Home > Interviews


Interview Team : Jyothsna; Vivek; Kader; Venkat

Acclaimed cinematographer Ravi K Chandran is known for his outstanding work in films like Kannathil Muthamittal, Ghajini, 7aum Arivu, My name is Khan, Black and Saawariyaa. This talented lensman is a favorite with Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir khan too. Recipient of many awards for his camera work, Ravi K Chandran is making his directorial debut in Tamil in Yaan with Jiiva and Thulasi Nair in the lead. He talks to Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar about Yaan, the directors that he has worked with and about his brother who is his biggest influence in life.

Yaan and its meaning

The story required the title Yaan; it is about the self search of a character. It is similar to ‘Naan’ in meaning like ‘yaan petra inbam peruga ivvaiyagam’. Elred Kumar of R S Infotainment is producing with Jiiva as the hero. Prakash Raj, Srihari and Nasser are part of the cast. Thulasi Nair of Mani Ratnam’s Kadal fame is the heroine. Mani Ratnam and Rajeev Menon had appreciated her acting talent. A very attentive and an intelligent girl and I found her face to be very different. We are expecting a lot from her.

Why direction?

I have always been interested in direction. I can say that I became a cinematographer without realizing. I used to photograph and draw. My brother is a cameraman and can claim that my entry into cinematography was circumstantial as I was constantly exposed to his work. But I always wanted to be a director and tell stories. If you see my films, they all will be different from each other be it Citizen or Kannathil Muthamittaal or 7aum arivu or Kandukondein Kandukondein or  Minsara Kanavu or Boys. The reason behind this is I try to do cinematography for the story. Direction is an extension of this.

You have worked with many directors. What did you learn from them?

I have learnt quite a few things from the directors that I have worked with.

I worked with Rajeev Menon who has directed Minsara Kanavu and Kandukondein Kandukondein. He is a cameraman turned director but had never approached the film as a cameraman. He did not push himself for great work in cinematography (in these films) but just did what is actually required for the story.  He is musically inclined and songs in his films are brilliant. His films would be replete with musical details. I learnt shot division and aesthetic sense from him.

Mani Ratnam shoots very fast and narrates his story in a unique way. His films are always a trend setting ones.  The way he picturizes songs will be distinctive and no two songs in his films will appear the same. He pushes people to achieve this. He brings in innovative styles in canning song sequences.

If you take Kannathil Muthamittaal, there is no romantic song in it but there is one song with the daughter and mom and the other one with the daughter and dad. But both these songs are shot like a romantic number. He places many conflicts in a small theme and shoots very fast but gets great images. On the face of it, it would appear that he has taken quite a long time to shoot but actually it would not be the case.

For example, for the ‘vidai kodu engal naade’ song in Kannathil Muthamittaal, we shot with more than 2000 people leaving their homes but just in one day. When I read the script I told Mani Ratnam that it will at least take one week to shoot the scene. There were helicopter, Akela crane, steady cam, 2000 people, bomb blast, tanker, propeller plane, breaks, food was provided to 2000 people, people were shifted from one location to another and to top it all there was an emotional segment in the scene. Shooting was like going to a war front. But he completed all this in just one day. He is very clear in what he wants but at the same time, he never hurries the artists. He will deal the artists in a normal manner. All the speeding up happens only outside the artist’s domain. I learnt this quality from him.

With Shankar, it was a different learning. I was awed by him when he was making alterations to the script at 2 am while on a location hunt.   I quite did not expect this. Shankar’s hard work is his plus point. His detailing effort in the smallest of smallest shot is noteworthy. According to him repeat audience would note such features and care has to be taken.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s aesthetic sense is remarkable. He will go for a re-take even if a strand of hair is out of place in heroine’s face. He will even go for a re-shoot and he will not even mind recreating the set. His framing and shot divisions will be rhythmic. As he is an editor, he works with an editing sense.

Story and screenplay techniques are Murugadoss’s forte and the manner in which he creates pace in it is interesting.

It is like going to different institutes and learning from different masters. It is a great experience and advantageous for cameraman to observe and learn and I am glad I have gained good experience working with these people.


Story and screenplay techniques are Murugadoss’s forte

What genre is Yaan?

Yaan is basically a romantic film. What complications hero goes through to succeed in his romance forms the basic story of Yaan. It is a romantic action film.

Yaan is a romantic action film

Is Yaan a bilingual?

It is a bilingual being made in Tamil and Telugu and that’s why you will find Tamil and Telugu actors in the film. Harris Jeyaraj scores for Yaan which is going to be a big plus for the film. Award winning technicians like Sabu Cyril (art director) and Sreekar Prasad (editor) are part of the technical team. Oscar winner Resul Pookutty is in charge of sound.

Harris Jeyaraj is going to be a big plus for Yaan

Is Yaan your script or are you screen playing some other work?

This is actually from a news story I read in papers. Interestingly when I read an article recently in newspapers, it is so much like the villain character in my film. Hence after we complete the film, we are planning to put all these in our website. The story is actually inspired from a real life incident.

Who is the cinematographer in Yaan?

Cinematographer for Yaan is not yet fixed.

Is having someone else as a cinematographer going to be advantageous?

I am not going to be bothered about the cinematographer. Each one is going to do their work. My work is to tell a story. I am not interested in what lighting he is going to employ. I am going to work in this film as a director only and not going to interfere in the cameraman’s work zone. Don’t expect any tricks on camera work.

As a cinematographer, what makes you choose a project?

I go with the director and his previous work. In case of a new director like Rajeev Menon in Minsara Kanavu or Farhan Akhtar in Dil Chahtha Hai or Karan Malhotra in Agneepath or Nandita Das in Firaq, I liked the story they told me. I see if I can make any difference in terms of color. For example, in Black, I predominantly worked on black and white and in the next film Paheli with Rajasthan as backdrop, lots of colors were used and the next Yuva (Ayudha Ezhuthu) had a different genre. As a cameraman I feel people should not be able to say it is my work. These kinds of challenges make our work interesting and don’t make it mundane.

What is your pick- art house cinema or commercial?

Completely commercial! I am not an art house worker. I don’t like to do anything realistic because when there is dance and music, it is unrealistic and it can go to any extent. I prefer to watch a James Cameroon or a Steven Spielberg film and I am fond of fantasy films. Every day we are seeing reality in our life and I want to get away and escape from this.

Who is your favorite among the current cinematographers in Tamil film industry?

Manoj Paramahams, Balasubramaniem and Velraj are doing good work and I like their work. Balasubramaniem is doing a modern work; Manoj is doing with consistency and Velraj is yet to get a good budgeted film but he is proving his worth in small films.

Many cinematographers from the south go up north. What is your take on this?

That has always been the trend from the times of Pyasa. Cameramen get their name and fame more in the Tamil film industry. In Andhra too, people are not aware of their cameramen. It is only in Tamil Nadu, we have media and people who respect cameraman’s work and interview them. Nowhere in the world do you see this kind of reverence for cameraman’s work. I have spoken about this in many platforms. In the entire world, Tamil Nadu is the only place where we have knowledgeable people who applaud when cinematographer’s name is flashed on the screen.  You will not find this knowledge and appreciation anywhere in the world and I will always say this with lot of pride.

In Poland you have a festival for cameramen called Camera Image, a yearly event that has been happening for the past 15 years. They screen the best work of best cameraman and award them. It is tantamount to Oscar for the cameramen. My film My name is Khan was nominated along with Inception and Black Swan. When I spoke there, I told them also the same thing, “I am coming from a place where cameramen get the most respect” and I added that only in my place, people applaud cameramen’s work. When I did Black, I had won awards for the film but nobody even called me. That’s the kind of respect cameramen get in North India. But they respect costume designers. However you get good exposure when you work there. Work in Gangs of Waseeypur or Dev D is being celebrated but better work is being done here in Tamilnadu. But people see our work and employ us there. That’s how we all get our job.

I am coming from a place where cameramen get the most respect

What is Ravi K Chandran’s special as regards cinematography?

If people are not able to find out that it is my work, that is my specialty. If somebody sees a trailer and says it is my work, then I fail as a cinematographer. Sometimes many good works in ad films have been attributed to me which is a good thing as I am being associated with good cinematography. Anything good they see, they think I shot it. I think that is my USP.

Through your lens, who is the most beautiful actress and actor?

Suriya and Ajith are the good looking guys I have shot in Tamil. I have not much worked with actresses but I quite like Trisha. Up north, I like Tabu, Aishwarya Rai, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee. They are all interesting faces and are great artists to work with. Of course, in actors, undoubtedly, it is Shah Rukh Khan and also Aamir Khan. In the same year, I worked with both and the films (Rab ne bana dee jodi and Ghajini) were super hits which got released in the same month. I am a favorite to both the Khans.

Suriya and Ajith are the good looking guys in Tamil

A director you want to work with

In Tamil, there are many directors that I want to work with like Bala, Selvaraghavan, Lingusamy and Prabhu Solomon. I am not sure if they would call me. In Hindi I want to work with Rakeysh Omprakash who did Rang de Basanti and Anurag Kashyap.

I want to work with Bala, Selvaraghavan, Lingusamy

Which recent Tamil movie had good cinematography?

I quite liked Billa 2. R D Rajashekar did good work with Red camera. I like Nirav Shah’s work too. I forgot to mention earlier. Nirav Shah is one of the finest cameramen in Indian cinema. His work is quite consistent. He has a ‘class’ approach in all his films like Thaandavam or Deiva Thirumagal or Madharasapattinam or Billa. I wish to see more daring work from him. He is really a class apart.

I quite liked Billa 2

From among your work, which do you think is best?

I have never felt that way because there would always be some problem. But in my opinion I think my best work is Saawariya because it was very consistent and it was very difficult to achieve that result. Many cameramen have attempted what I did in Saawariya and have called me to share their thoughts. That’s when I realize how difficult it was; when you shoot you don’t realize. When you paint a picture, you need to finish it. There is no end to creativity and you can keep on correcting. When you have the means and the producer, you can do it. But we had a time limit and coordination from many people is also essential. Saawariya has been appreciated by most of the cameramen in India. People who have worked indoors know the difficulties.

Your brother’s influence on you

My brother Ramachandra Babu is a very talented man. He consistently got double promotions and completed his degree at 15 and joined Film Institute. When he was in 2nd year at the institute, he did his first film Agraharathil Kazhudhai and won national award when he was just 19. It was unbelievable in 1979 to become a cameraman at 19 years. I can’t make my son a cameraman now.  My brother is a genius, writes good poetries, draws good pictures and is very knowledgeable. He has worked with Mani Ratnam in Pagal Nilavu and that’s how I got to know Mani Ratnam. Most of his films were path breaking and trend setting ones in Malayalam. Even now my films are not anywhere close to his work. Since he is settled in Malayalam films, visibility is low for him. In fact he started ISC, Indian Society of cinematographers and is its President. He reads a lot and thanks to him, I got a good exposure to books and paintings at a very young age. Although we were in a small town like Madhurantakam, I knew who was Godard, Truffaut or Kurosawa, thanks to my brother who used to discuss with me about these legends. You are exposed to the greatest directors at a very young age. Now it is very easy to be informed due to internet. Burt those days it was not the case.

My films are not anywhere close to his work

This page hosts exclusive interviews with actors, actresses, film technicians and related celebrities. The interviews are generally personal views of the guest about their projects and film related matters. People looking for information about actors, actresses, directors, music directors, cameramen and other technicians will find this page useful.