Sanju cinematographer Ravi Varman on working with Ranbir Kapoor for the fourth time: He has excelled in his performance

Surendhar MK

Jun,27 2018 09:06:47 IST

Accomplished cinematographer Ravi Varman is one of the very few technicians who is exceptionally passionate about what and how he speaks in a conversation. He's a rare artist who wants his answers to provide interesting insights to cinephiles besides just serving the purpose of the interviewer. If one has followed his career to an extent, marvelled at his most exquisite frames and indulged in his aesthetic sense to capture a scene, there's no denying the fact that his life has been an excellent source of inspiration for all aspiring technicians in the industry.

Firstpost caught up with Ravi Varman for an exclusive chat on his forthcoming release Sanju, working with Ranbir Kapoor, why he doesn't watch his films and his upcoming magnum-opus Indian 2 with Kamal Haasan and director Shankar.

Actor Ranbir Kapoor and cinematographer Ravi Varman on the sets of Sanju.

Actor Ranbir Kapoor and cinematographer Ravi Varman on the sets of Sanju.

"It was Ranbir Kapoor who put forward my name to Rajkumar Hirani for Sanju," said Ravi Varman in a matter-of-fact tone. Asked about the challenges in shooting his first biopic, he said, "The challenge in shooting a biopic is that there are chances it would become a documentary because there won't be enough fantasy elements in a biopic. Sanjay's life is full of ups and downs, which pretty much makes for a perfect subject for a biopic. Picking the happenings that can be adaptable as a movie without dramatizing it or making it fall flat is where the knack is."

Sanju, which is jointly produced by Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra, marks Ravi Varman's first association with Hirani and fourth collaboration with Ranbir Kapoor after Barfi!, Tamasha and Jagga Jasoos.

"There's an inspiring story behind the life of Sanjay Dutt. It's like a complete roller coaster with varied emotions. Ranbir Kapoor has excelled in his performance with great ease," he said.

Talking about joining forces with Ranbir for the fourth time, Ravi said, "As a person, he is very courteous. Sanju is my fourth film with him, but the way he treats me hasn't changed a bit from our Barfi! days. While calling for a shot, there are times I have called him RK, but he still calls me Ravi sir. I have never sensed negativity in him. Even if there were any unfavourable happenings, he will stay calm and would never utter anything negative. I've never seen him speak badly about anyone. If we try to rave about his performance or his persona, it will make him so awkward that the other person can feel it."

As much as there are heroic moments in Sanjay Dutt's life, it is also equally replete with tragedies and losses. "Sanjay Dutt's parents were legendary actors. He crossed certain barriers, and those circumstances forced him into the dark side. I too had a dark side in my life where I spared no effort before I got a break. It was forced upon me. Born into such an affluent family, Sanjay chose something for himself, lived his life to the fullest on his terms, carried away by the flow of his life. Sanju will shatter all the misconceptions about Sanjay Dutt's life. It will make him feel proud," he stated.

Actor Ranbir Kapoor and cinematographer Ravi Varman on the sets of Sanju.

Actor Ranbir Kapoor and cinematographer Ravi Varman on the sets of Sanju.

Ravi Varman is one of the few cinematographers who have successfully left his imprint on both small, and big budget films. However, he doesn't differentiate between the two. He explains why: "The lead cast decides the budget of a film be it small or big. If you replace the hero in a big budget film with a newcomer, it becomes a low budget film. The vision is same regardless of the budget. Maybe we have to change the location from Switzerland to Ooty, but there's no change in the vision. There are people like Sridhar, Balu Mahendra and Mani Ratnam who have captured Ooty and portrayed drop-dead gorgeous visuals. But, a few have created insipid visuals of heavenly Switzerland too."

After ruminating a bit, he further added why the budget is never a constraint. "The light changes very fast in the daytime. Being a very impatient person I have to capture the light very fast. There's beauty in everything around us; it's our mindset that captures the beauty in the simplest of things. Like science and Mathematics, we have to understand it. The budget is never a concern at all. What emotion does my frame convey to the audience is all that matters. My frame has to contribute to the mood and feeling of any scene and overall to the story. I don't want the audience to remember me while crediting a shot. If they appreciate the actors' looks, I will take that as a credit to myself," he says.

Ravi Varman says he neither watches the final copies of his films nor the post-release version in theatres. "Of course, I will watch others' movies in theatres. I have watched hardly few films of mine post-release like Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu and Kaatru Veliyidai. If I start to feel that a shot looks great on screen with music and effects, that's where I get deceived. So I prefer to watch my films without music and effects. When I sign a new film, I will watch all my previous movies before I start working on it. All those movies will be without music, and rerecording and each story's visuals trimmed and framed to a 5-minute showreel. In that way, it helps to know the mistakes I committed in the past. I would even watch it for more than a hundred times but not once with the music and effects," he revealed.

Asked about how technology has changed the filmmaking process ever since his made his debut in 1999 through the Malayalam film Jalamarmaram, Ravi Varman said, "Technology is everchanging. But filmmaking as an art is not. During my early days when I couldn't even afford a bus ticket, I used to walk for miles to my work. After attaining some fame, one day I took my daughter on a bus to the beach. It took hours to return home. That night she asked me why I took her on a bus. I said I wanted her to experience everything. Then, she rued how she lost a lot of time because of the bus travel. That's when I realized what is precious in life; it's time. Make the most of it, live every moment, capture it."

He further added, "Technology is a tool to save time. I can't communicate or articulate what I have in my mind but my directors can understand it when I position my camera, and that's what has worked between me and Mani sir or Anurag Basu or Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I don't spend my time communicating what I have in mind."

Cinematographer Ravi Varman at work.

Cinematographer Ravi Varman at work.

One of Ravi Varman's most anticipated upcoming projects is Indian 2 produced by Lyca Productions. The project marks his reunion with Shankar after the 2005 psychological thriller Anniyaan and his third film with Kamal Haasan after Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu and Dasavatharam.

Read: Kamal Haasan's Indian set benchmark for special effects, art direction — How will the sequel fare?

"When Shankar and I did Anniyaan, I didn't get the chance to know him personally. Later, when I travelled with him on a few occasions, I realised how great a person he is. Shankar sir and Mani sir are some of the most exceptional people I have met in my life. We share an excellent understanding," he said.

"Kamal sir is the prime strength for me to be what I am today. After he heard about my Malayalam film Santham, he called me, and he watched the movie all alone in a theatre. After watching the film, he appreciated my work and asked me to venture into commercial space soon. Within a few years, Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu happened. It was one of the breakthroughs in my career," said Ravi Varman on a concluding note.

Sanju releases worldwide on 29 June.

Updated Date: Jun 27, 2018 10:59 AM