Sujit Vasudev thrives on the challenge that cinematography is
When there is an unspoken bond between the director and the cinematographer, cinema becomes a powerful experience. It is this fascinating synergy that makes the process of filmmaking enjoyable. Cinematographer Sujit Vasudev believes in this harmony. “When you grasp what the director has in mind and interpret it in your own way, the result is fine art. Every scene in such a film would seem like a melody,” says Sujit who has made Kochi home.
Sujit is fairly new to Malayalam cinema, but has an impressive repertoire already, including the popular Molly Aunty Rocks and the critically acclaimed City of God. He has just completed work for Jeethu Joseph’s Memories starring Prithviraj.
TV to cinema
For someone who stumbled into cinematography, Sujit has earned his rightful place in the industry. The road, however, was hard and filled with uncertainties. It was while he was working as a camera assistant at a studio in Thiruvananthapuram that he discovered his talent in photography. Encouraging comments egged him on. So, the next logical step, he thought, would be television. He worked as camera assistant to leading television serial directors and did several serials for mainstream channels. Sujit considers television his best training ground. “TV gave me a thorough understanding of the medium.”
He also did a short-film, Sacred Face, with director Rajesh Touchriver, which dealt with child sexual abuse.
When he got into movies, Sujit took it on slowly, as he wanted his choices to be perfect. One film in Kerala Café (2009) was followed by Chekavar, College Days, City of God, Molly Aunty Rocks, Mullamottum Mundhiricharum, Ayal (to be released in this month)and the latest, Memories, a family drama with an investigative storyline.
Working with each director brings out an entirely different aspect of his creativity, Sujit feels. For instance, when he teamed up with Shaji Kailas for Lalitham Hiranmayam in Kerala Café, Sujit learnt that the director wanted an entirely different treatment to the subject. “Shaji Kailas is known for his rapid fire scenes. But here, we did not even use a trolley. There was no zoom and absolutely no gimmicks either. Of course, the theme demanded such a treatment, but the experience was so enjoyable,” Sujit says.
Actors, too, sometimes make a difference. “Prithviraj is a delight to work with. He is technically so sound that he gets it, the minute you put forward a suggestion. There is a healthy exchange of ideas. It is purely give and take.”
Like in any artistic pursuit, creative satisfaction is extremely important in cinematography, Sujit says. He considers his work in City of God (2011) the most fulfilling in that sense. “The film didn’t do well commercially. But, even today, I have people calling up to congratulate me on that. The narrative was zig-zag and the treatment demanded a whole new approach.” Lijo Jose Pellissery, the director and Sujit engaged in long discussions that spanned two months. “We had no previous experience to bank on and we were open to each and every new suggestion.”
Cinematography as a medium is intensely challenging, he says. One has to stay within the several parameters that make up commercial cinema, budget constraints and sometimes even ideological differences with the team. “But cinema is a team effort. One has to be open to others’ ideas and try to be accommodative without compromising on what one wants.”
One of the challenges of making a film these days is dealing with an evolved audience, Sujit jokes. “People are so well aware, you have to produce quality stuff. No one will buy it otherwise.” He feels technology has helped cinematography as much as it has weakened it. “Before the digital age, the process was cumbersome, but hundred per cent genuine. You had to know the very basics, the A-Z of things. Whereas now, the effort has been reduced by half. It is a good thing, of course, but hasn’t it made us all a bit lazy” he asks.
Cinema was an everlasting dream for Sujit, something he nurtured within. Now that he is in the thick of things, there are a number of things he would love to do. Direction features first on the list. “I’ve got three-four stories in my mind. I want to make a few good movies.” Acting? “Why not?” he laughs. The ultimate dream is to wield the camera for a Hollywood movie.
He insists on taking a break between films. That is the time to catch up with new films, new books, and of course his family—wife, actor Manju Pillai and daughter Daya.