Cinematographer K.G. Jayan. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Cinematographer K.G. Jayan's filmography reads like a compilation of award-winning works in Mollywood. Paradesi, Padam Onnu: Oru Vilapam, Pulinjanmam, Susannah, Nottam …Get the drift? Sufi Paranja Katha is the latest addition to that A list. Incidentally, it also won him the Kerala State Film Award for Best Cinematography.

Collaborative effort

However, success rests lightly on his shoulders. “Cinema is purely a collaborative effort at story-telling. In that process of story-telling, all I do is play a major role. Luck, in fact, has nothing to do with it. I would say the awards are a result of hard work on everybody's part. I'm happy that I won the award and that the film was well received,” adds the 54-year-old graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. Santosh Sivan was his classmate and cinematographer Venu was his senior there. Jayan began his career in Mollywood with director Harikumar's Jalakam after taking over from his “guru,” Venu, who had to withdraw from the shoot after a couple of days. He won his first State film award for T.V. Chandran's Danny.

A quick glance through Jayan's career in Mollywood and we can't help but notice his penchant for working in cinema of the offbeat kind – only. “Apparently there seems to be an ‘art cinema' tag attached to me. It's not from want of trying to work in commercial cinema, though. In reality it's more of a choice from the directors' side. It just so happens that the people who call me make off-beat films,” laughs Jayan. “Priyanandanan, for instance, considers me his guru. I couldn't be part of his first film, Neyttukaran, so he insisted that I do Pulinjanman and now Sufi…Likewise, I share a good rapport with Chandran, with whom I worked with in five of his films, including his latest Bhoomi Malayalam. Admittedly, I don't go and actively search for work in commercial cinema. I am comfortable where I am,” shrugs Jayan, who is also a deputy director at the Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT), Government of Kerala.

In this capacity and otherwise too, Jayan has also shot over 1,000 documentaries; something that he says he “absolutely loves to do.” His work in K.R. Mohanan's documentary Oru Vanavyavasthayude Sheshippukal won him the State Television Award for best videography (the first ever for a documentary) and The 18th Elephant, in which he worked with P. Balan, won the National award for the best documentary. He has also shot 197 episodes for Asianet's landmark travelogue Ente Keralam, because of which he says he now knows Kerala like the back of his hand. “If you come out of a cinema thinking that the camera work was excellent, then I would say that it is a failure on the part of the cinematographer. As a cinematographer you strive to ensure that the visuals do not overpower the story. That perfection is what I strive for in my films,” says Jayan as his two daschunds – Thankappan and Janu – choose that moment to waddle into the room and up for a cuddle. “It's all for show. I brought them home, but they appear to adore my wife, Shiba, more,” he grins as he obliges them with a quick hug.


Perfectionist he may be and awards he has won, but while growing up in the city a career in films was never in his spectrum. His father, Gangadharan, was a radiologist and he thought that he would follow in his footsteps. Well that's when Shaji N. Karun came into the picture. “Shaji used to be my neighbour from when I was in class three in Model School. In fact, he whetted my interest in the arts by letting me watch him paint and he even gave me paint to do my own thing. I even won some painting competitions when I was in school. Later on, whilst I was in Mar Ivanios college, my uncle Velappan Alappad, a renowned film critic in those days, gifted me a camera, which was put to constant use. When Shaji joined FTII, I thought it would be the best way forward despite not being part of the film society movement or having much knowledge about cinema. Three attempts later and I was in. The rest they say is history.” As a cinematographer there doesn't seem to be much more Jayan has to prove, so what's next on the agenda? “Directing!” pat comes the reply.

Quick takes


Jalakam, Susannah, Danny, Padam Onnu: Oru Vilapam, Kathavaseshan, Nottam, Paradesi, Pulijanmam, Dristantham, Ramanam, Bhoomi Malayalam, Sufi Paranja Katha

Favourite films

Charulata, Red Desert

Favourite cinematographers

Sven Nykvist, K. K. Mahajan, Venu

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 10:39:01 AM |

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