With his 'Ithu Kathirvelan Kadhal' getting ready to hit the screens, lensman Balasubramaniem talks about how he enjoys working against the clock without compromising on quality
Lensman Balasubramaniem’s basement in his Vadapalani residence houses a mini-theatre, which is stocked with classics. Unfortunately, he never gets the time to watch a movie after he hit a purple patch. “If I am not shooting, I will be at the post-production facility,” he laughs at his gruelling schedule. The reason is not far to seek. He has had four consecutive hits in the last two years, and three more are in the pipeline. In a week’s time, we will know if he has managed five-in-a-row as S.R. Prabhakaran’s Ithu Kathirvelan Kadhal starring Udhayanidhi Stalin and Nayanthara releases worldwide. “It’s not a full-length comedy like Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya or Varuthapadadha Valibar Sangam or Rajesh’s Oru Kal Oru Kannadi. It’s a neat, family drama,” he says.
Two observations have been made ever since the trailer and video songs of Ithu Kathirvelan Kadhal were uploaded onto the Internet. The picturisation of songs, shot in lush foreign locations, has received a lot of appreciation with some even saying that they look like they belong to a Yash Chopra film. How does he feel about it? “I take it as a compliment. But directors, irrespective of their film’s content and requirement expect me to enrich every frame with vivid colours. It needn’t be so,” he says. Have the technologically advanced digital movie cameras made life easier for cinematographers? “Yes, to an extent. But one still has to work closely with the costume designer to create a rich colour palette and light up the frames. The state-of-the-art cameras, which can capture great images in almost no light, will take care of the rest,” he says matter-of-factly. He refers to a song from 180 to explain how, with a basic RED camera, he managed to shoot a complex song sequence. “It involved shooting an entire song in 2K frames per second. That was more challenging.”
Another observation has been that Udhayanidhi is looking confident as an actor. Did the cinematographer have a role to play in the actor’s growth? “In OK OK, he was still nervous in front of the camera. He struggled to appear spontaneous. In this film, he has shed his apprehensions. We have a good working relationship, may be that helped,” he observes.
He cannot hide his disbelief at the number of potboilers he has been part of. What does he enjoy most about working in such films? “First of all, working in a commercial film is a big challenge for one is constantly working against the clock: trying to cut costs and plan for contingencies. It teaches a technician to deliver the output on time without compromising on quality. Also, I enjoy working in comedies (His purple patch began in 2012 with Rajesh’s OK OK and continued with Santhanam’s Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya, Varuthapadadha Valibar Sangam),” he says.
He recounts how after making an on-the-spot decision to shoot in a busy temple in Varuthapadadha Valibar Sangam, he had to improvise with a flex board that served both as the background and as a way to block people from coming into the frame.
Despite being a senior cinematographer with a wealth of experience, why hasn’t he sought to work with big names — especially after working on Pithamagan with director Bala in 2004? “Apart from the script, my decision to work with someone always hinges on the relationship I have with the director. For instance, I am working with all of Rajesh’s assistant directors, who worked on OK OK simply because of the cordial relationship,” he says.
Currently, he is working on Pandiraj’s next film, featuring Simbu and Nayanthara. While that may not be the film in which he would try too many things, he is currently excited about another film with Pandiraj, tentatively titled Ezharai, which will be about three boys and their families. “I am planning to shoot the entire movie in natural light,” he says. Has Pandiraj agreed to it? “He will, he will,” he replies.