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Interview Team : Kaushik L M; Venkat

2013 was a really special year for cinematographer Madhi, as he was part of much-loved and appreciated films such as Pandiya Nadu, Endrendrum Punnagai and also Mirchi in Telugu. In this chat with Kaushik and Venkat, Madhi talks us through his career in the industry as a DoP, his plans with production and also shares some good insights on his films and the stars that he has worked with. 

How it all started … 

I am a B.Sc Mathematics graduate and wished to become an hotelier. But I casually decided to try out cinema and assisted cinematographer Saravanan in about 5 to 6 films. I worked as his associate in films such as Pudhiya Mannargal, Selva, Poove Unakkaga and Sooriya Vamsam.

Punnagai Desam was my first film on my own in 2002 and the film was a decent success. Now I have completed around 20 films as a cinematographer.


What are the criteria that you look for, while choosing a new film assignment? 

The script takes prominence. It should impress me during the first narration.

Next the director should have good credentials, good knowledge and solid grounding in filmmaking. He should have that willingness to learn about cinema. I look at the director’s approach and analyze.

The selection of artists is again of primary importance. The film should also be challenging to me as a technician. It should bring out some new facets in me.


The films which pushed your career to the next level

Oru Kallooriyin Kadhai was a film which got me a very good mention from all the media reviews. The film encouraged me a lot. Then I tried out something different in Kalabha Kaadhalan.

Beyond all this, Veyyil was the film which gave me a major break and pushed me to the next level. In fact, people started addressing me as Veyyil Madhi.

People started addressing me as Veyyil Madhi


The films which challenged you and creatively satisfied you the most? 

Each film has been challenging in its own way.

Capturing the heat and its intensity was a big challenge in Veyyil. The film was based in Virudhunagar, a place which is known for its searing heat and I wished to capture that authentically. This was a challenge. Bandit Queen was an inspiration when I worked for Veyyil.

Paiyya was also challenging as the film involved a lot of travel and it was risky as I had to travel in parallel with my equipment. We met with some accidents too.

Silambattam was also challenging as it involved a lot of action in the commercial format.

Naan Mahaan Alla was another really testing and satisfying movie. The climax fight in particular and the filmmaking in general won me a lot of appreciation.

Shaitaan in Hindi, was a film which I really loved and enjoyed doing. It was my first digital movie and won me a lot of appreciation. I tried a lot of formats and pioneering technology in the movie. Mumbai was a very tough city from a filmmaking perspective due to the huge crowd. Live sound was another challenge. The work that I did in Shaitaan was very satisfying. After Shaitaan, I must have declined atleast about 50 offers from Bollywood till date. I am busy and preoccupied with my offers down South but I will soon begin work on my next film in Hindi.

Mirchi in Telugu was a commercially rich film. Among all the heroes that I worked with, Prabhas stands out for his gigantic and handsome personality. People appreciated his look in the movie. I got a big reception from the Telugu industry for my work.

Recently Endrendrum Punnagai was a really colorful flick and director Ahamed wanted to present a light-weight movie. It was a smooth and breezy flick and we worked with a lot of care when it came to choice of colors. Endrendrum Punnagai was packed with surprises. We had some pleasantly surprising experiences with snow and used them for our shoot; remember the ad shoot scene in the movie which featured some stunning snow-laden visuals. The film’s lead cast totally ruled the show and held the complete movie.

And Pandiya Nadu had a raw treatment and we had a lot of night shoots. This was also challenging in a way.

Now am working in Run Raja Run and Suseenthiran’s Jeeva which is my first sports film (based on cricket).

Like this, each film poses its own set of challenges and variables. 

Shaitaan in Hindi, was a film which I really loved and enjoyed doing


In 2013 you had three successful movies. Is it the best year in your career? 

2013 is definitely the best year in my career. It was unexpected. I am generally choosy and work only on 1 film a year. But 3 films released last year and all of them worked out very well too. 


Do you perceive any differences between the Tamil, Telugu and Hindi industries? 

There definitely are differences in the working styles of the 3 industries.

Planning and preproduction time are extensive in Bollywood, while production time is lesser in comparison. Very few films in the South allot such time for preproduction. But this mindset is changing.

And South technicians are more disciplined, punctual and single-minded in their focus on the projects that they are working on. They also come well-prepared for the shoots every day. They are genuine and perfect.

South technicians are genuine and perfect


Now tell us about the ‘patch work’ which happens for almost all the films nowadays

During production, it is always better and easy to shoot some extra shots for a scene, so that we can use them later if required. It is tough to recreate the same later during patch work, as a lot of factors would have changed. Recreation is sometimes even boring for a creator who is always after challenges.

Patch work isn’t very exciting for a cinematographer but we have to accept the good as well as the bad, and make sure that the film is finished properly.


What about 'clash work'? Have you done some 'clash work' for other films or have other cinematographers done 'clash work' for your films?

I generally make sure that clash work isn’t required for my films unless it is really impossible to accommodate time. A film is born out of the communication between a director, cinematographer and the other technicians and a lot can happen based on the travel, discussions and relationship between them. It is difficult for a new technician to come in and match that wavelength and deliver during clash work for song sequences and other such segments. Comfort levels may not be there.

I generally don’t accept such clash work as I won’t be able to do justice to the work done by another cinematographer, at such short notice.


The directors with whom you share a very good rapport  

I have shared a good rapport with all the directors that I have worked with. I don’t bring my personal egos into play and we all go by the script and discuss how the film can be bettered. Proper communication and co-ordination among the team can also avoid needless expenses and wastage of footage. 


The stars that you really admire based on your working experiences 

All the heroes that I have worked with are genuine.

Vikram, Vishal, Karthi, Jiiva, Prabhas are all very friendly. Vishal is also very straightforward and honest while Karthi stands out for his casual, cool and helpful nature.

I have a lot of reasons to praise all the actors that I have worked with. I am in touch with all of them and they also respect my views.

Vikram, Vishal, Karthi, Jiiva, Prabhas are all very friendly


You have worked as an associate cameraman in some Vijay films. How do you see his growth and transformation now, after so many years?  

Vijay is perfect when it comes to time. During my assistant days itself, I used to hear tales about his punctuality and professionalism. A few years back, I was involved in a 1-day test shoot for Velayudham and he had not changed one bit. He had no attitude, no starry airs and was cool and casual. But his looks, screen presence and mass following have gone to an altogether different level. 

Vijay is perfect when it comes to time


Are you impressed with the upcoming generation of cinematographers? 

Upcoming DoPs are well-groomed in the digital era and have a very good grounding in the current technology whereas I had to learn and evolve with this technology over a period of time.

These youngsters approach film very easily and come in with a lot of new ideas. But they have a little hesitation in handling big mass set-ups. With experience and practice, guess they will acquire that too. 


The recent films which really impressed you visually

I could see Ravi Verman’s next level in Barfi and Ram Leela. Drishyam was truly engaging and arrested my attention. It was very natural and there was nothing cinematic about the camera work.

Lucia was another such subtle attempt where cinematography was approached in a very realistic and subtle manner. I enjoy such work and am always on the lookout for such talent.

Goli Soda was another surprising film. It was a mass film which was executed with a very small and humble crew in the crowded Koyambedu market. I would have asked for a big crew for such a script.


What was the idea behind launching a new production house, in association with Suseenthiran and Rajeevan? 

I listen to a lot of scripts from many assistant directors who worked in the films that I worked in. They tell me that they can do a film with just a minuscule budget of around 2 crores.

This new production house gives us an opportunity to support such talented assistant directors. It is an attempt at encouraging such deserving people and not on earning profits.


What next? Do you intend to take up direction? 

I wish keep trying out and achieving new things in the field of cinematography. I am not yet satisfied. I wish to prove myself more in this field and then will definitely move on to direction. But currently I am not in the mindset to pen stories. But I have started reading a lot now.

Behindwoods wishes Madhi the very best in all his future endeavors. 



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