Ravi K Chandran doesn’t really need an introduction. The award-winning, renowned cinematographer is a legend in the field of film making and has collaborated with masters like Priyadarshan, Mani Ratnam, Rajiv Menon, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and A R Murugadoss. The brother of noted cinematographer Ramachandra Babu, Ravi’s latest project ‘Ok Jaanu’ is currently playing in theatres across the country.
He speaks to Rajitha Menon about his triumphs and travails in the world of cinema so far. How did you develop an interest in this field? It was through my brother who studied and worked with some big names in the hindi film industry. There would be cameras and reels lying at home all the time and I was exposed to cinema for the first time within my house itself. The environment I grew up in contributed to what I am today.
Tell us about shooting for ‘Ok Jaanu’... We were trying to take it further from the Mani Ratnam original and fine tune an already good film. It was a contemporary love story and I wanted to make sure that Mumbai looked completely different in the movie; unrecognisable from the versions we have seen in other movies. We would get ready for the shoot very early in the morning and wait in the parking areas of buildings for the light to be right.
Can you pick a favourite project from all the ones you have done till now? That would be quite difficult. Each project, each language is different and all my works have given me some beautiful memories. ‘Virasat’ would always be special to me while ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ and ‘Black’ were challenging concepts that changed the look of the industry. ‘Saawariya’ and ‘Yuva’ are also close to my heart. You started off from the South but you haven’t worked in many movies in regional languages since then. There are many like me who start off from the South Indian film industry and then move on to Hindi. The South is more accepting of new comers; they give you a break. The Hindi film industry is bigger and the stakes are higher so you need experience to gain a footing there. There are many actors, cameramen, technicians and so on who have moved on from the South and not really come back. What are some of the major changes in this field? One of the major changes is how technology has made everything so much more easier. We used to shoot with film earlier and it was a long and cumbersome process. Suppose you are shooting in the Himalayas, then the film has to travel all the way to Mumbai to be processed. And you can’t see what you have shot — only if the lab says that the film is okay can you sleep at night. Or one week’s work can go down the drain.
Has something like that happened with you? Something similar happened to me. When I was shooting for ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, we were once told by the lab that whatever we had shot for an entire day was out of focus. They asked us to send our camera (a German make) back to the company for repairs. By the time we managed to send the camera back to Germany, the lab got back to us saying that it was their fault, one of their machines was faulty. There was nothing wrong with the camera. Imagine Farhan Akhtar’s trauma!
What are some of the requisites in this field? An eye for composition and an understanding of how to translate the story into visuals is very important. You should be able to understand the director’s vision. A good crew and a fantastic technical team is also very important. Which is why I have only worked with ‘Prime Focus’ for all my films for their VFX and DI services.
Three things about you no one knows? People say I have a very funny side to me. I tell a lot of stories about myself; maybe I should write. Also, I paint. I normally do acrylic paintings but now I am hooked to the digital version on my iPad. The third thing can be the fact that my son is also a cinematographer — not many people know that.