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Interview Team : Sudharshan; Venkat

Cinematographer Sukumar of Mynaa and Kumki fame takes time to chat with Sudharshan Giridhar. In this interview, the ace camera person, talks about Maan Karate, Siva Karthikeyan, AR Murugadoss and also his brother, Jeevan, who introduced Sukumar into the industry. His approach to cinematography, the Hindi remake of Thuppakki and the locations that he has explored are few of the other to hot topics we’ve covered. Read on…


The passion for cinematography…

I had no idea of venturing into cinema. My brother, Jeevan began as a photographer almost two decades ago. Soon he started working on big projects. In 1995, while doing photography for Minsara Kanavu, he was in need of assistants and he had no luck in getting hold of good ones. He wanted a loyal and a responsible assistant and hence he called me. I was doing agriculture back then. That’s how I stepped in…

I was doing agriculture back then


My first break…

I too started as a photographer. I worked as an assistant to my brother in Samurai, King, Minnale, Kakka Kakka and few other films. I got my break while I was working on Samurai and King. A good relationship between Vikram and me developed and I got to work in Dhool as an individual photographer. Later I ended up doing Majaa, Gilli, and many more films.

I never learnt my skills from any institution. My experience is my teacher and that is how I learnt everything I now know. Prabhu Solomon sir asked me take up cinematography for Kokki. I thought he was joking, but he really wasn’t. I didn’t know the art back then and I convinced him to go with a professional camera man. I also promised him I’d learn cinematography in the mean time and recommended my brother, who had turned a cinematographer by that time, for the job. Prabhu sir watched my brother’s previous works and took him on board.  

I continued to do still photography for the movie and started learning cinematography from my brother. Towards the end of Kokki, my brother had to move on for another project and there was still a song pending to be shot. I volunteered to do it. My maiden work with the camera was a song from Kokki. We shot that in Chalakudi. Prabhu Solomon wanted that song to be shot at the right place and the right time. But we couldn’t wait for the season back then.

Everything he dreamt of back then, including the right climate, waterfalls, budget, time and the permission came his way for Kumki.

After my first song in Kokki, I gained a lot of confidence. Later Laadam came my way. That was officially my first film as a cinematographer. That was followed by Madurai Sambhavam, Mynaa and Kumki.

My experience is my teacher


Planning that goes behind every project…

Location scouting and planning demands the inputs of both the director and the cinematographer. Directors come up with the location that suits their story and cinematographers take a look around the location, ascertain the probable challenges involved in the spot and plans the shots, lighting and camera requirements. 


Shooting in the forests…

We shot a major portion of Mynaa in deep forests. Shooting inside the woods involve a lot of challenges. We kept our crew small and tight.

Natural light and mist are the major difficulties we faced during that schedule. One moment it’d be very bright and suddenly there’d be a massive dip in the light. It requires a lot of patience to shoot at such locations.

We waited for hours to capture a very short sequence in Kumki. The sequence required the sun to be at a particular angle and that happens at around 4 pm on that particular day. We kept everything ready by morning and kept practicing the shot again and again, just to make sure that everything goes as per plan for the final take. That’s what it takes to shoot at forests and few hilly regions.


We waited for hours to capture a very short sequence in Kumki.


Most challenging location to handle…


You might expect some exotic location from me. But the hardest job is to shoot in the city. The permissions, crowd and the chaos make it so hard to get what we want. People love to see shooting and they gather around as if for an exhibition. To make an outdoor, city sequence look real, with very minimal equipments is an arduous task.

I’d prefer a village or even a forest to a city.

I’d prefer a village or even a forest to a city


The location you enjoyed the most…


Purangani, where we shot Kumki and Mynaa.


Maan Karate:

It’s a superb love story. Another brilliant work from AR Murugadoss! We shot in Kodai Kanal, Chennai, Sandikkadu village and Pondy. Manja Pottudhan song sequence was captured in Pondy and you’ll find it hard to believe that what you actually see on-screen is Pondicherry.

Maan Karate is the second film after Nimirndhu Nil, in which I’m making use of the digital technology. Films like Maan Karate are easier to work, mainly because of the fantasy element these films have. The challenges lie with raw movies. Thadayara Thakka is one such film that gave me immense satisfaction, as a cinematographer.

The big task in a fantasy film is to maintain the richness. You cannot have someone or something that affects the richness of the movie.

We have used a heli-cam for a good 10 minute sequence in Maan Karate. It’s not something new, but to use it from a higher altitude than usual and control it is a big task. While watching the movie, people would wonder how we shot the sequence.

General opinion is that I’m only good with forest locations. But after Maan Karate, I hope I’d be called the king of fantasies.

Maan Karate is Another brilliant work from AR Murugadoss!


Siva Karthikeyan…

The sets would be very dull without Siva Karthikeyan. He is the heart of the team and always keeps the unit cheerful.

The sets would be very dull without Siva Karthikeyan. 


The changes you are looking forward to in the industry…

There should be more varieties of stories. That will give the cinematographers opportunities to think wide, be creative and explore more. The color frames change with the stories. If every story carries a new idea, it will encourage us to change our patterns and come up with new ones too.


The recent works that inspired you…

Visually speaking, Ram Leela, Soodhu Kavvum, Pizza and 1: Nenokkadine are few of the best works in the recent time.


Your dream team:


A good team is something you create and not something you wish to be associated with. You might find a team spectacular from the outside. But when you go in, you’d find it all messed up and even hard to stick in.

A good team is something you create


An actor, who has the best screen presence…

A good photographer can make anyone and anything photogenic. As far as screen presence, I’d have to name everyone from Ajith, Vijay, Suriya, Vikram to Karthi. They wouldn’t have come thus far without proving their on-screen presence at some point.

Personally I loved the way Ajith and Vijay carried themselves in Veeram and Jilla.


Personally I loved the way Ajith and Vijay carried themselves in Veeram and Jilla.


Direction plans…


None. I enjoy being a DoP and wish to excel at it. 


Why didn’t you work on Kayal?

I was doing Niminthu Nil. It’s bilingual and a double action film. So, the film demanded a lot of my time and we still had a lot to complete when Prabhu Solomon started Kayal.


Working on Holiday…


We were shooting for Maan Karate in Kodai Kanal and that’s when AR Murugadoss noticed me. He was impressed with my work and asked me to helm camera for a song in Holiday (The Hindi remake of Thuppakki). It was the Hindi version of Vennilave from Thuppakki. We shot the song in Rajasthan.

Every technician must work with AR Murugadoss at least once. It was such a pleasure!

AR Murugadoss was impressed with my work and asked me to helm camera for a song in Holiday.



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