People will be raving about Ram Charan's performance in Rangasthalam, says cinematographer Rathnavelu
Enthiran cinematographer Rathnavelu, who completes 20 years in the film industry, discusses his love for Mani Ratnam, Rangasthalam and his upcoming directorial debut.
Fourteen years ago, writer Sukumar got an opportunity to direct his first film Arya. The producers of the film asked him to learn the list of things he needed to adapt his writing to the big screen but all the director really needed is one man — cinematographer Rathnavelu.
“He was impressed with my work in Sethu and Nandha. I was busy with back to back hits like Sethu, Nandha, Thirumalai and Jayam so I didn’t want to move out of Tamil. But Sukumar insisted to narrate the story and I agreed. To be honest, I was bowled over by the characterization of the protagonist in the film (Arya). I only allocated one hour for him but the narration went on for four hours that I had to cancel my afternoon flight. I found Sukumar to be a sensible writer and director”, recalls Rathnavelu on his first meet with Sukumar.
Sukumar and Rathnavelu are big fans of Mani Ratnam. “In fact, because of our love for Mani Ratnam, we opted for a different storyline and visuals in Jagadam. I initially thought of doing two or three films in Telugu but after Lingaa, Tollywood came up with offers which I couldn’t refuse”, adds the Enthiran cinematographer.
Talking about his upcoming biggie, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, the cinematographer says “I miss my family in Chennai and thought of doing a Tamil film after Rangasthalam but Chiranjeevi sir told me that Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is a once-in-a-lifetime film and wanted me to come on board. It’s a Rs 200 cr budget film and the working style is similar to what we have done in Enthiran. We have foreign VFX experts, thousands of horses and soldiers. Though Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is a patriotic film and the backdrop has an earthy feel, it’s going to be grand”.
Rathnavelu is the one who triggered Sukumar to explore the rural areas of the '80s in Rangasthalam. “When Sukumar narrated me the story of Rangasthalam, he had written it as a rural film but I told him that we can’t show much difference with the present village because people in the city and rural areas are using iPhone these days and triggered him the idea of exploring the '80s period. Sukumar basically hails from a village so he came up with a detailed script”, explains Rathnavelu. Both of them are also excited with the rural backdrop because their previous collaborations like Arya, Jagadam and Nenokkadine were urban-centric with stylish visuals.
Rathnavelu wanted his costume and art departments to bring the authentic '80s flavor for Rangasthalam. “Like Hollywood, we avoided certain colours in costumes and houses we have shown in the film. Everyone in the team followed our word, they maintained the discipline and I’m sure the visual pattern will be unique and different. In Nandha, people appreciated the difference I showed in the colour tones, angles, and lens. After nineteen years, I’m expecting a similar positive response in Rangasthalam. Generally, if anyone shoots in Rajahmundry, they prefer to show the routine blue-sky and green farmlands but we wanted to break the norm. We explored the earthy burnt-out soil, cornfield, and golden yellow colour scheme”.
Interestingly, Rathnavelu worked with Ram Charan’s dad Chiranjeevi in Khaidi No 150. Comparing Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan, Rathanvelu says “Chiranjeevi sir is a legend like Rajini sir and comes to the sets on time. Just like his dad, Ram Charan is also punctual but what I found is that he is a natural performer. Ram Charan is a one-take artist and spontaneous performer. He can give amazing output in his first and second take but he can’t repeat the same in consecutive takes. Gautham Menon also prefers to complete scenes in one or two takes. Jyothika is another one-take performer but actors like Suriya can improve in each take and give new expression every time”.
Rathnavelu also showered praise on Ram Charan and Samantha. “After watching the film, everyone will rave about the performance of Ram Charan in the film. Though Samantha plays a rural girl, we decided not to go for a deglam look. There is a beauty in dark women and we wanted to capture the natural beauty with Samantha in the film. In fact, Samantha told me that she never looked as beautiful as how we showcased her in Rangastham and appreciated us. After Ram Charan, Samantha’s performance will be another big attraction of Rangasthalam”, he says.
The lighting pattern of Rathnavelu amazed many actors in the industry. Aishwarya Rai, Mahesh Babu, and even Chiranjeevi were skeptical about his minimal lighting setup on the sets. “I always prefer to use natural lighting and have two to three artificial light setup. Stars like Chiranjeevi who were used to bright colors and lighting in their career had first expressed their doubts but, later, after witnessing the visual quality on the monitor, they were thrilled and extremely happy”.
Rathnavelu is not someone who always works in big films. “I’m a film institute graduate and a passionate cinema lover. There is nothing big and small in films to me. After the magnum opus Enthiran, I did films like Haridas and Kumari 21F”. The ace DOP has also worked in more than 3000 commercials, “The exposure and swift working style in advertisements helped me in films. Today, directors and producers say that I can complete any shot within a short span of time”, says Rathnavelu, who also got several Bollywood offers.
“After Enthiran, Aamir Khan wanted me to work in Bollywood. When Salman Khan remade Sethu, the makers wanted me to crank the camera but as I already worked in the Tamil version, I opted out of the project. I have enough fame here in South so why would I want to live alone in an apartment in Mumbai (laughs)? Moreover, audiences in North have seen my work with Enthiran”, smiles Rathnavelu. His Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is also likely to be dubbed in Hindi.
Rathnavelu also wants to direct a film and he has a bound script. “I’ve my script ready, producers and actors have shown interest but Rajinikanth sir wanted me to work in Lingaa and then, Chiranjeevi sir called for his comeback film in Tollywood. Guess, I have to wait until next year to complete Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy and then, begin my directorial film”, signs off Rathnavelu who has completed twenty years in the film industry.
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