Richard M. Nathan on his career with a camera and more
Switching over from Statistics to cinematography sounds baffling — but not for Richard M. Nathan, who has created waves with Ko. “It was when I noticed students of Vis-Com roaming around the campus with cameras hanging down their necks that my curiosity was aroused, and only then did I learn about the course,” laughs Richard. Statistics was too wearisome and he decided to shift gear, only to be told that one doesn't walk from one subject to another at will! So the following year he cleared the entrance examination for Vis-Com aspirants and got into it. Even then it wasn't as much passion for the lens as it was a chance to escape the Stat routine! And once he passed out, this alumnus of Loyola College has never had to try too hard for work. Except for a few hiccoughs, things have been working out fine.
“Ours is an orthodox Christian family, where cinema is taboo,” laughs Richard. For a person, who has barely clicked a dozen pictures in his school days, opportunities came quite easily.
Once out of college, he joined K. V. Anand as his assistant and worked on four projects — Legend of Bhagat Singh, Khakhi, Chellamay and Sivaji — after which he took off on his own! He passed his show reels around to directors and was elated to receive a call from Sasi.
“I have great respect for the maker and was thrilled when he signed me for his Poo,” smiles Richard. But it was a jolt when the project got nearly shelved. That was when he met Vasanthabalan. “Capture interesting aspects of Ranganathan Street, in T. Nagar and get back to me,” he said, and Richard religiously spent the next 24 hours on the street, shooting with his handy-cam. “Vasanthabalan was impressed with my five-and-a-half minute film and I was on board Angaadi Theru.” Without any inkling about the storyline, Richard had canned relevant shots that could be later used as montages for the song sequence ‘Engay Povaeno'!
But just then, Poo was revived. “I've had my moments of frustration, because every choice in cinema is a gamble,” says Richard. It had to be Poo or Angaadi Theru and Richard plumped for the latter. “I'm still waiting to join hands with Sasi,” he says. Again AT's release was delayed by nearly three years. “A film winning after such a gap is impossible, but Vasanthabalan managed it with aplomb” he says. The raw cinematography of the film won plaudits from many quarters. Balu Mahendra was one. “The lighting for indoor sequences of films such as AT is a challenge. So were the climactic scenes and the bomb blast segment in Ko. Comparatively, filming Nature's beauty is a cakewalk. Viewers enjoy watching Norway in Ko, but honestly I didn't have to do much. The beauty was all there! Yet it is these sequences that fetch you name,” he shrugs.
Before AT came out, Richard had begun work for Bana Kaathaadi and soon moved on to Ko. “The angst of those days will remain with me for long. But the three films coming out one after the other in a matter of eight months has been enough compensation.”
After a mega project like Ko it's surprising that his next is Edhiri Enn 3, directed by newcomer Ramkumar, with Srikanth in the lead. “I like the story of EE3, which offers much scope for cinematography. So why not,” he asks. His hunches have proved right till now. He's confident it'll work this time too.