Film editor B. Ajith Kumar won the National Film Award for Best Editing.
In interviews that he gave soon after the announcement of the National Film Awards, film editor Ajith Kumar was asked to point out instances of ‘good editing’ from the movie ‘Naalu Pennungal,’ for which he won the award. His answer was always a nod, followed by a single word – “Nothing.” It is not modesty that prompted the response, says Ajith, but the fact that “director Adoor Gopalakrishnan has a very clear vision about his cinema. So my role as an editor was just to provide technical and aesthetical support that compliments it.
“‘Naalu Pennungal’ had a definite structure and offered minimal scope for any macro-scale improvisation or manipulation from an editor’s side. Adoor has acheived this precision through years of cinematic experimentation and insightful understanding of the medium. I just had to edit it in such a way that I did justice to the director’s vision,” says Ajith.
Adoor being a perfectionist also means that he spends a lot of time on the editing table seeking technical finesse – a trait Ajith feels helped enhance his sensibilities as a technician. “Adoor plans and designs his shots in advance. So his cuts would match not only in terms of the spatial-temporal-action but also in terms of the graphical and compositional aspects of the image.”
The editor-director duo have been working together since ‘Nizhalkuthu’ in 2002. The association went on for two of Adoor’s documentaries: ‘Kalamandalam Raman Kutty Nair’ and ‘The Dance of the Enchantress’ and for two films, ‘Naalu Pennungal’ and the latest ‘Oru Pennum Randanum.’ When manual film editing process gave way to the digital, Ajith with his training in the Film and Television Institute of India and a state-of-the-art studio in Thiruvananthapuram were obvious choices, says Adoor.
Eye for cinema
“I started working with Ajith and soon realised his eye and flair for the art of cinema. I prefer to work with him primarily because he is very knowledgeable and does not brag about it. He is objective rather than argumentative in his views,” adds Adoor.
It is perhaps these same qualities that attracted directors like K. P. Kumaran, M. P. Sukumaran Nair and Lenin Rajendran to work with him. Ajith has worked on films such as ‘Akashagopuram,’ ‘Mazha’ (shared credits with Bina Paul), ‘Angane Oru Avadhi Kalathu,’ ‘Bhavum’ and ‘Sayanam.’
He has also worked on a number of documentaries, including two National award winning films ‘Athman’ and ‘Oh Confusious.’ “‘Athman,’ a silent film directed by Jyothy Prakash, won me the National award for best editing in the non-feature category. ‘Oh Confusious’ was one among the four diploma films at FTII,” recalls Ajith as he points out the differences in cutting for features and for documentaries.
“Structuring of the film happens at the scripting stage in features and all the processes, including shooting and editing, are driven by what is written. But in the case of non-features, especially documentaries, structuring happens at the editing table. So obviously the editor has more of a role here. I have worked on a documentary where the coverage came up to 48 hours and the edited end product was 45 minutes. It took a year to finish. During that time, your perception about both the issue and the film changes as multiple points of view emerge,” adds Ajith.
The only FTII-trained editor (after Bina Paul) to have set base in Kerala, Ajith says he is not sure whether to continue in Mollywood.
“After FTII I decided to return home because of an idealistic attitude. I had a subsidised education and I thought it was time to give something back to society. But as time passed I realised that my artistic capabilities were still unexplored. It is not that I do not have the work to sustain me, but the kind of stuff that I thought I would be doing in the tenth year of my career.
“Visual language has undergone tremendous change in the past few years. Manipulation of the image, superior graphics to transcend the limitations, lenses that helps stylisation in story telling...Cinema as a medium is growing at a fast pace and our industry has not even recognised it,” concludes Ajith.