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Interview with Vijay C Chakravarthy
Date: 4 October 2006, Hyderabad
Vijay C Chakravarthy

Vijay C Chakravarthy is in the limelight today thanks to his fantastic cinematography in Bommarillu that has won him claim from everywhere. met the cinematographer recently for an insight into his persona and what makes him tick. Excerpts from his interview -

I was born in South Tamil Nadu near Madurai. My father was a teacher. I was good in studies till the eighth standard. Everybody expected me to become a doctor or engineer. But all that was changed when I watched 'Azhiayada Kalangal' - the directorial debut of well-known cinematographer Balu Mahendra. It fired my imagination and I decided to join the film industry. Four years later I watched PC Sreeram's films directed by Mani Ratnam. I was fascinated by PC Sreeram's work, and made up my mind to be a cinematographer. PC Sreeram is the first cinematographer who has a fan following that matches that of any leading man of Tamil Nadu.

During my intermediate I watched a thriller titled 'Vumai Vizhihal'. That film was the work of new talent from the Adayar Film Institute. Director Ramesh Kumar was just twenty one when he directed that film. That is when I decided to join the film institute.

However that was easier said than done! My father wanted me to complete my graduation and join the government service. I enrolled for graduation in economics and discontinued after six months. Then I joined a polytechnic and soon abandoned it. I convinced my father that I would get a job in Doordarshan (a central government job) if he lets me join the film institute.

That is when I met Ramesh Kumar for the first time. He asked me a question – “what kind of lighting and framing would you give if a widow were sitting at a dining table.” That is when I realized that photography is not merely a combination of good lighting, framing, and equipment. It should come from the heart.

I completed my course from the Adayar film institute. I made my debut as cinematographer for a film titled Diwan with Sarath Kumar as hero. However I was not satisfied with my work. I was so disappointed that I wanted to give up and return home.

Then I joined Arthur Wilson as assistant for Anbe Sivam and Panchatantram. I observed Kamal Haasan from close quarters and realized that he is forever trying to learn even after achieving so much. I learnt a lesson from this great actor. That learning is a lifelong continuous process.

Later on I worked for Thakadhimita (directed by Sundar). Then I worked for Das produced by Editor Mohan with Jayam Ravi as hero. I learnt a lot about filmmaking from Editor Mohan.

Sometime later I got an opportunity to do clash work (clash work means doing cinematography for a film when the official cinematographer is unavailable for some reason). That is when I got to know the wonderful team of Dil Raju, Sukumar, Bhaskar, Devi Sri Prasad and others.

In November Dil Raju called me and offered Bommarillu. He asked me to quote my price. I said that money is immaterial, as I love working with this team. He smiled and paid me more than what I had expected.

Colours of Bommarillu:
Coming to Bommarillu it is a realistic family drama. Hence I made it sure that cinematography never dominated the story, as the story does not need any photography tricks like ramping etc to highlight any scene. Fantasy films need elevation from photography. I was true to the script of Bommarillu. All the characters in this film are positive and they love each other. Hence I used vibrant and bright colours in the film.

Costumes of Bommarillu:
Bhaskar decided on the gown for Genelia’s wardrobe. When it comes to Siddharth we concentrated mostly on striped and checked shirts. We gave him checked shirts when he was in a dilemma and striped shirts when he was confident.

No of working days:
We took around 108 working days because producer Dil Raju gave us a free hand and ample time for the best output. Hasini’s mannerisms were difficult. Genelia took some time to get adjusted to the mannerisms of her character.

Camera and Lens:
I used ARRI 435 camera and Hawk lenses to shoot Bommarillu.

About Siddharth:
Siddharth never behaved like a hero. I used to joke with him saying that Bommarillu has no hero. He is a cool guy with no airs. When we went abroad to shoot songs, he even carried the equipment, as we were a limited crew.

About Telugu films:
Hyderabad is like my home now. Though my work in Bommarillu has been widely appreciated, I still have a long way to go. I will do many more films in Telugu.

Favorite cinematographers:
I liked the work of many of them. My fascination towards the camera started after watching Balu Mahendra's films. Later on it was PC Sreeram who mesmerized me. In the recent times I liked the cinematography in Taal, Rang De Basanti and Omkara.

Emotional moment:
Recently we screened Bommarillu in our film institute. I invited my father on the occasion. It was a very emotional moment for me.

Other Interviews
VN Aditya (Director)
Nagarjuna (Actor)
Sunil (Actor)
Sharrath Marar (Producer)
Ram Gopal Varma (Director)
K Satish (Director)
Siva Nageswara Rao (Director)
Ajay Varma (Hero)
Kamalinee Kukherjee (Heroine)
Neelakanta (Director)
Sandhya (Heroine)
Sriya Reddy (Heroine)
Muruga Doss (Director)
Uday Kiran (Hero)
T Gopichand (Hero)
Kalyan Ram Nandamuri (Hero)
Lawrence (Director)
Siva Kumar (Director)
Venkat Kuchipudi (Director)
Rasool Ellore (Cinematographer & Director)
Raju Sundaram (Choreographer)


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