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An Eye For Things: The PV Shankar Interview

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PV Shankar loves taking goofy photographs of himself. He’s also nervous about interviews; and is still waiting on a response from director Shankar to whom he had addressed a job application eight years ago. But he no longer wants to become an Assistant Director.

Cinematographer PV Shankar at the Mundasupatti Press MeetPV Shankar seems extremely nervous when we meet him. The press screening of Mundasupatti has just gotten over; and as we amble over to the cinematographer to ask him for an interview, he is genuinely taken aback. He takes quick gulps from a flask nearby before pausing to consider our request. “I am not used to this,” Shankar gestures at the crowd, answering in a measured tone, “talking to you all is quite intimidating.” He has a bad case of stage fear, he says. Even at the promotional event for Mundasupatti, he managed to keep it simple, “ippo interview na epdinu theriliye…” We promise him that it would be a very short one. Would he be comfortable over the phone, perhaps? Shankar jumps at the lifeline and asks us to call him later that week. [quote align=’right’]”I was always good at photography; my friends thought I had an eye for unusual things. When I began the course, I felt like I belonged.”[/quote]

It takes us three whole days to track him down. With Mundasupatti’s phenomenal run at the box office (Rs 3.1 crore in the opening weekend), he has been quite busy indeed. And has had to contend with a lot of calls of appreciation and thanks. “Some even wanted to know about job opportunities,” he grumbles. Shankar would rather do something else than answer these mundane calls, he adds. Like hang out with friends or take quirky pictures of himself. He smiles when we mention the latter. “So you have seen my pictures already? Just a spot of silliness. I like to have a laugh.” But then again, he’s not the “jolly” type, Shankar clarifies. Velainu vandhutta bayangara serious aagiduven. He cites Mundasuppati as an example. He was surrounded by friends while working on the project; but it was no holiday for him. “Ramkumar and I were nervous. It was our first movie; but we had a very experienced crew working for us. And we were afraid to let our guard down because we didn’t want to be taken for a ride by the others.” So, he observes thoughtfully, that wasn’t fun at all. The others did try though, Shankar says. “Ramadoss, Kaali and Vishnu used to tell us to calm down and have some fun. But we really couldn’t afford to do that.”


2941929dbf1d5abaac3a2f5c5328ee4a0feef5f463194441e8185c68fd9c69c9[quote align=’left’]“I don’t want to become a director anymore. I’m a cinematographer now and this is something I know I’m really good at. So if Shankar sir does ask me to come onboard, I will probably ask for a DoP position.” [/quote]Mundasupatti was a homecoming of sorts for Shankar. It was filmed in and around Sathyamangalam – the cinematographer’s hometown. The street that housed Gopi’s Sri Hollywood Studio was Shankar’s favourite haunt as a child; and the school that Kalaivani attends was where he learnt his alphabets as well. “I left this place and went to Chennai in search of fame. Somehow, I ended up right back here. Idhu appave therinjirundha, I would have stayed.” Talking about Sathyamangalam brings back memories for him. He tells us that he dreamt of becoming a director like his namesake. Having won acclaim for his short film, Thannambikkai at the festival circuit in Coimbatore, he left home seven years back, fully expecting to assist director Shankar or Bala (his favourites) within a few months. “I had a different perspective then. I went to director Shankar’s office as soon as I reached Chennai. I was asked to fill out a form and wait for a reply.” Nothing happened. And the cinematographer was getting restless by the moment. He was not content waiting; so he began assisting photographer Venket Ram for a while and was at it for more than a year. It wasn’t what Shankar wanted to do though. And at his friends’ insistence, he signed up for a cinematography course at Rajiv Menon’s Mindscreen Film Institute. “I was always good at photography; my friends thought I had an eye for unusual things. When I began the course, I felt like I belonged.”


It has been eight years since that sunny day he filled out a form at Shankar’s office; and in a way, he’s still hopeful of a response. “But if I do get the job now, I would probably have to refuse,” he smiles wryly. “I don’t want to become a director anymore. I’m a cinematographer now and this is something I know I’m really good at. So if Shankar sir does ask me to come onboard, I will probably ask for a DoP position.” PV Shankar has something more important on his agenda now. He wants to organise a screening of Mundasupatti for Rajiv Menon. “I don’t think he knows I was the DoP,” Shankar concludes thoughtfully, “I’m really curious to see how he will react.”

The PV Shankar interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.

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