He might not have a signature style yet, but Gavemic U Ary is a director’s cinematographer, and that’s what makes him valuable. Jigarthanda , which marks his debut in the industry, reinforces his philosophy that cinematography, like editing and background music, must never distract from a scene. “A shot must never make the viewer think beyond the scene, even with its aesthetics,” he says. Gavemic comes from Bollywood where he has already made his first film, Mastram (2012). A stranger to Kollywood, he had no connections in the industry until he got in touch with music director Santosh Narayanan after being impressed with his music for Attakathi (2012). The latter, who has scored the music for Jigarthanda , introduced Gavemic to Karthik Subbaraj’s work, insisting that he work with him. “I hadn’t even seen Pizza (Karthik’s acclaimed first film) then,” he confesses.
The meeting with the director went off well, and soon Gavemic found himself immersed in Jigarthanda ’s script. He plunged into the world of gangsters and realised why Karthik was held in such high esteem. “His grasp over storytelling is sterling,” he says. Karthik wanted a film that would visually be on a par with world cinema, and “trusted me with delivering it.” “From the script, I realised that my work simply had to be complementary. The story and screenplay were stellar, and didn’t warrant flashy cinematography.”
Two creative decisions were made before the shooting began. “There are two houses that are featured a lot,” says Gavemic. “Siddharth and Karunakaran (the hero and his sidekick) live in one, while Bobby Simha (the gangster and antagonist) lives in the other.” It was a fairly simple decision to stick to primary colours for the former, due to the contrast of Siddharth’s fair skin and Karunakaran’s dark complexion. “We decided to do away with red, as we found it too harsh for the film, and chose to use only blue and green,” he says. This explains why the curtains and the borders of the door in Karunakaran’s house are green and the wall, blue. “We naturally opted for dark colours in the gangster’s house. It was my decision to make the curtains white though, as I didn’t want the audience to be distracted by too much colour.”
He also reveals that Karthik was keen to shoot the film in Madurai. “He grew up there, and the story is inspired by events in his life.” The only problem with shooting in Madurai was that Gavemic had never set foot in the city before. “I was excited, and we spent more than a week exploring the temple city,” he recalls. “The people were extremely cooperative. I also owe a lot to Karthik’s father, a native of Madurai, who helped us get special permissions to shoot in the city.”
Gavemic hasn’t portrayed Madurai’s dark underbelly in typical shades of red and black, as one would expect in a film about gangsters. “Too much darkness would have created false expectations in the minds of the audience, and left them for dead when the story takes an unexpected turn in the second half,” he says. “As a cinematographer, it is also my responsibility to make this transition smooth by my use of light and colour.”
Gavemic doesn’t believe that cinematographers need a style of their own. “No top international cinematographer has a specific identity or style of their own. Their identities change based on the films they work on.”
After Jigarthanda’s release, after a few last-minute delays, Gavemic is a pleased man. “The satisfaction of being part of a good film can only be felt, not explained,” he says. In one of his earliest exchanges with Karthik during the making of Jigarthanda , Gavemic told him how the director of Mastram hugged him after the film was completed to express his happiness. “I told Karthik that he would hug me at the end of this film,” he says. “A few months ago, when we were shooting the final scene, he did.”