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Interview Team : Jyothsna

Forbes magazine marks Jigarthanda directed by Karthik Subbaraj as one of the top five Indian movies to look forward to in 2014 and the trailer crossing 2.5 lakh views in just 3 days reiterates the expectation levels. For Gavemic U Ary, the cinematographer of Jigarthanda, this is his first Tamil film although he has associated himself with P C Sreeram, Santosh Sivan and the late Jeeva in various capacities.

Gavemic’s repertoire is impressive with numerous commercials and a Hindi film Mastram. In an exclusive conversation with Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, Gavemic opens up on his early life, what led him to cinematography, his spiritual lineation, his unique name, Jigarthanda and many more.



I am a Tamilian, born in Tanjore but settled in Pondycherry. My father is retired from police service, mom a house wife and my younger sister is a fashion designer. In my growing up years, I was interested in photography but was not much into cinema.



My grandfather was a photographer and was my inspiration to take to the camera. He had a way with kids and did the right things to make them comfortable and get the apt emotion from them for his pictures. This, to me, was magical and that’s what pulled me into photography. I used to observe him keenly and admired him much.


Initiation into photography

I was eleven years old when my dad got me a Yashika and I started clicking unmindful of what I was photographing. People started appreciating my work. Later I took the SLR from my grandfather and started using it. The camera was always with me and I used to take pictures wherever I went and that’s how I took to photography.


Spiritual Guru and the name change

I am generally inclined to spirituality and I came across my ‘guru’ who was born in France and raised in Hong Kong at a very early age. He was the one who initiated me into Buddhism. He talked to me about karma, consciousness and allied spiritual subjects. I used to spend most of my time with him and was into meditation and it kind of had a calming effect on me.

My actual name was Hariharan and my guru one day asked me the meaning of it and questioned, “What gives you this name”. I had no answer. He said the name had to talk and wondered about my passion. I said I wanted to become a cinematographer. I was 15 then. He said, “Your name has to vibrate” and talked about the importance of vibrations generated from a name and suggested my current name. I asked for the meaning and after much persuasion, he told me what my name meant and I liked it very much


Convincing parents

My father is not into films and it took some time to convince him about my aspirations. Mom saw the talent in me and dad looked for security in the path that I was to take. I told them that I would try in the industry for a while and if I did not succeed within a time span, would come back, set up a studio and make my living. This kind of convinced dad and he let me chase my dreams. 


P C Sreeram, Ramji and Jeeva

It was during the days of Agni Natchathiram and Nayagan and I was totally floored by P C Sreeram sir’s work and he appeared in my mind as God. I saw P C sir in every work of art. I came to Chennai and joined him. Although he took me, he was not working as a cinematographer then as he was busy with his directorial Vaanam Vasapadum.

He put me on to Ramji and asked to do a week schedule in Azhagam Perumal’s Dum Dum Dum. Then I went to Jeeva’s crew for 12 B and had a good experience. Jeeva appreciated my work but I could not analyze and understand the magnitude of his praise and I just carried on. After I finished work, Jeeva wanted me to stay with him but I insisted that I go back to P C sir and came back to him. 

Jeeva wanted me to stay with him, but I went back to P C Sreeram


Pune Film Institute

I went to Pune Film institute and was there for three months. Every evening, there used to be film screening and I saw films that are not available in internet or any other place. This widened my understanding of films and gave me confidence. Then I started assisting people who were doing their final year projects and word got around that there is this man who can help them out with their work. And I became the busiest, assisting people with their work. My interactions with industry folks increased and I gathered good experience on the way.


Santosh Sivan

I was very keen to work with Santosh Sivan and sought just half an hour audience with him but it got extended to five hours and at the end, I joined him as assistant. He fist told me –just one film- and that again became three projects - Navarasa, Kerala Tourism and Silsilay. Santosh sir encouraged me to become independent but I could not accept it emotionally as I wanted to travel along with him.

I wanted to travel along with Santosh Sivan


First feature film

In 2007 I started as an independent cinematographer shooting commercials and documentaries. Although it gave me enough money, there was no satisfaction. I wanted to work for a feature film. In 2012, I got the Hindi film Mastram directed by Akilesh, one of the writers of Gangs of Wassepur. The producer said it was a low budget film and can’t pay me much. He said, if the film made business, he would give me 10% from it. I agreed. Just after a couple of days shoot, the producer saw what I shot and was quite impressed. He said he would sell the film with just my footages. I finished the film and satisfied my producer and director.


Karthik Subbaraj and the journey to Jigarthanda

While I was working in Mastram, I happened to listen to Attakathi songs and was completely awed by it. I wondered how anyone could be so gutsy to attempt something so different. I sourced Santosh Narayanan’s details and spoke to him. I invited him to Mumbai to score for Mastram. He came, saw the film and was much appreciative of my work and suggested that I work for Karthik Subbaraj. I asked him, “Who is Karthik Subbaraj? I had not known about Karthik until then but Santosh told about him and Pizza. I saw the film and around 2 in the night, I called him to congratulate about his work and expressed my desire to work with him. He asked me to come to Chennai, I went, met him and we decided to work together.

But it was taking some time and I did not hear anything from Karthik for a while. Then I met him, enquired about the status of his next film. He wanted some more time but by then I was getting offers and was not sure if I should take them or wait for Karthik. Since time was also passing off, I decided to take the other offer and was about to sign my contract sitting in the producer’s office. That’s when Karthik texted me but I did not notice it. I was looking at the contract and took the pen to sign and Karthik called asking me to come immediately to Chennai. That was almost a scene from a film and Karthik’s timing was superb.

I came to Chennai in March 2013 and started work for Jigarthanda.

Santosh Narayanan suggested that I work for Karthik Subbaraj



Jigarthanda is an awesome film and is very energetic too. Personally, to me, it has given so many things both on the subconscious level and a superficial level too. 

Personally, Jigarthanda has given me so many things


Working with Karthik Subbaraj

Karthik is a next generation director. I love his dialogues and he is a sweet person. He is quiet and does not talk much. That’s the common thread that connected us. Both of us won’t talk much but we try to achieve big. For me, as a DoP, I look at how I am going to contribute to the film, how I am going to bring business (to the film) and how I am going to make my audience happy. When two creative brains are at work, there is just mutual respect, that’s all!

I never used to talk to anyone, I will only talk to Karthik because I know this one year only we will be together and then we will go our ways.  

After a point we became a family, he took me to his house, introduced me to his parents and a beautiful understanding evolved. This understanding helped us generate the best.

When two creative brains are at work, there is just mutual respect


Analyzing Jigarthanda script

I always respect a director’s view as the film is his vision. Whenever I talk to a director, I try to see what is there in his subconscious mind. I will be the only one to look at this aspect because everyone looks at the other features that appear on the outside. I will be the only person who seeks answers to questions like ‘what has he written and why has he written this way?’ It took almost three months to study the script and understand it. I have read Jigarthanda script 25 times because I had to imbibe that in my mind. I thought I should not go to the extent of analyzing whether it is good or bad. My spiritual lineation helped me evaluate the various factors. 


Did Karthik Subbaraj give you any feedback or tips about your work?

We have a very strong visual understanding. I know his requirements as I have spent almost three months in pre-production which clearly gave an idea what would work out and what not. Our ideas were in sync and we had clarity on each other’s work that helped us deliver quality product.



Siddharth loved my work. He is an absolutely down to earth person and when he came to the sets he realized what type of workers we were. He will come whenever we call him, even at unearthly hours. We had good friendly relationship.

After we finished our first schedule, we were on our way to location hunt and I appreciated Siddharth’s work after seeing the rushes. He said, “The way you throw the light, it makes my acting pop up and look awesome”. That said it all!


Where was Jigarthanda shot?

Entire Madurai


Any future projects in the anvil?

No, I do one film at a time.


What is special about Jigarthanda?

We want the audience to come to the theatre to watch Jigarthanda. We have worked together to give an engaging product.  That aside, it is a regular commercial film which will be liked by people.  



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