Movies

Madhu Neelakandan: The challenge for cinematographers is to understand the director’s vision

Madhu Neelakandan with Lijo Jose Pellissery on the sets of ‘Churuli’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Morning mist plays hide and seek in the canopy as sun rays gently light up the trees before falling on the ground in glittering shards. Madhu Neelakandan’s camera changes the mood of the scene from suspense, mystery and fear to one of hope in avant garde director Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Churuli.

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Although in the news for the generous use of expletives, Churuli (spiral), as the title suggests, teases viewers with its theme, narrative and protagonists. Along with the tone of the film, each frame enhances the mood of the scene with a mere change in lighting. Madhu says that with latest advancements in technology, it is not difficult to create the kind of mood a director wants or to shoot in low light. “Digital technology and VFX have changed the way a film is shot. Now, the challenge is to understand the director’s vision and work towards that,” says Madhu.

Whether it is close ups of Antony and Shajivan, played by Chemban Jose Vinod and Vinay Forrt, or poetic shots of the verdant forest, Madhu’s frames are in sync with the mood of the narrative. Award-winning cinematographer Madhu insists that when a director has a clear vision of his narrative and story, the work becomes easy for the lensman.

Working with Lijo

Speaking from the location of upcoming film Oru Thekkan Thallu Case, Madhu is effusive when he talks about the artistry of Lijo. “Lijo is a sensitive artist. His spontaneity and artistry ensure that each work stands out from the crowd of movies. Without making any loud claims about surrealism, Lijo imbues his films with a magical realism that wins over viewers, especially younger audiences in their twenties.”

Vinay Forrt and Chemban Vinod Jose in a still from ‘Churuli’ directed Lijo Jose Pellissery

Vinay Forrt and Chemban Vinod Jose in a still from ‘Churuli’ directed Lijo Jose Pellissery   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Playing down the ephemeral poetry of the frames in Churuli, Madhu asserts that cinema is a director’s medium and so even while each member of the team has his/her interpretation of every scene, it is the director who harmonises the ideas and calls the shots. “That is when a film becomes a good piece of work. In all my projects, I want that harmony to be there.”

If Churuli was all about the outdoors and man’s uneasy relationship with untamed Nature, Sunny, helmed by Ranjith Sankar, was an introspective work that was mostly shot indoors. Madhu’s camera has the same pace as that of the film. As Sunny, the lead character of the film, experiences ennui and loneliness, the scenes portray his sense of confinement as it leisurely pans the room where Sunny has to quarantine for two weeks. “I work best when I have an understanding with the director,” he explains.

A stills from Ranjith Sankar’s ‘Sunny’, starring Jayasurya

A stills from Ranjith Sankar’s ‘Sunny’, starring Jayasurya   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

One of the assignments that he is currently working on is Oru Thekkan Thallu Case, the screen adaptation of G R Indugopan’s short story Amminipilla Vettu Case, starring Biju Menon, Padmapriya, Nimisha Sajayan and Roshan Mathew. The popular story is set in Kollam, but the team is now shooting in Kodungalloor as the original location has undergone a lot of changes.

Madhu is also a part of Collective Phase, a group of filmmakers and artists that encourages indie filmmakers. Madhu says he has not stepped into the director’s role as he wants to remain in his comfort zone for some more time. “I am aware of the responsibilities of a director. It requires tremendous people skills, and I’m not ready for that at the moment. However, I do hope to take that up at some point of time soon.”


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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 9:32:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/interview-cinematographer-madhu-neelakandan/article37802478.ece

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