Rajeev Ravi talks about moving from cinematography to direction with Annayum Rasoolum, which releases today

As Annayum Rasoolum reaches theatres today, its director, Rajeev Ravi, joins the ranks of successful filmmakers-cum-cinematographers who moved from behind the camera to call the shots as directors. Along with college-mates Resul Pookutty, Ajith Kumar, and others, Rajeev also turned producer last year with the film ID that is going places on the festival circuit.

One of the leading cinematographers in India, Rajeev has worked with almost all the leading directors of Malayalam and in Bollywood. He has framed the narratives of films that went on to create waves at the box offices and win over critics too. His filmography includes movies such as Gangs of Wasseypur, Dev D, Chandni Bar, Classmates, Rasikanand Ivan Megharoopan, to name a few. Rajeev’s first feature film is a love story of two youngsters divided by religion, water and land, though both of them hail from Kochi. Rasool, who hails from Mattancherry, is a street smart driver of a tourist taxi in Fort Kochi. Anna, a salesgirl in a sari shop in Kochi, is from Vypeen. The lead roles are enacted by Fahadh Faasil and Andrea Jeremiah. Excerpts from an interview with the director…

The shift in focus from cinematography to direction

I see it all as a process of filmmaking. I always wanted to direct a film. Annayum Rasoolum was a script that I had written seven years ago. Last year, I got a break of six months when I was in between films and that is when I revived the project. Santosh Echikkanam did the screenplay and I share the credit with him and G. Sethunath for the script. It has undergone several changes but the essence of the story remains unchanged.

Each character seems to be well-etched out..

Anna and Rasool are the kind of youngsters you find everywhere in Kochi – savvy, contemporary youngsters with their own strengths and weaknesses. The love story unfolds in Kochi and what makes it special is the way we narrate their story. They encounter each other in a boat that connects the islands to the mainland. The story has been inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But we have given it a contemporary Malayali narrative.

You have worked with leading directors in Malayalam and Hindi…

I usually do films with directors that I share a rapport with. So their influences are bound to be there. A film is all about storytelling and there are so many ways of narrating a story. Each director might treat the same story in a different way. So I have learnt from all the directors I have worked with. Cinema is a language and I enjoy both direction and cinematography. So, if I get a chance to work in any language, I will do so.

How different or difficult was it to work as a director?

When I work as a director of photography, there is one person above me – the director – who takes the responsibility and the decisions. So the entire burden does not fall on you. But I enjoy both the roles. As I said earlier, it is all a part of cinema.

Was it difficult to stay off the camera in your film, in which Madhu Neelakantan is the cinematographer?

Not at all. I have worked with directors such as Girish Kasaravalli, Sibi Malayil, T.K. Rajeevkumar, Lenin Rajendran, Lohitadas, Lal Jose... Some of their films were made before the advent of monitors. They trusted me and I have experienced that trust they placed in me when I was visualising their films. So I had no problem in entrusting that work to Madhu. That does not mean I never check a frame. I do, but filmmaking is all about team work and delegation is essential for that.

Five film directors act in the film.

(Laughs) It is not a gimmick. They were cast because they happened to have the features and look of the characters I had in my mind. Ranjith plays Usman, Fahad’s father, a fishmonger who hails from Ponnani. Aashiqu Abu is Hyder, Rasool’s elder brother; Balettan (P. Balachandran) is their uncle Rasheed, Usman’s wife’s brother, who runs a small grocery. M.G. Sasi and Joy Mathew also essay roles. These are all my friends and some of them college-mates too. There is a synergy that is hard to beat when you work with people you get along with. Moreover, working together creates a different kind of a bond.

It is music director K’s first film in Malayalam and the songs are already doing well. Any reason why he was selected for this film?

The sound designer of my film is Tapas Nayak and it was he who suggested K’s name. Music is an intrinsic part of the soundscape of a film and so I decided to go with his suggestion. It is very important to make a film with people who share the same vision. There are five songs that have been scored by K.

Role of producer

It was group funding that got our first project, ID, rolling. I think there will more such collectives producing the kind of films that they want to be made. It may not always consist of the same group of people. Next on the anvil is an animation feature film that will be made by leading animator Prakash Moorthy. He has a different perspective and we are keen on him making this film that will showcase the real face of Indian animation.

Next?

I will be working on Anurag Kashyap’s latest film Bombay Velvet.

Cinematographer-turned-directors

Govind Nihalani

Shaji N. Karun

Santosh Sivan

Anil Mehta

The late Jeeva

Balu Mahendra

Amal Neerad

Samir Thahir

Ravi K. Chandran

K.V. Anand