Movies

Ravi K Chandran and the art of visual storytelling

Cinematographer and director Ravi K Chandran

Cinematographer and director Ravi K Chandran | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

“I am not a fan of remakes, but unfortunately I have done so many of them,” says cinematographer Ravi K Chandran. So far, he has filmed Viraasat, Ghajini, Ok Jaanu, Adithya Varma, Coolie No.1 and Bheemla Nayak. When working on a remake, he tries to bring in a new visual style: “There has to be some originality even if we follow a few things that worked for the original.” 

He prefers original films and some of those projects, particularly Dil Chahta Hai, Kannathil Muthamittal, Black and Rab ne Bana di Jodi have stood the test of time: “Dil Chahta Hai is fondly remembered even today because everything about it remains fresh,” he says, and recalls being complimented for the film by Telangana minister K T Rama Rao during the pre-release event of Bheemla Nayak in Hyderabad.

Ravi K Chandran also directed a remake recently. The 2021 Malayalam film Brahmam was an adaptation of Andhadhun. His next film as director, titled Tamara, will be an Indo-French production. The project is in its initial stages; it took shape when he was working on Bheemla Nayak. Trivikram Srinivas who was handling the dialogues and screenplay for Bheemla…, asked Chandran if he intended to direct another film soon. “I shared the story of Tamara, written by a French national, and told him that I may not find a producer for this subject. He read it and within half an hour, said he would like to produce it; he shared the story with PK sir (Pawan Kalyan), who said he would also like to be a part of the production. It became a star-studded production with Sithara Entertainments and Pawan Kalyan’s team.”

 Mahesh Babu in ‘Bharat Ane Nenu ‘

Mahesh Babu in ‘Bharat Ane Nenu ‘

Tryst with Telugu cinema

Chandran’s first Telugu film — Mahesh Babu starrer Bharat Ane Nenu (2018) —was long after his debut in 1991 in Malayalam. “No one called me for a Telugu film, maybe they thought I will not take it up,” he laughs. When Koratala Siva approached him for Bharat…, he was game. With Bheemla…, he had a taste of the Pawan Kalyan mania.

Chandran was approached for Bheemla… after nearly 30 days of filming had been done, and the team wanted to redo it all. “Trivikram sir said he wanted something earthy. He also did not want tracking shots where the camera moves towards an actor’s face to capture every emotion. I chose a candid, fluid visual style. Even in the climactic fight sequence, we used handheld cameras to show a sense of commotion.” 

The warm and earthy colour palette helped to set Bheemla… apart from the Malayalam original Ayyappanum Koshiyum. “The texture and colours of a Kerala hill station are different from the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh region. The earthy, dusty tone helped even with the costumes (by Rajini). Rana Daggubati wears darker colours in the initial portions and later when he softens, the colours change. These smaller things added to the visual grammar.”

He discloses that major portions of Bheemla Nayak were filmed in and around Hyderabad. “Taking Pawan Kalyan outside a secure zone would have meant a tough time with crowd management. We shot within Hyderabad and the Ramoji Film City, but cleverly made it appear like a forest zone.” 

Cinematographer Ravi K Chandran, writer Trivikram Srinivas, Pawan Kalyan and director Saagar Chandra on the sets of ‘Bheemla Nayak’

Cinematographer Ravi K Chandran, writer Trivikram Srinivas, Pawan Kalyan and director Saagar Chandra on the sets of ‘Bheemla Nayak’

Break the norm

A tricky part, at least for those in the film unit habituated to mainstream Telugu cinema, was the Pawan Kalyan introduction scene that was darkly lit, to befit the remote police station zone at night. “During post production, a few were sceptical if the audience will accept it. But Trivikram sir was confident. Now, I get a lot of appreciation for that sequence.” 

References were also drawn from Mani Ratnam’s Thalapathy for its earthy visual tones. “People remember visual language that is distinct,” says Chandran, who admires the work of master cinematographers Santhosh Sivan and PC Sreeram.

Chandran had entered cinema wanting to tell stories. He narrated them through his camera and bagged projects with the best of directors - Rajiv Menon, Mani Ratnam, Shankar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Farhan Akhtar, Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar, A R Murugadoss, among others. His visual language has never remained stagnant: “I get impatient and bored easily; I like to work with different directors. There’s magic when we try something new. After three years, I send my assistants away to work elsewhere so that when someone new and young comes along, I am on my toes. I do not want to get complacent.”

It has been his long-standing desire to work with Malayalam director Lijo Jose Pellissery and that could soon materialise. “He called me to talk about an anthology. I am not sure when it will materialise. I am a big fan of his work and hope to work with him soon.”


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Printable version | Aug 26, 2022 1:26:45 am | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/ravi-k-chandran-and-the-art-of-visual-storytelling/article65183339.ece