The man behind the breathtaking visuals of 'Sethu', 'Nandha', 'Vaaranam Aayiram', 'Enthiran' and the recently-released 'Rangasthalam', Rathnavelu who is also currently busy with Chiranjeevi's 'Syee Raa Narasimha Reddy', talks to us about how Indian cinema is better equipped than Hollywood.
Minutes after canning sequences with Amitabh Bachchan and Chiranjeevi for Syee Raa Narasimha Reddy, Rathnavelu talks to us over phone from Hyderabad. Post the release of Ram Charan-Samantha starrer Rangasthalam on March 30, Rathnavelu’s cinematography has been the talking point.
Be it Ram and Samantha’s rustic looks or the beautiful villages along the Godavari, the audience were lauding the visuals on social media. “I’m glad about the reviews that Rangasthalam has received so far. In fact, the film had a great opening in Chennai, which is very positive,” he says.
Talking about his approach to the film, he says, “When Sukumar narrated the script, I ensured that the detailing of people and villages across Godavari districts in the 80s had to look flawless. I wanted Samantha to naturally tan a bit for her role and Ram Charan’s costume and hairstyle also relatable to the script and time. The audience have a good eye for even the most trivial details in a shot, we cannot take them for granted.”
Rathnavelu, who was last seen operating the camera in Tamil for Superstar’s Lingaa, says that Telugu industry is more streamlined than Tamil. “There are 24 bankable stars and a few good producers in Telugu. In Tamil, that is not the case there are hardly five of them. Moreover, in Telugu, the producers give the time and budget to experiment. I do feel sad, but I will be back in Tamil soon,” he says.
The cinematographer, whose visuals of Kumbakkonam town in Sethu or how Krishnan receives his devastated son Suriya from the US (both played by Suriya) in Vaaranam Aayiram have been etched in the memory of Tamil audience deeply. “It is because I look for emotional connect in the stories. You might think I am arrogant, but I do not commit myself for a film before listening to the script. In fact, my collaboration with director Sukumar goes a long way. We have worked in different films for over 14 years. I tell him that if I don’t like the script, I will not commit myself to the film,” he explains.
In a career that has spanned over 20 years, Rathnavelu says that Indian cinema is better equipped than Hollywood. “We have been using better equipment. I shot Rangasthalam in Red Helium 8K camera. Whereas a few technicians in Hollywood still use 5k. The difference is, actors in Hollywood are disciplined. They stick to their dates and time. Sadly, in our industry, artistes do not follow such discipline.”
With a few 3D films in the offing this year, the cinematographer says that directors and cinematographers need better awareness of the technology. “Ninety per cent of Indian cinematographers and 99 per cent of the directors have no idea about 3D. In Hollywood, it is more a money-making genre. We had planned to shoot Enthiran in 3D, which did not happen. Also, directors need to understand that action films provide for a better 3D viewing experiences. Family drama and comedy films shot in 3D only tend to strain audience’s eyes,” he concludes.