Cinematographer ‘Natty’ Nataraj is a man whose mighty wings have taken him to faraway lands. And whose gnarled roots have solidly remained in the fertile soil of his formative years. His creative life-force, his inspiration, comes from that which moulded him. The lyrics of MS Viswanathan’s songs are his travelling companions. The lessons learned while playing gully cricket are his guide.
Old songs, Natty says, give greatest pleasure. “Even when I’m on set, I always hum old songs to myself. Vijay sir used to walk up to me and ask me to sing an old one during his free time. The years that I spent in North India, my only connection to my homeland was via the old songs I heard late at night. They reminded me of all the things that I missed and they offered me comfort. It was at this time that I latched on to MSV’s work, like a drowning man would to an empty lifeboat. His music was my rock. It rooted me, centered me, in my early years in an alien world.”
Ilaiyaraaja songs were the ones Natty grew up listening to. “Sometimes I feel as if the soundtrack of my life is dominated by his work. There are countless melodies that give me energy when I most need it. And give you this incredible feeling. It’s just morally wrong to ask me to pick one song. Out of the thousands of songs that inspire me, to choose just one—it’s unfair. Because these aren’t just songs. These are emotions. And it is hard to describe something so subtle and fundamental.”
An avid cricket player, Natty says he feels like a gladiator every time he steps on the crease. “When you play, you invariably make a mistake and lose. But then you play the next innings. And in the next innings, you play with the aim of not making that mistake again. This was not just a lesson in the game. This was a huge professional lesson for me. It taught me to analyse my actions and figure out where I went wrong. It taught me how important it is to correct our weaknesses. It taught me how to achieve victory.”