Madhie, who has received rave reviews for his cinematography in 'Naan Mahaan Alla', talks about how his tryst with the camera began, his repertoire of films and upcoming projects.
“Remember me,” asks Madhie even before we begin discussing the cinematographer's career graph, which has been on the rise after Veyyil. “What do you think?” I smile back … It was on a Friday morning a couple of years ago that Madhie had called me up. The review of a film he had worked in had appeared in our columns that day and he was obviously upset by the observations made. Even then his willingness to listen to my point of view made an impression. The calmness in Madhie's voice is intact when I talk to him now. “I shouldn't have spoken to you about it at all. After all you do have a right to express your views about a film,” he says. The candour increases my respect for the man …
Madhie's repertoire includes the much-acclaimed Veyyil, and Karthi's back-to-back hits Paiyya and Naan Mahaan Alla. “After Veyyil I've become quite choosy because the film has garnered plaudits for me from various quarters. When I heard P.C. Sriram (the camera ace) on an FM channel saying that he found my work in Veyyil a ‘trend-setting experience' I was on cloud nine! The compliment came two years after the film's release. That my work is still in his mind means a lot to me, he says.”
Veyyil's director Vasanthabalan had told him to watch Walter Salles' Behind the Sun, before his film went on the floors, so that Madhie would get an idea of the shot compositions the director had in mind. But Madhie couldn't find a copy of the DVD. And after Veyyil, when he did, he was struck by the similarities in the cinematography of the two films! “I'm still to get over the coincidence,” he says. Madhie has cranked the camera for a slew of films — Vijay's Selva, Simbu's Silambaattam, Bharath's Nepali and Arya's Oru Kallooriyin Kadhai and Kalaaba Kaadhalan, to name a few. Which would he rate as his best attempt? “I'm never completely satisfied with my work. I keep noticing only drawbacks, however minor. A lensman's work shouldn't draw attention. His success lies in the camera unobtrusively travelling with the mood of the story,” says Madhie.
His friends among heroes? “Simbu, Bharath, Karthi — I get along with them like a house on fire. Arguments and counters are only with my directors,” he laughs.
Generally those who've made it in cinema say that passion for the medium drew them to the arc lights. But Madhie is different. This degree holder in Mathematics wasn't even a film buff when he entered the industry. So what had he planned to do in life? “Become a restaurateur. Who knows? I might do it some day.”
A minor feud in Nanneelam, his village, made him move to Chennai. “Ours is a huge family — five elder brothers and two younger.” Eight? “No ten! Two sisters too,” he laughs. It was one of his brothers, poet and lyricist Piraisoodan, who brought Madhie to the city and put him on to cinematographer Saravanan. “I hadn't touched even a still camera till then,” he says. Diligence and determination made him an avid learner and even before his first film as Saravanan's assistant was complete, he graduated to the level of associate cameraman. And once producer R.B. Choudhary offered him his maiden assignment, Punnagai Desam, Madhie has never had to look back.
Strangely, after all the accolades for his recent Naan Mahaan Alla, Madhie's next release will be in Hindi and not Tamil! The producer is Anurag Kashyap and the director, Bejoy Nambiar, a Mani Ratnam assistant. Talks are also on for producer Dil Raju's next Telugu flick with Siddharth in the lead. “I'm waiting for the right offer in Tamil. As I told you, I'm choosy.”