to clean his camera equipment and I used to take many photographs as hobby. I applied for the course of cinematography and got admitted in Pune film institute. I passed out in 2004. It was a 3-year diploma.

After graduation I joined Bollywood films and did the work of focus puller and gaffer as a freelancer. I assisted Jodha Akbar cinematographer Kiran Deohans for a few corporate films. I also assisted KU Mohan (cinematographer of Don) for a film called Freaky Chakra. I assisted many cinematographers for ads/videos/films. Then I worked independently on many documents and corporate films. During my film institute days I assisted Shyam K Naidu for a Hindi film as a part of practical course in my institute curriculum. I also worked for Bommalata (Bellyfull of dreams).

Recently I worked for Honeymoon Travels, Tare Zameen Par and Jaane Tu (montage shots for title cards). I also worked as second unit cameraman for Hollywood film Forest.

How did you get APF project?
Tollywood cinematographers Jaya Krishna Gummadi (Idi Sangati) and Sudhakar Reddy (Pourudu) were my classmates in Pune film institute. When they told me that Hari Yelleti was looking for a cinematographer, I sent my show reel. I met him in Mumbai when he was scouting for heroine and auditioned Megha Burman. He liked my work and gave the gist of the film. I liked the concept. He does not belong to film industry and has different ideas. He could able to see the things differently. I also realized that the entire unit members are young and the film deals with friendship. I immediately accepted the project.

How did the shooting go for APF?
It was a great fun. I had to break from what I had studied in film institute. I realized that reality is different from what we read in books. I also learnt a few things from film industry. We knew our budget limitations and entire crew was co-operative. It is like like-minded people coming together. There is lot energy in the team.

Which is difficult? Getting into IIM or getting into Pune film institute?
I prepared a lot for CAT (IIM entrance test). I was little poor at maths. I used to attend many mock tests and interviews in Hyderabad as a part of preparation to CAT. But for Pune film institute I did not have any portfolio. Probably they looked at my academic background and considered my passion towards cinematographer before admitting me in Pune film institute.

How good is Pune film institute?
Like any other college, it makes you grow as a person. It takes you into certain space. It is an opportunity to concentrate and totally focus on certain aspect. You can watch any film whenever you want in a theater. I watched almost a film a day during my three years of stay at Pune. There is a great library with excellent book collection. They give free stock of reel whenever you want. And you could make your own short films by collaborating with students from various departments. The local people of Pune are so hospitable that they would cooperate with us whenever we shoot in the city.

What did IIM taught you?
I left my plush job because I did not want to work under somebody. But my time at IIM helped me a lot personally. It made me into a different and better person all together. I could able to speak this way to you just because I picked it up at IIM.

How is your IIM degree helping your career as cinematographer?
I am able to do it fast track because of what I learnt at management school. Any other cinematography student would have many years to become a cinematographer. It took less time because I studied at IIM. I could spot opportunity easily and move up the ladder.

Cinematographer is like the eye of the director. How did you gel with Hari Yelleti for APF?
It was tough job and communication is very important between the cinematographer and the director. Before taking the shot, we sit together and I ask him how he wants it. Then we brainstorm for the best solution. Then we scout for locations. And most of the times, we don’t get permission to shoot in the locations we liked. Then we move on to the best possible alternative locations. After the locations are fixed, we call our art director and explain the colors and props for the scene. We also work with the references. I connect to whatever Hari Yelleti says and we had a very good rapport.

How did Hari Yelleti do?
For a first timer, Hari Yelleti has done excellent job. He is lot better than the successful directors with considerable experience in Telugu film industry.

What principle did you follow while shooting for APF?
I stuck to reality. I put efforts to make sure that the film appears real so that many people could identify with the film.

What are your favorite films?
I don’t want to name my favorite films. But I like comedies, slapstick films, thrillers, films playing with structures (different narratives), mindless films, films with rhythms and patterns and films of different genres. And I love songs and dance numbers.

How did you shoot the songs of APF?
All songs scored by Vinu Thomas are nice. The rhythm and tempo is different. These songs grow on you. I feel that hero Nikhil has lot of energy and it shows up on the screen. He lifts the tempo of songs with his presence. You should wait for the film’s release to see how I shot the songs.

Who is your favorite cinematographer?
I love the products, but not the creators. A cinematographer who did fabulous work for a great film might do a mediocre work for another film.

What are your future plans?
To keep working for films as a cinematographer.

Any plans to direct in the future?
I directed a short film as a student. But I am currently not confident about directing a feature film. May be in the future!

Don’t you think cinematographers are not getting their due of recognition like director and music director?
It used to be like that in the past. But now it is changing. Cinematographer is also becoming a selling point for a film.

How is the reaction of your parents?
They worry a lot about me. But I am sure my parents (especially my father) will feel proud when they see my name on the big screen in the title cards of APF.

You quit a plush job to pursue your passion. Do you have any suggestions for such people who want to join films by quitting their lucrative jobs?
I don’t need to give any suggestions. If somebody feels that their plush job is becoming boring and they could not resist their temptation to submit to their passion, they would automatically follow their heart.

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