In cinematographer Aloysius Vincent’s hands, cameras created magical moments that were both path breaking and breathtaking
Aloysius Vincent. The name spells experimentation. When zoom shots were not in vogue in India, he created one and that too without zoom lens, leaving even the technicians at Kodak’s London lab stunned. Apart from creating excellent visuals, the veteran cinematographer also directed around 70 movies in Malayalam and Tamil, starting with the path-breaking Bhargavanilayam (Malayalam).
It was while shooting a song sequence for T. Prakash Rao-directed Uthama Puthiran (Tamil) on Sivaji Ganesan and Padmini at Brindavan Gardens, Mysore, that Vincent experimented with the zoom shot, borrowing the lens from a French tourist.
“Padmini was standing on the first floor of the hotel and Sivaji Ganesan was at a waterfall in the garden below. To show them in the same frame I had placed the camera at a distance but in that long shot the images were not visible properly. Then I saw a French lady tourist taking snaps. I borrowed her camera, took out its lens and fitted it to the Paillard Bolex 16 mm camera that I had with me. The lens gave a zoom effect. I could now film the actors in one shot and, without cutting the shot, I also took the close-up of Padmini. Since I had taken this particular block of the song in 16 mm colour film, we sent it to the Kodak lab in London for processing and blew it to 35 mm. The technicians there were surprised at the result and asked me how I had taken the shot. We had no zoom lens in India then,” recalls the thespian.
Vincent brought a new technique to Malayalam cinema with his debut movie, Neela Kuyil. Till then the camera used to be focused on actors who were delivering the dialogue. But Vincent changed this by capturing the expressions of the other actors in the scene when the dialogue was being delivered. Instead of grey or sepia colours that were in vogue then, he asked for natural colours for the sets, though he was shooting with black and white film. The movie was not only a big hit, but it also brought about a change in the cinematic technique. Among the Malayalam films Vincent directed mention must be made of Thulabharam, which won actress Sharada the coveted national award, besides bagging the second best feature film award. Nakangal was another milestone film of his.
Vincent’s tryst with Telugu cinema came with P. Ramakrishna’s Brathukutheruvu thanks to Bhanumathi Ramakrishna. She observed his talent while he was working with Gemini Studios, and recommended him to her director-husband. After that Vincent cranked for many Telugu movies, including Lethamanasulu, Premnagar, Gharana Mogudu, and Jagadeka Veerudu-Athiloka Sundari. In Hindi, his repertoire include Raj Kapoor-starrer Nazrana, Rajesh Khanna-starrer Premnagar, Dil Ek Mandir, and Mahaan starring Amitabh Bachchan in a triple role. His sons Jayanan Vincent and Ajayan Vincent are popular cinematographers too. Here are the five films the veteran cinematographer picks up from among his 170 movies.
Cast: Prem Nazir, Sharada, Madhu, Ambica
Besides being in charge of cinematography, I directed this film, based on a story by P.J. Antony. The entire movie was shot in boats. It is the story of three couples living in three house-boats. And it addresses a phobia called delirium tremens, a symptom caused by withdrawal from alcohol. We converted ordinary boats into house-boats and shot the film in the Alwaye river for 25 days. It was a challenge to shoot in the limited space available in those boats. You never feel even an iota of monotony while watching the movie. Also we had to do a set work for a day and we created the river set in a floor, with knee deep water, at the AVM Studios, Chennai, and placed a boat in it. Nadhi became a trendsetter.
Bhaktha Prahlada (Telugu)
Cast: S.V. Rangarao, Anjali Devi, Roja Ramani
It was an AVM Production directed by Chitrapu Narayana Murthy. There is a scene where Lord Narasimhaswamy appears from a splitting pillar and kills Hiranyakasipu.
To get the split effect we marked each frame increasing the markings step by step which is called the ‘one-turn work.’ We shot the scene with a Mitchell camera.
This one-turn work gave the ‘pillar split effect.’ The scene appeared so very natural and it won all-round appreciation.
Enga Veettu Pillai (Tamil)
Cast: M.G. Ramachandran, B. Saroja Devi
Directed by Tapi Chanakya, the movie was made by Vijaya Productions.
We were set a deadline to complete the movie in 45 days so that it could be released for Pongal. Sets were erected in all the floors at Vauhini Studios. MGR played a dual role.
The two characters cross each other in a scene on the staircase. No dupe actor. No paper mask. I never used a paper mask for such dual role movies. Instead I used a lighting mask technique and shot the scene. The film was a big hit.
Adavi Ramudu (Telugu)
Cast: N.T. Ramarao, Jayaprada, Jayasudha
Director K. Raghavendra Rao shot this entertainer at Mudumalai and in Ooty. I must mention one particular scene that we shot in Mudumalai forest featuring Jayasudha and Jayaprada.
The two are chased by Satyanarayana in a jeep while they travel in a chariot.
The horse ran so fast that the chariot’s wheel broke down. The camera followed the two actresses as they rolled down the slope. Fortunately, they were not hurt.
Now you know the reason why the shot was so realistic. It was a pleasure working with N.T. Ramarao.
He used to respect technicians and never interfered in their work. I have worked with three actors who became Chief Ministers – MGR, NTR and Jayalalitha.
Cast: Nagarjuna, Ramya Krishna, Maheswari
My journey with K. Raghavendra Rao started with the black and white movie Premalekhalu. Annamayya was special in a way.
The scene in which Lord Venkateswara makes his appearance has some significance. It was a group shot.
From the group, the Lord (played by Suman) suddenly appears. We used a circular trolley and, without showing the back of the Lord, I shot this scene by placing a huge mirror in front and by dimming the light.
Incidentally it was also my last film.
(This fortnightly column features the five best works as shared by maestros from the industry)