Woman in a man's world: 'Vaanam Kottatum' cinematographer Preetha Jayaraman

The ace technician on training under her uncle PC Sreeram, her two decades of experience, and advice to other youngsters

November 25, 2019 02:50 pm | Updated November 26, 2019 04:29 pm IST

BENGALURU, KARNATAKA, 10/09/2019: Cinematographer Preetha Jayaraman, in Bengaluru on September 10, 2019.    
Photo: K. Murali Kumar

BENGALURU, KARNATAKA, 10/09/2019: Cinematographer Preetha Jayaraman, in Bengaluru on September 10, 2019. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Cinema is considered a male-dominated world and that is why people like Preetha Jayaraman catch your eye. She is one of the sought-after woman cinematographers, and has been working for almost two decades in the Tamil, Hindi and Kannada film industry.

She has worked in films, television commercials, music videos, short films and documentaries. In Kannada cinema, her latest film was Adi Lakshmi Purana, directed by Priya V and she now is gearing up for the release of the Tamil film Vaanam Kottatum produced by Mani Ratnam and directed by Dhanasekar.

She has also worked in the Hindi film Tadka with Prakash Raj, a remake of the Malayalam film Salt and Pepper. Her work in Kannada films includes Nanu Mathu Varalakshmi, Boxer and Oggarane. She has also worked on a documentary for NFDC chronicling women freedom fighters called Asli Azaadi.

She is currently in Bengaluru working as the DOP for the film Badava Rascal featuring Dhananjay in the lead.

Preetha shares with MetroPlus what it takes to be work as a cinematographer.


What made you choose cinematography?

I was influenced by my uncle PC Sreeram. He is a National award-winning cinematographer. His presence was and is larger than life for me. He would take our pictures and always had cameras around him. I was fascinated with the way in which he would play with light and shade. Soon enough I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

How did he react when you told him about your decision?

He was not very welcoming because I think he knew the challenges I would face. He did, however, encourage and train me. He was hard on me as my teacher as he wanted me to be the best. And today, I am thankful for that. I started off assisting him for five years after my training in film making. And then decided to branch out on my own. Working with him was more like a boot camp.

You have been in the industry since 1993...

I was very young when I came into the industry; it was right after school. It has been a journey of learning. Initially I was not even allowed near the camera. Frustration did creep in. This profession became like a puzzle as you learn it all on paper first and get to watch so many different experiences in reality. I learnt how to handle people, talk to actors and so on...

Tell us about your experience working with Mani Ratnam...

He is a man of few words and challenges you at every step of the film. He is inspiring and pushes your boundaries. He told me ‘don’t get worked up if you make mistakes, but do not repeat what you have done before when it comes to your work’.

Your advise to other young girls about this profession would be...

I think more women can come into this field. Cinematography is a career to tell stories through visuals. The lenses, lights and gear become your artistic aids to visualise the narrative given by the director. It can be exciting and yet a frustrating and exhaustive career. You have to be physically fit to carry your camera and run around, and mentally strong.

Why frustrating?

Because here your resume will not work. It is the other way round here. People have to first see your work and then will approach you for more work. Sometimes that takes months and years. And that waiting period can be quite challenging — waiting for offers to knock on your door. That is one of the biggest challenges of being a cinematographer.

Where do you draw your inspirations from?

There is inspiration everywhere. It is important to keep your eyes open.

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