Movies are not conceived in isolation. Every aspiring director in Tamil cinema today will harbour memories of watching a Nayagan or a 16 Vayadhiniley on screen; every young actor will speak of how Kamal Haasan and Sivaji Ganesan inspired them; and every aspiring music director will have a favourite Ilaiyaraaja song. Each week, Silverscreen talks to a different celebrity to find the sparks that triggered their creativity – the films, the music, the writing, the photographs and the locations.
We start with the award winning cinematographer Ravi K Chandran who is currently finishing up his first directorial venture, Yaan, starring Jiiva and Thulasi Nair. Chandran, who has over 50 feature films in Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam and countless ad films to his credit, hails from a family of reputed cinematographers. Some of his notable works include Viraasat (1997), Minsara Kanavu (1997), Kannathil Muthamittal (2002) and Black (2005). Here Chandran talks about the movies that inspired him. “These films paved the way for my love for cinematography. They continue to be reference points for me,” says Chandran.
This Italian film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci based on a 1951 novel by the same name by Alberto Moravia remains one of my earliest inspirations. Primarily for Vittorio Storaros’s impeccable lighting and composition, art deco sets, costumes and the striking use of light and shadow.
Here is a video where celebrated filmmaker and critic Paul Schrader teaches a class on The Conformist.
: This British epic adventure drama, based on the life of T. E. Lawrence and directed by David Lean was nominated for 10 academy awards. Freddie Young’s 70 mm compositions are breath-taking. You can actually feel the heat of the desert in the burned out skies and barren desert. It still remains a reference point.
Lawrence of Arabia 50th anniversary trailer from 2012:
Steven Spielberg’s Science Fiction thriller about a man called Roy Neary, whose life changes after an encounter with an unidentified flying object. Vilmos Zsigmond’s outer space ship science fiction lighting took me to another level. It proved that the camera is a most powerful tool.
Original theatrical trailer:
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, it remains one of the most influential French films of all times. Raoul Coutard’s realistic new wave style, free flying camera work and unusual lighting in small realistic spaces combined with snappy editing make it a text book for new age film makers. It still looks fresh and young.
Breathless 50th anniversary trailer:
This American detective-psychological thriller, directed by David Fincher is probably the only film that inspired me after I became a cinematographer. You can witness some outstanding new age cinematography by Darius Khondji, which set a whole new look in Hollywood- dark, low lit, moody, atmospheric and realistic yet very stylised. This is what I call pushing the envelope in cinematography.
: Balu Mahendra made a terrific impact on me with this movie. The use of backlighting and the realistic use of natural skin tones was a revelation for me. It is like poetry in motion and made a lasting impression on me.
Azhiyadha Kolangal full movie
(Courtesy Raj Video Vision.)
The iconic Paruvame song from Nenjathai Killathe.
What more can be said about a classic? Bharathiraja’s direction and Nivaz’s exquisite, underrated camerawork. He worked wonders in Sigappu Rojakkal as well.
16 Vayadhinile full movie
(Courtesy Rajshri Tamil)
Again J Mahendran’s film and Ashok Kumar’s daring work. The subtle moods and the twilight shots are still in my mind. The sadness in the screenplay seamlessly gets captured on camera.
The Alli Thantha Boomi song from Nandu.
: Singeetam Srinivasa Rao’s classic film, written by Kamal Haasan. Barun Mukherjee’s most underrated work. He was way ahead of his time, displaying amazing control and consistency in lighting. This movie is far better than most recent films, and ranks among my all-time favourites.
The iconic “Andhi Mazhai” song from Raaja Paarvai
As Told To Neelima Menon