Ace photographer G. Venket Ram speaks to SUDHISH KAMATH on capturing stars of the silver screen in a new light
Every time stereotyped heroines can't take any more of the public image they are trapped in, lensman G. Venket Ram gets a phone call. Through his camera, they are reborn in new avatars. Some of these stars peep out from their frames on the wall as we chat in Venket's studio off R.K. Salai.
Venket shot publicity stills for over 20 films last year alone and that accounts for only 30 per cent of his work. The other 70 per cent of assignments still come from his advertising clients. But, of late, he has more and more actors coming to him for photographs.
It was around Suriya's six-pack that the trend took off in a big way. He did a similar photo-shoot for Vishal, clicked some fun pictures of Vikram and Karthi, and gave Lakshmi Rai, Tamannaah and Vimala Raman a complete glam makeover. “Earlier, the shoots used to be only for film publicity but now with the influx of many more magazines and competition between them, glossies are looking for quality pictures,” the soft-spoken photographer opens up.
“Every time a movie is announced, the press is bombarded with photographs of the stars in the same look that reflects the character they are playing.” So when actors takes on a non-glamorous role or do not want to reveal their look for the next film, they set out to create a fresh bunch of pictures to tempt layout artistes to give a bigger, better display of their photographs. “Only the work I do for films and stars gets talked about because these pictures usually appear with my photo credit at the bottom. Nobody knows about my advertising work,”
The surge in celebrity photography has a lot to do with the stars themselves. “Actors today are very concerned about their looks; they take their styling and costume very seriously.” Most of these shoots have to do with bringing out a new aspect of their personalities. “The brief they come up with is usually brief. They just tell me what their objective is, how glamorous they want it to be and their comfort levels. Everything from styling, colours, lighting, theme and the overall look… they just leave it to me.”
Naturally, he finds his work with films and stars more satisfying creatively. “Advertising comes with a brief you can't move away from. The ads have to catch attention and you can't play around too much with light and shade… The pictures need to work on different mediums — from bus shelters to print ads to assorted merchandise. But as far as films are concerned, we start the photo shoot even before the filming begins. For ‘Paruthiveeran', we shot the publicity stills six months before the shooting. So, the photo shoot served as homework for the intended look for the film. Ameer was so impressed that he wanted to retain those earthy rustic tones for the film.”
The camera and him
With so much work, you would think he must be tired of his job. After all, his relationship with the camera started 20 years ago. Venket knows when to take a break. “Everyone talks about equipment and technology. No doubt you need them, but I concentrate on lighting. Photography is about capturing light. It's about playing around with the quality of light, colour and temperature to make your painting rich with detail.”
“It's not like I always wanted to get into photography. I did production engineering, but quit halfway because I loved visuals. I wanted to do cinematography but I didn't get into the Film Institute because they had only 10 seats. I did Visual Communication in Loyola College and got into photography. But, that does not mean I walk around with a camera everywhere I go.”
The Picture Perfect Family
All those smoking hot pictures of gorgeous women at their ravishing best… do they rock his house? Venket laughs out loud. “I've been in advertising, and many of them have been models… people such as Ajith and Trisha, I've known them for many years as friends. Fortunately, my wife Padmaja has also been in advertising, and we've known each other since college… for 20 years now.”
“There's a big complaint at home that I never take pictures of family. My wife has taken more pictures of my five-year-old son Prithvi than I have. When I go for holidays, I leave my professional cameras at home. I just take my aim-and-shoot camera to capture moments with my son. I don't want to wake up early to catch the light and get worked up about the details and forget to enjoy myself.”