Cinematographer R.D. Rajasekar shares some memorable moments during the making of ‘Bheema.’

Direction is aesthetics… But cinematography is technique.

Thankfully the hiccups are over and ‘Bheema’s arrival has been confirmed. For many who have slogged it out for this Vikram-Trisha starrer it’s a welcome augury in the New Year. Cinematographer R.D.Rajasekar for one! “Definitely I’m happy. I didn’t want to commit myself to any other project till ‘Bheema’ was over. For me it was 120 days of relentless shoot and one half years of anxious wait,” he smiles. But at the end of the day, he’s a happy man.

Though RD (as he’s known) has had his brush with fame with an impressive repertoire that includes ‘Kaaka Kaaka,’ ‘Sillunu Oru Kaadhal,’ ‘Thotti Jaya,’ ‘Manmadhan’ and ‘Ghajini,’ his experience with the ‘Bheema’ unit is something he’ll cherish forever.

Lingusamy, the writer-director of ‘Bheema,’ was so taken in by the technical team of ‘Ghajini’ that he called up its cameraman Rajasekar saying he wanted the entire crew back in action again for ‘Bheema.’ So it is Antony’s editing, Rajeevan’s art and Harris Jeyaraj’s strains that will be in focus, in ‘Bheema,’ of course, through RD’s lens.

“Our understanding is terrific. For example, I would always film extra 10 shots for Antony, because I know exactly what he would ask for at the editing table,” RD observes.

“Vikram jumping out of the window was my first shot for ‘Bheema.’ We filmed it in Hyderabad. In fact, Antony remembered it and has used the shot along with my name in the titles,” he laughs.

The film is RD’s first with Vikram and Lingusamy. Just like the other directors he’s worked for, he was completely comfortable with Lingusamy. “They have all given me the freedom a cinematographer needs. When after the job Lingusamy said, ‘I’m 200 per cent happy with your work,’ I felt gratified.”

Working with Vikram

“For the first time in my career, here was a hero who would walk up to me after a shot and say, ‘Superb canning, RD!’ It wasn’t just me. Vikram was soft and polite to everyone till the final technician. Sometimes at the end of a day’s work, he would call me up at around 11 in the night to say, ‘Your seventh shot today was out of the world! How have you planned the takes for tomorrow?’ The delicious icing was of course, when he said, ‘RD, in future we’ll plan things in such a way that you work with me always.’ The compliment was touching,” RD recalls.

Generally, up to a point in their careers heroines would like to look their best on screen. The accent on performance comes later. “‘I watched the promos. Thanks for making me look so beautiful,’ Trisha called up to say. Such positive responses mean a lot to me,” he says.

But is it wise for a technician to spend a year and a half on one film? “It was inevitable. When just three songs for ‘Bheema’ remained, Sanjay Gadwi, who was beginning ‘Kidnap’ with Sanjay Dutt, after ‘Dhoom 2,’ approached me. It was really big money he offered. But ‘Bheema’ wasn’t over. ‘It’s Tamil after all, clash work [the jargon used for work done by a substitute cameraman] should do,’ he said. The supercilious tone irked me and I declined the offer.” RD’s smirk revealed his ire.

“After the ‘Bheema’ experience, I decided to take up more offers. But soon it became too much,” says RD, who is the cameraman of Vishal’s ‘Sathyam,’ Simbhu’s ‘Kaalai,’ and Sivaji Ganesan’s grandson Siva’s ‘Singakutti.’

Surprisingly, the successful lens man with a Masters in Marine Biology wanted to study direction at the Film Institute.

“But there, Prof. Raviraj advised me to take up cinematography. ‘Direction is aesthetics, which you can imbibe at any time. But cinematography is technique. Learn it here. Direction can follow later.’ The sensible words have benefited me a lot.” Incidentally, by the year end you will see RD don the mantle of director.

“‘Bheema’ is a right mix of action, romance, thrill and sentiment. Lingusamy’s screenplay treats the story visually and has allowed ample room for my creative urge. Certain shots exemplify a cameraman’s imagination. The low angle shot from under the wash basin in ‘Ghajini,’ when Suriya washes the blood stains off his face is one of my favourites. Murugadas [the director] let me do it. Lingusamy has been equally understanding. All of us have worked hard for ‘Bheema.’ For Harris, it’s been 40 days of sweat and toil at the console for re-recording alone. The result cannot but be positive,” assures RD.