Jagga Jasoos cinematographer Ravi Varman gets congratulatory message from Wes Anderson
The shoot of Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos is over but the film’s DOP, Ravi Varman still has work to finish.
Ravi Varman is holed up in a cabin at the bustling Red Chillies VFX office in Goregaon. When he saunters in the room, his disheveled hair and the casual clothing scream out that he is tired.
He is both surprised and elated at the fact that no one bothers to interview the cameraperson of a film, and the singers seem to be more recognised than him.
The tête-à-tête begins and the first thing he does is opens his smart phone to show me a message from ace Hollywood director Wes Anderson. It’s a short note of appreciation on the trailer of Jagga Jasoos that he really liked.
After having won accolades for his camera work in Barfi, Ram Leela and Tamasha, Ravi Varman is all set to woe us once again with his picture perfect frames of Jagga Jasoos. For Bollywood buffs, the camera work of Barfi was a whiff of fresh air. Ravi begins by remembering the initial days that led to Barfi.
“When I met Anurag, he gave me just four pages which had the entire story and I was totally surprised. I took those pages and went to Chennai and when I read those pages I realised that it’s a silent film and only the visuals would speak. Since I could not utter a word of Hindi, I thought it was a great opportunity and there was no way I was going to leave this film," reveals Varman.
How Varman and Anurag Basu met each other can only be described as serendipity. Varman was shooting some patchwork for the Salman Khan starrer Bodyguard in 2010 near the Film City Lake. After the shoot got over, he met Anurag Basu and it was just a cursory ‘hi’ from his side, while the two went their separate ways.
After 20 days he got a call from someone working with Ishana Movies (the production house owned by Anurag Basu) asking him if he is the same person who did camera work for Phir Milenge and Dashavataram. Next thing he knew, he was on his way to Mumbai.
“Mumbai has a different culture and a language. I found it very difficult to adapt there and felt very uncomfortable. I was simply not able to survey the situations in Mumbai from Chennai and thus thought it better go back home," he says. Staying in the Maximum City would have meant spending time in an unfamiliar non-Tamil environment. He kept his Mumbai connections open and did close to 500 commercials before he finally signed Barfi.
It was also a moment when he realised if he wanted to explore his career further then Bollywood couldn’t be ignored.
Varman’s Bollywood stint has also given him opportunity to work with ace filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Imtiaz Ali and Anurag Basu. While they all are known for their craft, they also have a temperament. Varman maintains that Basu is the most demanding of the three.
“Sanjay Leela Bhansali often tells others that he works with a painter, when he works with me. Imtiaz writes his own stories for his films and never ventures near the monitor. He believes in capturing the moment by seeing the performance of the actors. With Basu, you can’t predict anything. You have to be alert in every shot. You can’t be certain about his likes and dislikes," Varman tells us.
But one person he completely adores is Mani Ratnam. He assisted his guru Ravi K Chandran for nine years and in his company got to know the man at a personal level. For Varman it was a dream to work with Mani Ratnam, which finally got fulfilled with Kaatru Veliyidai this year.
“The visual imagery in India gained respect only because of Mani Ratnam. When it comes to aesthetics, the first name that strikes the mind is none other than Mani sir. He's the one who brought art in cinematography," says Varman. We couldn't agree more.
When asked about his ultimate ambition, Varman gives a totally unexpected answer. The ace DOP says that he does not believes in making any plans for life, as making plans will only depress you. “I don’t have any ambitions in life I only want to keep my mind refreshed by keeping it clutter free. I don’t keep expectations from anybody. I prefer seeing the reality and enjoy the moment.” The last time I heard something similar was from a saint.