The lens view

DID NOT LEARN IT FORMALLY B.R. Vijayalakshmi went on to become a cinematographer by plunging into it. Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.  

A young woman was holding a holding a heavy Aeries 3 movie camera and shooting for the Tamil film “Sira Paravai” at the Mudumalai forest in 1987.

She was supposed to shoot an action scene with Vijayakanth. Every thing was perfect during the monitor shot. But something went wrong during the take. Vijayakanth landed straight on the camera. “Fortunately nothing happened, as a sturdy rubber piece attached to the camera saved me. Otherwise my eyeballs would have popped out,” she says, pointing to the scar on her face.

B.R. Vijayalakshmi is the daughter of the legendary actor, director and producer B.R. Panthulu. Incidentally, she enjoys the credit of being Asia's first woman cinematographer. Now she dons the role of Business Head in the Software Division of Saregama.

Vijayalakshmi, who held the camera for “Chinnaveedu” directed by K. Bhagyaraj in 1985, worked as cinematographer for 22 films and her last film was “Pattu Paadava” in 1995. In ten years, she carved a niche for herself in the Indian film industry and stopped working after her son was born.

It is significant that “Paatu Padavaa” scripted, directed and cinematographed by this multi-faceted woman made it to the International Film Festival of India (IFFI '96). “It had S. P. Balasubramaniam, in the lead role and the songs were a big hit,” she proudly says. She subsequently made a foray into electronic media by producing a children's serial “Vasantham Colony”.

Her marriage to the sound-recordist, computer graphics and non-linear editing expert Sunil Kumar got her to work more on serials. “Maya Machindra” for Vijay TV, “Velan”, a socio-mythological serial, and currently she is producing a film based on “Battle for Bittora” by Anuja Chouhan.

Vijayalakshmi entered the world of films because of her brother B.R. Ravishankar, a chemical engineer and film-maker. “Actually, he is my real guru,” admits the interior designer turned cinematographer. “Frankly, I did not do any course in cinematography. After joining the noted cameraman Ashok, I expressed my desire to join the film institute to learn cinematography academically. However, he dissuaded me by saying that practical experience would make me a better cinematographer. So I started working and learnt the nuances.”

Vijayalakshmi worked with directors including Sridhar who have made a mark in the Tamil film industry. “He is the one director, who inspired me. When I was young, I have interacted with him. I started working with him, and he treated me like a professional. I worked for Iniyoru Uravu Pootadu with him, which is my third film,” she says with all admiration.

Why did she give up something that catapulted her to fame? “I wanted to groom my child, I had to devote my time for him.”

“Why do I have to always answer this question of the challenges before me?” asks Vijayalakshmi, rather fed up with the routine questions that media always throws at her. Of course, the complicated film industry did pose its problems, but Vijayalakshmi feels they are now too outdated even to make a mention. “Present-day cinematographers have a lots of facilities compared to the days when I started out,” she notes.

Among the present-day cinematographers, she loves the work of Santosh Sivan, who was her colleague.

“I worked with Kumar for ‘Aravude Naal'. That was really a challenge, as it was visually a different film. He is a futuristic thinker. Likewise, I worked in 21 films for which Ilayaraja scored music. All 22 films of mine ran for 100 days,” she says with pride.

“I don't regret anything. I turned down more than 20 offers. I was asked if I wanted to be an actor but my aim was to be a technician,” says Vijayalakshmi, not regretting her choices.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 5:03:38 AM |

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