Here’s a cinematographer who prefers to change his style for every script. Meet Manikandan

He makes them look magical. Sushmita Sen sizzled in Main Hoon Naa. Shilpa Shetty wowed the audience in Mr. Romeo. Now, all eyes are trained on the stunning Deepika Padukone who makes her dream debut with Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om. And, the man who makes them look breathtaking is cinematographer V. Manikandan.

Manikandan has worked with Shah Rukh (in the blockbuster Main Hoon Naa) and his admiration for him has not diminished. “Shah Rukh is fantastic,” he says.

The VFX effects in the film are by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies VFX. “He developed a macho body in a matter of two months, and even conceived the action sequences,” he adds.

A period film

Manikandan says Om…, a period film set in the 1970s, is a complete entertainer, with loads of romance and all the commercial ingredients.

“It is not just about bell bottoms and big collars of the 1970s. It also shows the way people behaved then and their body language. We referred to a lot of films made during that period. We have replicated the art deco style popular then,” he explains.

The movie has been shot (both indoors and outdoors) in Mumbai studios because the script demands it.

“It revolves around the film industry and the best way to show it is through sets. Even the songs, including one with many Bollywood stars, are entirely shot on sets,” says Manikandan.

Manikandan is from Coimbatore and learnt photography from his brother Jeevandandan, an artist. “It was his dream that I should get into films, and here I am,” says the cinematographer, who then went on to study at the Film Institute in Chennai, and make ad films. In nearly two decades in the industry he has made 500 ad films, some of recent ones being the Lifebuoy, Sunfeast and Videocon campaigns.

His forthcoming projects include one with Warner Bros and another with Shah Rukh Khan. Ask him about his first Hindi project Kuch Na Kaho, he says, he enjoyed the experience.

“When we were shooting the title song in Mauritius, it started pouring and we had to take shelter in the ruins there. Abhishek played the perfect host and prepared tea for all of us,” he adds.

A fan of veteran P. C. Sreeram, Manikandan says cinematography should never follow one particular style. “Earlier, people followed the same style, the same type of lighting in all films. But, I prefer to change my style for every script,” he says.

About Deepika, he says, “She has sharp features and is tall and slim. And, being a model, she has enough exposure to still photography. But, the technology of motion picture photography is different. There, you get the option to select one good moment from 100 stills. For me, it is 25 frames per second and everything has to be perfect. She had a little difficulty while emoting, but she picked up,” he hastens to add.

How does he work his magic? “That’s my job,” he says. “It’s a dream world and the audience expects the characters to look beautiful and larger than life. But, it is not an easy task. We study faces. The moment an artiste enters, we observe his/her eyes, positive features, flaws and how to distract the audience from such flaws. The backdrop, lighting, costume, expressions, the camera angles, everything involves a lot of planning,” he explains.

K. JESHI It’s a dream world and the audience expects the characters to look beautiful and larger than life