Cinematographer Vipindas makes a comeback to Malayalam films with ‘Thathwamasi.' K. Pradeep

After a sabbatical of nearly 19 years veteran cinematographer Vipindas makes a comeback to Malayalam films. The man whose camera created black-and-white works of art in the 1976 national award-winning film ‘Manimuzhakkam' (directed by P.A. Backar), ‘Aalinganam' (directed by I.V. Sasi), and ‘Choondakari' (directed by P. Vijayan) went on to film Padmarajan's path-breaking films such as ‘Kallan Pavithran' and ‘Oridathu Oru Phayalvan.' Vipindas cranks the camera again in a film titled ‘Thathwamasi.'

“My last Malayalam film was Jaycey's ‘Purappad.' Then I went on a long journey to Tibet; I plunged into spiritualism and learned meditation, yoga and all that. In between, I did a few documentaries, mostly made by newcomers,” says Vipindas.

How did this comeback happen? “I won't say it was sheer chance. I happened to be involved in the making of a documentary at an ashram run by Sunil. He liked the work. Much later I get this call from him asking me if I'll be able to work in his new film.”

There was another reason for Vipindas to accept this work. “By then there was ‘news' in the film industry that I was not well and could not work. A new crop of directors and producers, who have perhaps only heard of me, lapped this up. And I had worked for so many popular television serials such as ‘Kadamattathe Kathanar,' ‘Swamy Ayyappan' ‘Vikramadtiyan,' and ‘Krishnakripa Sagaram.' So I thought this was the best chance to prove I could still work as I used to do years ago.”

About ‘Thathwamasi'

‘Thathwamasi' is about a group of pilgrims' travel from a border village in Kerala to Sabarimala. A police constable, an atheist, who is on duty there, joins them. Unexpected incidents that happen during the journey transform their life forever.

“The film was shot in and around Thiruvananthapuram, Sabarimala and Meenmutty Dam. We did not use lights for the outdoor shots. Some interesting mythological sequences that were shot in the studio form an integral part of the storyline. The film was shot in just 20 days. It is slated for release in December.”

Incidentally, this film also marks the return of director Sunil to mainstream cinema. The director had made popular hits such as ‘Maanathe Kottaram,' ‘Bharanakoodam' and ‘Alancheri Thambrakkal' before turning to spirituality.

Fascinating frames

During his self-imposed break from films, Vipindas travelled a lot, camera in tow, and has some fascinating frames.

“I have a sample of breathtaking photographs of some important South Indian temples. You must have seen photos of temples like the Madurai Meenakshi temple. Many of those snaps are shot in parts and joined together. The effect is flat. I have used a Wivelux camera that pans 180 degrees; the effect is amazing. I hope to publish them as a book with suitable text.”

For Vipindas, 70, this new film is a fresh start in a world that he dominated in the 80s. “Things have changed – from Satyan to the superstars and the young stars of today. But for a technician like me it is the same - find out what the director wants and do your best.”