Given a choice, Girish Gangadharan would prefer to let the camera do the talking to sitting down for a tête-à-tête. The cinematographer who made his début with Neelakasham Pachakkadal Chuvanna Bhoomi five years ago has gone on to do some impressive work in films such as Mariyam Mukku, Kali, Guppy, Angamaly Diaries, Solo, Hey Jude and Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil . The latest addition to his profile is the recent release in Tamil — Sarkar, directed by AR Murugadoss with Vijay in the lead. Girish is currently busy with Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jellikkettu. He talks to Friday Review about his life behind the camera.
You started off with a bang as an independent cinematographer in Sameer Thahir’s Neelakasham Pachakkadal Chuvanna Bhoomi . Was it a dream start?
I was assisting Sameer as a cinematographer until Neelakasham Pachakkadal Chuvanna Bhoomi came along. Neelakasham... gave me a dream start as it was a large-scale movie. The shoot took me to eight states. As a cinematographer, the film offered a wide range of landscapes and life to capture.
When did you decide to become a cinematographer?
To be honest, more than cinematography, it was the attraction of being a part of the film industry that drew me to the field. I was always interested in photography. I did my course in cinematography at the Government Film and Television Institute at Bangalore and after that started assisting Sameer.
How was the experience of working in Sarkar ?
When compared to the Malayalam films that I have done till date, Sarkar is a much larger film. As a cinematographer, being on the sets of Sarkar wasn’t any different from being on the location of any other Malayalam set. The director who decided to work with me after watching Angamaly Diaries was keen that Vijay’s look in Sarkar be different from his earlier films.
A political tale, Sarkar had to realistically told yet, at the same time, as it was hero centric, it had to have all the commercial ingredients like fight scenes and dance numbers in it. Somewhere a balance had to be found and that was a challenge.
How do you decide on a film and how involved are you in its making?
It depends on the director I am working and on the story I will be shooting. I check to see if the storyline suits my aesthetics. I have been fortunate that till date I have had the freedom to suggest and decide on how to approach the film as a cinematographer.
The realistic visuals and the long single-shot climax in last year’s Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Angamaly Diarieswas much discussed...
I worked with Lijo for the first time in Angamaly Diaries . We discussed the various possibilities to frame the shots after the scenarist of the film, Chemban Vinod Jose, narrated the idea. The single-shot climax was done after thorough preparation and rehearsals.
About Lijo’s Jellikketu .
Jellikkettu is set in the high ranges where a group of people are after a buffalo.
With so many talented cinematographers around, how do you make your work stand out from the rest?
There’s is no conscious effort to make my work stand out from the rest; the style I choose is based on the story and its treatment.
Has any cinematographer influenced your style or inspired you as a cameraman?
As cinematographers, we all have certain shots from movies as reference points. I watch a lot of films and while I won’t say I am influenced by him, Emmanuel Lubezki is a cinematographer I admire.
Some of your peers are turning directors. Do you hope to turn to direction?
I do not have any such plans as of now. Right now, I want to continue my job as a cinematographer.
If you had to pick a favourite from amongst the movies you have done so far, which would it be?
It is not easy as all of them are my favourites. Still, the one closest to my heart would be Neelakasham Pachakkadal Chuvanna Bhoomi.