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Actor Dhanush and Director Velraj on the sets of Velai Illa Pattathari. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: mamp01lead_new

Rajamani Velraj is on cloud nine. His maiden venture as a director has been successful. His movie Velai Illa Pattathari (VIP) has set the cash registers ringing in Kollywood. “The success is because of my fear for failure,” says Velraj. “The pressure of directing Dhanush’s 25th movie was more than debuting as director. The responsibility made me to put that extra effort and the results are already showing,” he says.

Velraj is much more popular as a cinematographer in movies such as Pollathavan, Adukalam, Engeyum Eppothum, Siruthai and 3. For this movie, Velraj has also handled the camera. “As I am experienced in the field of cinematography, I was much more at ease. But direction demanded more time. I had to work on the story, screenplay, dialogues, actors, and coordinate with all departments for a successful production,” he says.

Velraj has laid a lot of emphasis on the storyline. His uncomplicated narrative style has already earned the encomiums of the film critics. “Till date I don’t know why and how Dhanush chose me for the project. Neither he nor I tried to find out the reason. Probably, he feels comfortable working with me. I made my debut as cameraman in his movie Parattai Enra Azhagusundaram and he has given me plenty of confidence. That drives me further. But for him, I would not have come this far,” he says.

Hailing from a family of agriculturists in Koothiar Koondu near Madurai, Velraj was just like any other boy in his village, going to school during weekdays and watching films in the weekends. But the humiliation he suffered at the hands of his cousin who refused to give him the camera in a wedding function propelled Velraj to learn photography. He lied to his parents that he had joined a computer course when he had joined a course on videography where he was taught to make short films. Through one of his friends, Srinivasan, he met cinematographer Thiru (who he considers his guru) and joined him as assistant cameraman for the movie Magalir Mattum. Soon he was elevated to associate director and worked for movies such as Lesa Lesa, Hey Ram, Alavanthan and some Hindi films such as The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Champion and Hungama.

“One fine day my guru asked me to carry on, on my own. I was not prepared for it. But he compelled me to handle camera independently and got me the chance of working as cameraman for the movie Phir Hera Pheri.”

Language was the biggest barrier for Velraj. He could not continue in Bollywood though he got good offers. When he came to Chennai he got the opportunity to work in Parattai Enra Azhagusundaram. Then Dhanush recommended him to Vetrimaran for the movie Pollathavan which altered his career graph.

In VIP, Velraj has worked on audience connect. Apart from the story, the dialogues are much talked about. “Unemployment is a burning problem now. There are so many unemployed engineering graduates waiting to move up the social ladder. We wanted to make a good entertainer. I am receiving encouraging feedbacks from my friends in the film field. Our main target is the unemployed youth and already it has reached them. Many say that the theatres feel like a college campus,” beams Velraj with pride.

Of course, as a cinematographer, he has focussed on visual presentations and costumes. “Costumes play a major role in justifying a character. Take for instance the movie Adukalam. The central character was an uneducated poor boy interested in grooming roosters for fighting, so we designed his clothes accordingly. When we cast director Samuthirakani for the father’s role in VIP, everybody asked how a strongly built young man would play the role of a middle-class father. We did enough justice to the character. With the costume and properties we changed his looks and mannerisms and the audience accepted it,” he says. The heroine Amala Paul’s looks were also planned and executed accordingly.

Use of technology was another big plus for VIP. Since the target group was engineering students, the director made use of social networking sites to promote the film in a big way. “As a cinematographer, though acknowledgement came from all sections, I was not that popular. But with the success of VIP, people recognise me and want to take photographs with me. It is far more satisfying,” says Velraj, who is now back in his cinematographer role for the movies Komban and Vai Raja Vai.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 4:31:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/cinema-cinema/article6267935.ece

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