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