Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Light has gone.....

The year 2010 seems to be particularly cruel to Malayalam cinema personalities by snatching away their lives at unexpected moments as described in MT's words – Death is a joker who enters the scene with no regard to the situation. The latest being Master Cinematographer Mankada Ravi Varma who wrapped up his life at the age of 84, at Chennai on November 22, 2010.

Mankada Ravi Varma

It was in 1971 at the home of writer poet M. Govindan in Madras Egmore, along with Director John Abraham that I met Mankada Ravi Varma. M. Govindan was at that time publishing the literary Journal “SAMEEKSHA” and his home was the meeting place of many writers and artists. Graduates from the Film Institutes were looked upon as only “Theoretical people” and they were considered unfit when it comes to practical things like shooting a feature film. So they had to work on the fringes of the film industry as assistants or work in documentaries or seek employment in Films Division. Even though he passed out from the Madras Polytechnic in Motion Picture Photography and Sound Engineering in 1952, he got no break in the film industry and had to be content with being employed by the Films Division. He later resigned the job, bought a 16 mm camera and was doing documentaries for BBC and other foreign news agencies.

P.A. Azeez who became the very first Direction graduate from the Poona Film Institute ever to make a feature film “ AVAL” ( Malayalam ) in 1967, gave Mankada his first break as an independent cinematographer. Incidentally Santha Devi who passed away two days back had also acted in that film in which Madhu and Usha Nandhini played the leading roles. Then came the path breaking film “ OLAVUM THEERAVUM” (1969) scripted by M.T. Vasudevan Nair and directed by P.N. Menon in which Mankada broke the shackles and released the camera from the confines of the four walls of the studio floors and brought it to the wide outdoors and real interiors.

He says about his experience thus: "We exploited the available light. The framing and composition of the film were totally different from other feature films. I tried to accommodate all the tones that were available in black-and-white, and shot the film. As I had shot documentaries in very adverse conditions, I decided to make use of all those experiences in a feature film. Usually in poor light, a cinematographer stops shooting. What I did was use it to my advantage."

In 1971 at Madras another Film Institute venture VIDYARTHIKALEY ITHILEY ITHILEY was going on with the crew consisting of John Abraham ( Director), M. Azad ( Script writer), Ravi (Editor), Devadas ( Sound Engineer) and myself as Cinematographer – all from the Poona Film Institute. At Madras in those days, there were no Nagra Recorders in use as the Recordists had no trust in such a small portable tape recorder and preferred big machines running 35 mm magnetic tapes. Since we were shooting our film in Sync sound, Devadas used to bring Nagra from Chitralekha Film Co-operative, Trivandrum. At that time the work of Adoor's film SWAYAMVARAM was also progressing in Trivandrum.

Ravi Varma and Adoor

Starting from SWAYAMVARAM till NIZHALKUTHU, Adoor and Ravi Varma pair had collaborated in more films than Bergman and Sven Nykvist, or Satyajith Ray and Subrato Mitra, David Lean and Freddie Young Director-Cinematographer combination.

While Raja Ravi Varma used paints and brushes, Mankada Ravi Varma used to paint with light to create his visuals. He excelled in his Black & White films by judiciously mixing shadows and light, highlighting the faces of characters to focus on their emotions. His transition to the colour era was very smooth without compromises as seen in the internationally acclaimed film ELIPATHAYAM.

He always found time to interact with his juniors who seek his guidance and clear their doubts in cinematography. He gladly came over to Thiruvanthapuram to establish our Indian Society of Cinematographers and also became a Founder Member of ISC.

A light had gone from the World Cinematography , but I am sure that from the high heaven he will guide us with his leading light!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Judging a Fancy dress competition

Judging a Fancy Dress Competition is not an easy job as you might think especially if the participants are Kindergarten children. I took up the task when I was persuaded by my friend Indrabalan to be the Judge for the competition for Bodhi School run by his friend Jayan Krishnan at Palkulangara, Thiruvananthapuram. Only when I reached there and saw the tiny tots I was wondering how am I going to select the winner without hurting the feelings of other children. Fortunately I was told that that I only need to grade their overall performance and apart from the top three winners others will also be rewarded with certificates.

Children waiting for their turn

Bodhi School was established by Jayan Krishnan last year with the motive to provide ample opportunities for overall development of children in the most amicable way by keeping student teacher ratio at 10:1. In the clean atmosphere of the school I found the children to be very happy, bright and cheerful.

One of the cute contestants

It was really a fun event and the children enjoyed their make believe costumes and I had a nice time interacting with the kids. I wish the school all success.

For more photographs of the event, please Click HERE

Santha Devi

One more loss to the Malayalam Film Industry in 2010. Santha Devi, National Award winning Malayalam Actress of yesteryear passed away uncared on 20th November 2010 at Kozhikode. Her last days were full of misery and pain and for sometime she was in the care of an old age home.

Santha Devi at Old Age Home

Her son Sathyajith was an award winning child artiste in M.T. and P.N.Menon's film "Kuttiyedathi". Sathyajith acted in my first film 'VIDYARTHIKALEY ITHILE ITHILE' (1971) directed by John Abraham and Santha Devi who had accompanied him had also acted in that film. At times her husband Kozhikode Abdul Khadar used to come to Madras where most of the shooting was done. In those days we had a flat at Madras Mahalingapuram, as our office cum residence where John, Script writer M. Azad, Sound Engineer Devadas and myself used to stay during the shooting. Santha Devi's family were also accommodated in one of the rooms, when they came to Madras for the shooting.

She had acted in many of my films and in most of the films which had Kozhikode as their location. Finally time took its toll and the roles became lesser and lesser and the tragic death of Sathyajith also affected her much. As usual on her death a lot of "honour" was given by the Government and Film Industry organizations but while living no one bothered to help her in her time of need.

May her Soul Rest in Peace at last.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Comedy Actor Norman Wisdom takes the bow

The great British comedy actor Norman Wisdom passed away on 4 th October 2010, aged 95. Many of the younger generation in our country may not be aware of this great actor who was considered by none other than great Charlie Chaplin as his favourite clown.

Norman Wisdom at 92

It was while studying at the Loyola College, Madras (1963-66) that I happened to see his film On the Beat ( 1962) at Elphinstone theatre at Mount Road. It was a immensely funny film of Norman Wisdom trying to join the Police force inspite his short stature. I was hooked up immediately and became of a fan of him. In the next year the film A Stitch in Time (1963) was released and rushed to the theatre to see this film which made me an ardent admirer of his comedy.

Unfortunately I couldn't see any more of his films. It is said that he had done 19 films with Rank Organisation and had kept the company afloat when other major films flopped at the box office. The Rank films usually start with the title shot of a muscleman hitting a huge gong with a hammer. As the strong man is about to hit Norman Wisdom will enter and take the hammer from him and will hit the gong which will break in to pieces and the whole theatre will burst out with laughter.

Some time back from the net I downloaded the two old Black and white film and they still remain entertaining and funny. That shows the immortal nature of his performances. I bow before his memory for bringing me happiness.

For those who have not seen his films, please see his site to know more about him

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jnanapith Award for ONV

At last our poet par excellence ONV was yesterday conferred with the 2007 Jnanapith Award for his contribution to Literature.This award had been long overdue to ONV and comes to a Malayalam poet for the second time after G.Sankara Kurup had been honoured in 1965. This has come as a great honour to the Malayalam language itself.
I had personally come in to contact with him many years back when he had written the lyrics of the films I have been associated with. Since then I had maintained personal relationship with him on many occasions, the last on being at the marriage function of playback singer Aparna Rajeev, his grand daughter.
Given below is a photo taken at the Pooja Ceremony of the film MIZHIGAL SAAKSHI directed by Ashok R Nath, The occasion was the confluence three great personalities singer K.J.Yesudas, Music Composer Mastero Dakshinamoorthy Swami and eminent lyricist ONV.
Producer Das, Yesudas, Dakshinamoorthy Swami, ONV and me

During the shooting of the Krishanattam sequence at the Mugathala Murari Temple , he visited our sets to witness the picturising of the song written by him and sung by his grand daughter Aparna Rajeev.

Anil Mughathala, Ramu Mangalapally, Kochu Preman, ONV, Ashok R Nath, Vineeth, Sukumari and me

I wish him a very long and fruitful life with many more honours being showered upon our own Poet Laureate ONV.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

For old times sake .....

Yesterday on the occasion of a mutual friend's daughter's marriage a unique meeting of old time associates from SWAPNADANAM days took place took place. Mohammed Bappu (Parsi) who was based in Bombay wanted to produce films in Malayalam and had contacted K.G.George to Direct it. All he wanted was a good film and never interfered in the project and gave full freedom to go ahead. P.A.Latheef was in charge of the production and the film SWAPNADANAM became a reality and the rest is history. It won many Awards in the State and National level and had become a landmark in Malayalam films. Mohammed Bappu wanted his friend, Jitin Shyam, a Malayali but working in the Hindi film industry as Music Director to compose songs for the film. But ultimately there were no songs in SWAPNADANAM and he could not be accommodated in the film. Kabeer Raothar's first film LUBNA (Hindi) was also produced by Mohammed Bappu. While we were doing the film SWAPNADANAM, Sankaran Kutty the all-in-all person in Malayalam film Industry was working in the Vijaya Laboratory at Madras .

Though we used to meet each other individually, this was the first occasion that we all were together and it was recorded for posterity in the photo given below!

Producer Mohammed Bapu, myself, Sankaran Kutty, K.G.George,
Kabeer Raothar & Jitin Shyam

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Yet another loss - VENU NAGAVALLI

I had just finished posting my memoirs about Tamil Actor Murali, this morning and picked up the newspaper only to find the headline that my friend Malayalam Actor, Writer & Director Venu Nagavalli passed away around 1.30 AM ! What a tragedy of losing friends one after another and to write about them in continuation! But only by sharing your grief, letting it out you can unburden yourself and remain sane. I just returned from the VJT Hall where his mortal remains were kept for people to pay their respects and last farewell.

Ever since he had acted in K.G.George's film ULKADAL, I had known him but he had acted in my three films only, that too all Directed by K.G.George and outstanding ones : KOLANGAL, YAVANIKA and ADAMINTE VARIYELLU. Because of his image as forsaken lover image in his first film ULKADAL, people think he is a sad person. Though he is soft spoken and calm by nature he opens up his humorous side in the company of friends. Even though we haven't worked together for a long time we used to meet on several occasions and renewed our friendship. In 1983 , he attended my marriage at Kollam along with P.A.Latheef ( who is also no more, now) and given below is a photo taken on that occasion.

Myself, Venu and P.A.Latheef

In the end scene of KOLANGAL, the character played by Venu sets fire to his hut and departs the village. The hut was erected in the Chitraleka Film Co-operative studio complex and the scene was planned to be shot late in the evening so that the fire will be dramatic against a darkening sky. Being the end shot of the film, the camera was set for a long shot to show thw whole hut and the scenery behind. The hut made of palm leaves and straw had to be sprinkled with petrol so that it will catch fire when lighted, immediately without any time lag. The art department guys in their enthusiasm sprinkled a whole can of petrol all over the hut.

With camera rolling, Venu put a lighted torch on to the hut and there was a fire ball and the hut exploded in flames! Fortunately Venu backed off in time, otherwise he would have been badly burnt by the fire. What had happened was the petrol was sprinkled much in advance and had vapourised in to an inflammable mixture and the moment it was lighted it turned into a fireball. We then re-erected the set the next day and re-shot the scene with care!

Thus he had a miraculous escape many years back and managed to give us many memorable Malayalam films. But now death had caught up and snatched him away.

I very much miss him and his films.

I pray for his Soul to rest In Peace along with his family and friends

Murali , Tamil actor Passed Away

It came as a big shock to me that Murali, the leading hero of yesteryear passed away at a young age of 46, due to heart attack on the morning of 8 th September 2010. Only recently he had launched his son Atharv as hero in the Tamil film BAANA KATHTHADI and did not live to see his son’s career flourish! What a sad and sudden end!

Murali and I have worked together in only one film “PAGAL NILAVU” Director Mani Rathnam’s maiden Tamil film way back in 1985. We had a nice jolly relationship even though he was a just at the beginning of his career and I was a well known cinematographer. He was always polite and was a gentleman. At 21 years, he was quite enthusiastic and energetic performing well in both dance and stunt sequences. His jovial nature and friendliness made work in hot outdoor locations less strenuous.During the outdoor shooting at Kuttalam, after pack up the whole crew and artistes used to go the Five falls for a refreshing bath and have fun.

I never had an opportunity to do any other film with him nor meet him afterward. Still the memories of happy days linger long on the mind's screen.

I express my heartfelt condolences to his grieving family members and friends.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I created a new Genre of Short Film - CINEKU in 2006 which was Premiered at the Trivandram International Film Festival 2006. It was also shown in the International Film Festival of Kerala, Suchitra International Film Festival, Bangalore and was selected in the competition of Short Shorts Film Festival Tokyo, Japan. More details about CINEKU can be found HERE.

What is CINEKU ?


Cineku is the Haiku Version of Cinema.

Like Japanese Haiku poems Cineku ( Pronounced Cine – Koo ) is a unique new form of Cinema consisting of a very short film of 3 shots each, conveying a central idea in the briefest possible use of shots.


1. The film should consist of only Three shots

2. Shot length shouldn’t be more than 40 Seconds and the Maximum length of the film should be
One Minute

3. There should not be any Optical or Computer-graphic modification of images. In Camera effects are allowed.

Here is one CINEKU - FIRE

More CINEKU Films are available online for viewing in YouTube :

CINEKU - FIRE - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4qHdjyAw1Q

CINEKU - LEADING HANDS - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxsM_UQx12o

CINEKU - DOCTORS - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wy1DHdiFS7g

CINEKU - SUICIDE - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA3QpKp203Y

CINEKU - KNIVES - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2udlx7Te0k

CINEKU - KISS OF LIFE - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K43O77wA77k

Watch it and make your own CINEKU.
It is so easy, you can do it even with your Mobile Phone!

1982 FIFA World Cup


On 11 th July 2010, I was watching the World Cup Final between Netherlands and Spain at midnight. Everyone in the family had gone to sleep and I sat fighting my drowsiness hoping to witness a great match between two European teams clashing at the final. As the game progressed, there were more yellow cards shown to the players and instead of Goals there were plenty of Fouls! Somehow I sat through till the first half of the unintersting game and sleep forced me to retire. Any how the next morning there will be the retelecast of the entire play and also the highlights shown in case you are in a hurry. Ultimately it was the solitary goal by Iniesta at extra time tht sealed the fate of the Germans and for the first time in history Spain won the World Cup!

Iniesta holding the Gold Cup

My memories goes back to the times when India's love affair with the World Cup football tournament started in 1982, when for the first time the semi finals and final were telecast live on Doordarshan . There was also deferred telecast of some of the earlier round matches. At that time I was living at Chennai in my bachelor flat thrilled at the prospect of watching the live telecast of a World Cup!

The 1982 Semi final between West Germany and France took the lead and were pegged back. Then after sixty-six minutes Battiston of France collected a beautifully precise ball from Platini and raced on, there was only Schumacher in goal for West Germany to beat, the German ‘keeper rushed out to meet the Frenchman; Battiston’s effort, unfortunately, hit the post and went out. It was what happened next that enraged the neutral and the French alike. Schumacher made no effort to slow down and smashed his forearm into Battiston’s face. The Frenchman went down, the blow was so severe that he had to be given oxygen to breathe; as if this was not enough he had lost three teeth and had neck and shoulder injuries. Battiston had to be carried off on a stretcher. Incredibly the referee did not penalise Schumacher for the worst foul in World Cup history. France twice came desperately close to winning, but the match ended three-three.

The match was extened as both teams were level at 3 - 3 after extra time and a thrilling penalty shoot out started. To watch it live even on the small 14 inches B&W television was incredible!

The lucky West Germany won 5-4 on penalties (semi-finals)

I was so thrilled at having witnessed a historical telecast, I rang up my friend film Director K.G.George at 2-15 AM to talk about the match. He also kept awake and had watched the match live and we shared our happiness together at that odd early morning!

But this time I called K.G.George after the finals of the 2010 FIFA Cup match. Like me he had also did not sit through the match and had seen the highlights telecast in the nextday.

The 1982 world cup in Spain was a demonstration of power of European teams: all four semi-finalists were European, and the final saw the Italian team in its first world cup final since 1970 against the defending European champions of West Germany.Italy were in the final against the odds given to them in the first round, where they had in fact not won a single match, becoming the first team ever to qualify to the second round without a victory. In spite of the good results that had put them in the final, Italy were not favourites to win the tournament; West Germany were considered the stronger team, although they had become very unpopular in Spain.

The score was only 0-0 at half-time in a match that had been quite disappointing and overly tactical. I was young and fired with the thrill of watching a World Cup Final Live for the first time, so I sat through. In the second half the West German game reared its ugly head in the form of several rash challenges, some near the German penalty area.West Germany kept attacking, with Rummenigge being at his most dangerous. Zoff only just managed to stave the ball off thanks to an assist from Collovati. Twelve minutes after the first goal, Italy scored again, the West Germans having been unable to prevent Tardelli from loosing off a left-footer. The Italians now tried to play a possession game. with the crowd deliriously shouting “olĂ©” every time a West German attempted an unsuccessful tackle.

Briegel did nothing to endear himself to the crowd with a transparent dive the desperation of the West German players was such that they ludicrously tried to argue the issue with the referee who had waved play on. While this non-argument was going on Conti swept forwards sixty yards, pulling it in for Altobelli to put Italy three up. There was widespread cheering. Breitner did pull one back for West Germany shortly afterwards, but it was too late. Never has there been a final in which nearly all the neutral supporters wanted one side to win, but West Germany had brought this on themselves by their lack of sportsmanship.

Italy's Marco Tardelli kisses the
1982 World Cup trophy after the match

While watching the victorious Spanish team arrived at the Barajas airport in Madrid for a grand reception, I remembered the time when myself and Sunny Joseph arrived at the same airport 2004 for the 1st International Congress on Authorship Rights of Cinematographers in Huelva, Spain. Only thing is we lost our baggage in transit from Rome and luckily got it back the next day! I still remember the hospitality shown to us by the Spanish Society of Cinematographers

Spanish team which had also won the Fairplay Award as well as the Golden Glove Award surely deserve their World Cup!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

VIDYARAMBHAM at Chetana Media Institute

The Chetana Media Institute at Thrissur recently had the VIDYARAMBHAM of their 9 th batch of Diploma in Digital film making courses on 9 June 2010. I was the Chief guest at the function held there which was presided by Fr. John Neelankavil CMI , S.G.Raman (Head of the Department, Cinematography) and Fr. Benny Benedict CMI, Director of Chetana Media Institute.

The function was well attended with the student and staff had a lively interaction of several hours about films, film making and cinematography.

News in Mathrubhoomi Daily

News in The Hindu

Thursday, June 17, 2010

P.G.Viswambharan - A remembrance

Malayalam film Director P.G.Viswambharan passed away in the early hours of yesterday ( 16 th June 2010) after a brief illness at Ernakulam.

In the mid Seventies, outside the editing rooms of G.Venkitaraman and Sankunny at New Era Lab and A.V.M. Studios, I used to see a number of Assistant Directors working in connection with various films under production. I remember two of them in particular because they were wearing white shirts and white pants. They were Hariharan and P.G.Viswambharan. Hariharan was assistant to M. Krishnan Nair and P.G.Viswambharan was working with Sasikumar.

Years later in 1983, P.G. had asked me to work in his film SANDHYAKKU VIRINJA POOVU which he was planning to direct based on a popular story serialized in VANITHA magazine. I had my own reservations about working with him as he was known as short tempered and bad mouthing person. After I started working with him I found him to be a jovial person, often cracking jokes and keeping the crew on their toes, keeping up to the schedule. Only when he finds people not performing properly, he lashes out with the choicest words. But later on he will forgive and forget it altogether. The film SANDHYAKKU VIRINJA POOVU when released became a super hit and Mammootty by over night became a popular Star! Myself and P.G. continued working happily for another dozen films.

Joking on the Sets

His shooting schedules were well planned and finished within the budget and usually ahead of schedule too. He was also particular that all those who worked in his films got their payments in time and he insisted on seeing that they are paid before the shooting wrapped up. Because of this quality all the technicians loved working with him. He was also a producer's delight as he finished his films within the planned amount and time. Even when some artistes had tight schedules and didn't have enough dates, he used to manipulate the shots and take the scene in such a way, as he knew very well how that can be later on edited seamlessly. Since he had his early training under Director Sasikumar, who is a master at such scene taking, he will take the master shots, combined shots and the close ups of an artiste in a hurry, from various scenes at one go and send him off in time and later on fill up the scenes with shots of other artistes.

Hence those artistes working with him too, were very happy because he will certainly finish their work within their given dates and so there is no tension about clashing dates.

Viswambharan and Jayaram in Operation theatre

He had brought popular Hindi artistes to Malayalam film industry like Amjad Khan and Kaajol Kiron ( EE LOGAM IVVIDE KURE MANUSHYAR - 1985) and Deepika ( Sita in RAMAYAN serial), Madhu Kapoor in INIYUM ITHILE VARU (1986). Though he didn't know Hindi and his knowledge of English was poor, he managed to communicate with them his requirements for the scene to be taken.

Amjad Khan taking a Meter reading!

Altogether I have worked in 13 of his films including his last film, PUTHOORAM PUTHRI UNNIYARCHA (2002)

List of my films with P.G.Viswambharan :

2. PIN NILAVU (1983)
11. FIRST BELL (1992)
12. PRAVACHAKAN (1993)

For the past eight years he had not been doing any films and i used to meet him at Ernakulam in Association meetings, where he used to diffuse heated exchanges in tense situations by his native humour and wisecracks. We are really going to miss his presence in film makers' future gatherings at Ernakulam. I also miss a personal friend and also a relative from my wife's family.

I pray for his soul to Rest in Peace and my Hearty condolences to the bereaved family members.

Friday, June 11, 2010

NIRMALYAM - Nostalgia

Recently Kaani Film Society, Chankaramkulam, Kerala had brought out KAANI NERAM, their Special Annual Issue 2010, a part of which was devoted for the film NIRMALYAM (1973). Kaani Film Society had been doing excellent work in introducing good cinema to the rural film audiences in Malabar, through festival screenings, seminars and publications.

I had also written an article going back 37 years in time, recollecting the shooting days,which was published in the book.

I am giving below the article:


I was taken aback when I was asked by M.T. to be the cinematographer of the film Nirmalyam, M.T's maiden directorial venture. The screen play was based on his short story “Pallivalum Kaal Chilambum”. At that time MT was a well known figure in the Malayalam film Industry and I was just an up coming cinematographer. He could have obtained the services of any one of the top cameramen of that day for his film. But he didn't opt for it. MT himself told me later that he did not want any top people in his film as sometimes the credit for the success of film may get attributed to them. Also he wanted the film to be done in his own way, whether correct or not without any kind of interference. At the same time he was open to creative suggestions for the betterment of the film.

With M.T.

I had first met M.T. while a student at the Poona Film Institute in 1970, and he had come there as visiting Professor to take Screenplay classes. After that meeting I had met him once or twice at Madras and I have done only three films before I was contacted to do Nirmalyam. My senior friend at the Institute M. Azad was the associate Director and my batch mate again from the Institute Ravi Menon was doing a prominent role and P.J Antony with whom I have done Ragging ( he had written the script and also acted in it) was doing the lead role. So I was quite comfortable in doing the film with people previously known to me. Being the youngest member in the unit, M.T. used to address me as “Thampy” meaning younger brother in Tamil. He always treated me as his younger brother and continues till now.

The shooting location was a small village near Edappal called Mukkola (Mukuthala) and there were no lodges to accommodate all the unit members. Actor Sukumaran's uncle Edappal Kuttan made arrangements in his relative's houses for Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sumithra etc to stay. There was a rice mill in Edappal where a building with two rooms and a hall was available. We were able to get that building for ourselves. MT took one room, P.J, Antony the other and the Hall was for the rest of us. Ravi Menon, Azad and myself slept there on grass mats spread on the floor. Sukumaran was acting in his debut film and though his house was in Edappal, he also joined us to become more familiar with film making methods.

Near the temple, myself with Camera assistant Venkitaraj on the right

In those days we did not have generators for power supply, so we had to depend on KSEB for our needs. For that we have to apply for Temporary 3 phase connections with separate meters in all locations where power is needed. Fortunately we needed power in two locations only, the Temple and velichappad's house which happened to be near the temple. So we managed with one connection for both the locations. But the power situation was worse in Malabar area and the voltage was very less at night time around 120 – 150 volts. So most of our night shooting was done after 9 PM only when people switch off the lights and go to sleep. Then the power consumption load goes down and the voltage rises to a usable level of around 200 volts. So our night shoots extended till early in the morning! For daytime shooting we used reflectors which we got fabricated at Calicut, since we did not have the luxury of having a full out-door unit from Madras for use.

Shooting at the Bharathapuzha, myself on camera, M.T.(with dark glasses) and Devadas (Sound Engineer) sitting on the sands

There was full co-operation from the villagers and they always were there to help us with properties for the scenes and also acting in minor and crowd scenes. In fact they got so attached to the unit, many children were in tears when it was time for us to depart after the shooting was over. Except for the Sreekovil portion all other scenes were completed in one schedule. We had erected a set in Calicut where the Sreekovil with the idol where close up shots were taken. It was because in the temple which was used for our shooting there were no regular Poojas taking place and more over it was such a cramped place and customs prevent you from entering it too for placing lights etc. For other outdoor locations, we used the steps on the riverside at Thirumittakode temple for the parting song and a cave nearby for the rain sequence which was done with the help of fire engines.

The post production work was done at Madras and again a house was rented and people slept on the floor on grass mats. Food was mostly cooked there and we had a nice time of staying together like a family. Never again I have worked for such a film from beginning to end in such a manner. That was a very memorable experience in my film career as such!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Belated Honour

Film Director K.S. Sethumadhavan

There is a well known saying "It is better late, than never" It had happened in the case of Veteran Malayalam Film Director K.S. Sethumadhavan. He was recently chosen for the 2009 J.C. Daniel award for his outstanding contribution to Malayalam cinema. Though the award had been instituted in 1992, his name, some how had been overlooked for so many years! His contribution to Malayalam cinema over the years consistantly can never be ignored by any serious film viewer. If you take a list of outstanding films of the sixties and seventies a number of films directed by him will have their rightful place. He was the pioneer "middle of the road" film maker who blended in his films artistic values and commercial elements and made family entertainers.

At last this anamoly of not honouring him with the J.C Daniel Award was rectified! I am happy to be a part of the jury headed by eminent director K G George with Kaviyoor Ponnamma and state Chalchitra Academy chairman K R Mohanan as members that selected Sethumadhavan for the award recognising his simple narratives connecting literature to Malayalam Cinema.

Minister for Education and Culture M.A. Baby Announces the Award

I have fond recollections of working with him, many years back in two Malayalam films directed by him - AMME ANUPAME ( B&W 1977) and NAKSHATRANGALE KAAVAL (1978). He was a strict disciplinarian on the sets and very friendly after shooting hours. He never worked extended hours and with his meticulous planning, he finished films well in time and within the budget. He always was very sure of his shot takings and never wasted film footage and used to complete feature films utilizing only 20 to 25 thousand feet of raw stock! During the film, NAKSHATRANGALE KAAVAL's shooting we were staying in one room at Tara hotel ( now SUT Hospital, Pattom Palace ) and our after shooting hours were spent in discussing a wide range of topics under the sun. I was amazed at his extensive knowledge and wealth of reading. It is rare to come across such persons in our film Industry.

We were together again a few years back, as part of South Indian Cinematographers' Association's SICA Film Award Jury at Chennai and renewed relationships.

We both as SICA Award Jury Members

Past J.C.Daniel Awards

1992 T.E. Vasudevan

1993 Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair

1994 P. Bhaskaran

1995 Abhayadev

1996 A. Vincent

1997 K. Raghavan

1998 V. Dakshinamurthy

1999 G. Devarajan

2000 M. Krishnan Nair

2001 P.N. Menon

2002 K. J. Yesudas

2004 Madhu

2005 Aranmula Ponnamma

2006 Mankada Ravivarma

2007 P Ramadas

2008 K Raveendran Nair

2009 K S Sethumadhavan

Saturday, May 29, 2010

MIZHIGAL SAAKSHI - Screen play - Book Release

Anil Mugathala is a very talented Malayalam script writer who was recently honoured by the Padmarajan Award for his screen play - MADHYA VENAL. His first screen play was for the film MIZHIGAL SAAKSHI directed by Ashok R.Nath for which I was the Cinematographer. The film was critically acclaimed and well appreciated when it was released.

Now the Film script has been turned into a book and the release of the first copy was done at a function held in the Press Club Hall, Thiruvananthapuram on 16 th May 2010. I received the First copy from the well known Poet Shri. O.N.V. Kurup who had also penned some excellent lyrics in the film. The function was attended by Directors Ashok R.Nath , Nemom Pushparaj, Vijayakrishnan and many others.

Anil Mugathala is a rising star on the horizon of Malayalam Cinema who has many more tales to tell and I expect more and more films based on his themes in future.

On the stage ( L to R) O.N.V, Nemom Pushparaj, Myself, Anil Mugathala & Vijayakrishnan

Receiving the First copy from O.N.V

Addressing the audience

The Book

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Twin loss to Malayalam Film Journalism

Mannarkayam Baby

Mannarkayam Baby, well-known film critic and Founder General secretary of Kerala Film Critics Association, has died on 3 rd May 2010. He had single handedly built up the Kerala Film Critics Association, whose annual awards are considered a prestigious honour by film personalities in Malayalam. As a film journalist during the seventies onwards he had written for various film journals like Cinerama etc. In those days of Trunk booking of long distance telephone calls it often took many hours to get connected. At that time Baby was working in the Telephone exchange and he became the most sought after person by the film personalities to get their calls processed faster! Thus he became a very popular person among the film community.

He formed the Kerala Film Critics Association and aslo started the Film Critics Award which also became popular as it preceded the Kerala State Awards and influenced its selection as well. He always managed get good sponsorship to conduct the Award Nites in a grand manner including giving cash awards too. I was to have received the Film Critics Award for best Cinematography for my film KADAKSHAM this time, but his sudden demise had cast shadows on the future of the Awards itself. I happened to speak to him during his illness while he was resting at home and I never expected his parting to happen so soon.

Whenever I think of T.H.Kodampuzha who passed away recently on 25 th May 2010, the image that comes to my mind is that of his ever smiling face and infectious laughter and jovial nature. Hailing from Malabar area he had this habit of pronouncing the Malayalam letter "ZHA" as "YA". I met him way back in the Seventies, when Malayalam Film journals were very few and Film journalists were still rarer. We used to make fun of him by asking him to tell his name and he will humorously say "KOADAMPUYA"! He always took it light heartedly without taking any offence.

T.H.Kodampuzha in his usual mood

Dressed always in white shirt and Dhoti with a broad smile on his face, his presence on the sets was welcomed by the artistes as well as technicians. He used to mingle right from Prem Nazir at the top to the light boys at the bottom, with equal friendliness. Having come from Malabar area he was much closer to film makers like I.V.Sasi , M.T. Vasudevan Nair etc. I had been associated with M.T. as Cinematographer for the film "NIRMALYAM". M.T. considered me as a family member and called me "Thampy" ( meaning younger brother in Tamil). Likewise Kodampuzha too had started calling me "Thampy"!

When our unit returned from the United States of America after the film shooting of "EZHAM KADALIN AKKARE", perhaps the first malayalam feature film to be shot in foreign locations, Kodampuzha was there at the Madras Airport to receive us with garlands! Below is a photograph taken on that occassion.

Seema, T.H.Kodampuzha and myself at Madras Airport

With more film magazines coming out and many more film journalists competing to gather news by whatever means , he gradually shifted base from Chennai to Kozhikode. He used to visit sets occassionally if the shooting happens in northern Kerala. Sometime back on one of his rare visits he introduced me to his daughter who wanted to follow his footsteps as a film journalist. I do hope that she will take up from where her father had left.

Till his last days he looked healthy and young looking without much change in physical appearences. With his departure I really miss a selfless and jovial friend and his affectionate call - "Thampy".

I pray for the Two Stalwarts of Malayalam Film Journalism's souls to Rest in Peace and my condolences to their grieving family members.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Farewell " CAPTAIN "

With Shri.P.N.Sundaram

P.N.Sundaram, well known Cinematographer - Director and President of Southern Indian Cinematographers Association passed away yesterday ( March 22, 2010) at Chennai. Till his last days he was healthy and active. For SICA his absence is a great loss as he was one of the much respected Trade union activists in the film industry who always fought for the workers rights. His words of wisdom carried much weight in the day to day activites of SICA and FEFSI.

He was also a great technician and his skill with the camera was well known in the film industry. For a long time he worked along with veteran Cinematographer - Director A. Vincent, and during that time he captured on film many innovative shots. Once he described to me how he walked on the catwalk with the Arriflex camera and then got into the seat of crane to take a one continuous fluid shot for the Tamil film "NENJIL OOR AALAYAM". He tasted success as a Director of hit films in Malayalam - AYODHYA, KOLILAKKAM, KAKKA etc. It was in his film KOLILAKKAM that actor Jayan lost his life while acting in a helicopter stunt scene.

More than that he was a humanist who was friendly to the core to all people from the lowest to the topmost in the film industry. He was always found cracking jokes and making people around him very cheerful and enthusiastic. I had many occassions to interact with him and experienced his sagely advice solving various problems connected with Malayalam Cinematographers Union.

At Cinema India Expo Seminar

There were Two Captains in the Tamil film Industry - Senior Captain P.N.Sundaram and Captain Vijayakanth!

Our Senior Captain P.N.Sundaram, with heaving heart and tearful eyes, I bid you Farewell with A 21 Gun Salute!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Storm in a Tea Cup - Sensational Journalism at its height!

I had my bitter taste of Sensational Journalism recently, when my interview was published in the renowned Malayalam Weekly, Mathrubhumi.

It all started with a long interview by K.B.Venu for the Kodak IMAGES Magazine Issue 4, 2009.
Please click on the image to see it in full size and read the articles.

Kodak IMAGES Cover Page

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When K.B Venu requested that the interview be translated into Malayalam to be published in the Mathrubhumi Weekly for wider readership, I readily agreed to his suggestion.

Mathrubhumi Interview - Page 1

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But all of a sudden a four page tirade against me appeared a few weeks later in the Mathrubhumi Weekly written by K.P.Nirmal Kumar, said to be a short story writer. Many who read the article called me over the phone to enquire whether I had any previous personal enmity with him, because there was so much venom in his words! Infact I had never met him nor known him in my life!! I was really surprised by the fact that a reputed weekly like Mathrubhumi had given him a space of four pages for him to launch his attack entitled " Doesn't Ramachandra Babu know these people?"

K.P.Nirmal Kumar's article

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M.K.Hari Kumar who writes the literary column AKSHARA JALAKAM /1793 in Kala Kaumudi weekly wrote a scathing remark, condemning the un-warrented personal attack on me by K.P.Nirmal Kumar. I thank him for his righteousness.


Interestingly K.P.Nirmal Kumar had made this remark in Facebook -

" I read Hari's column with utmost interest, even if occasionally hurts my ego. He sure can demolish established beliefs with a sharp observation, not laboriously made."
February 4 at 4:58pm · 2010

Though K.B. Venu and many of my friends like Cinematographer Sunny Joseph, Script writer Anil Mugathala responded with their reaction to Mathrubhumi Weekly, they were not published. However my rejoinder was published in the Feb 14, 2010 issue.

Mathrubhumi - My Reply


Mr.K.P.Nirmal Kumar had later on sent me a message on Facebook saying that he had no intention of hurting me and that he wrote on camera artists as a layman.( Because it was a personal message I am not disclosing the full details!)