P. C. Sreeram on his upcoming film with director Shankar and why films should look natural

A cinematographer’s challenge is to get the right balance of light, shade, angle, depth of vision and colour, and to translate the director’s thoughts onto celluloid. When it comes to capturing actors with heavy make-up and prosthetics, the camera has to be configured to get the best result without it looking unnatural.

Ace cinematographer P. C. Sreeram has come across many such challenges in his illustrious career. Mention must be made of his association with filmmaker Mani Ratnam. Who can ever forget the duo’s Mounaragam, Nayagan, Agninatchatram and Geetanjali? “A film full of challenges was Paa in Hindi. Dominique, a specialist in prosthetics and make-up from the U.S., did exemplary work on Amitabh Bachchan. For me, the challenge was to make a tall person look shorter by planning the right camera angles,” notes Sreeram.

Sreeram says use of prosthetics and special effects make-up in India is done more for a natural look than for a superhero or a fictional character such as a hobbit, for instance. “We lay a lot of stress on realism when it comes to human figures. There has to be a connect between the real and the unreal. Paa is a clear example,” says Sreeram.

The cinematographer, who takes up only one project at a time, has just completed work on director Shankar’s Ai. “I am not at liberty to talk much about Ai. I can only say that Shankar has taken technology to a totally different level in the film. Actor Vikram’s make-up, for instance, is a big highlight and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that some of the assistants of Dominique, like Shaun, are involved in Ai,” informs Sreeram.

Now that Ai is completed, Sreeram has plunged headlong into Shamitabh for his friend, director Balki. “Shamitabh has Amitabh, Dhanush and Akshara Haasan who is making her debut. This will be my fourth film in Hindi after Paa, Cheeni Kum and 13B. As per schedule, Shamitabh will be completed by July end after which I will start the post-production work of Ai with Shankar and his team. That will take a long time, considering Shankar’s attention to detail. Only then will I be able to look at my next project,” concludes Sreeram.