Interview With


There's always an instantaneous nervousness and excitement that strikes you when you are talking to someone who is extremely experienced and senior. But if they break the ice with their very first statement? If they have a very casual humorous take on serious things? That's the kind of conversation I had the the privilege of having with cinematographer Tirru. With films like Hey Ram, Aalavandhan, 24, Vanamagan and many more, he has established a unique approach to his craft and Superstar Rajini's Petta will just add to the list soon. Catch him in conversation with me ahead of this most awaited release of 2019!

Cinematographer Tirru with Rajinikanth

What is your thought about cinema being one of the senior technicians?

I don't consider myself as a special or a big shot in any way. Cinema doesn't save the world. There are other real people who work towards the betterment of this world. Cinema is just a popular industry and I don't feel anything life changing about it.

With an outlook like this, what convinces you to continue do what you do?

I cannot be a hero as I look terrible so cinematography remains as my only option (chuckles). On a serious note, I love nature and capturing it was my favorite part during college. My then girlfriend, gifted me a camera and I started off capturing many interesting things. That's how I started off. As I captured various things, I became greedy and wanted to start videographing too. I always gave importance to theory more than practicals so I concentrated a lot on learning through text. This learning got manifolded when I started assisting PC Sriram where both theory and practical learning went hand in hand. I worked for around 3 films ( Gopura Vasalile, Thevar Magan and Thiruda Thiruda) with him and he literally chased me out as he felt I was ready. That's how he functions usually as he wants his assistants to go out and make a career of their own.

How do you choose your films as we don't see any particular pattern or an underlying trend in your choices?

To be frank and practical, everyone needs a job to support their livelihood. So I take up good opportunities that come my way and my other major criteria is how challenging the project is. I always choose the most challenging work as I love to be daring like that.

Considering the constant evolution of technology, how important it is to stay updated and how do you do it?

More than updation, you must know to travel with the generation. I started off with a format where everything was a tedious process and it took days to have a first look at the output. But, now it is all about instantaneous results and easier routes. But this generation encourages us to be weird and think out of the box. Having said that, there must be a lot of professionalism to handle the aspects today. Not everything must be taken for granted as the technology can match any blunder that you do on spot. But in our country, I strongly feel that we lack professionalism. I think it is mainly because we have stopped being inventors. We are only good executors. All film related technology comes from western countries and we only work like labors.

Karthik Subbaraj is a second generation director considering your experience, how has the writing style changed with time?

Cinematographer Tirru with director Karthik Subbaraj

I feel younger than Karthik Subbaraj. Being experienced is a curse as it might stop you from learning. I constantly want to look at something as if I know nothing about it and I let it teach me. I don't spot any huge change in the writing style though. Talking about writing I want to recollect what director Bharathan once told me. He said it is important to always package relatable and digestible content to people. It's a great advice and he is my mentor. You can think out of the box but not out of the universe.

How much of the writing dictates the camera work?

It tells me how much to dramatise an emotion. It guides me how much I must elevate an action. It is an important manual that I follow while at work. If the writing lacks detail and drama, my camera work will fall flat. In case of Petta, Rajini's command and caricature was the most important factor as he as a global image like Michael Jackson. Karthik was very sure that enough drama was created in every frame that we shot. Though I have a different idea about how to film Rajini, I religiously followed the director's vission and I hope it works with the audience.

Does the performance of an artist dictate the camera work?

Ofcourse. Every actor offers something unique to the table. With Rajini is his flexibility as we can convince him to do anything. Kamal Haasan is versatile and brings a bundle of energy that can be translated into great things on screen. I must talk about Mohanlal here. He is a cinematographer's delight to shoot. He is one actor in our country who understands the technicalities to a very large extent and works with us to improvise a particular scene with respect to the camera work. I wouldn't want every actor to be like him because even I can be an actor just like that but I cannot be good at it (chuckles).

I noticed hues of blue and red dominating in Petta after watching the trailer. What is the idea behind that?

I use colours to bring about emotions and I do that exaggerate the act. I dont think its my style but that's the only thing I know to do. Other technicians might know other knacks to do that though. When people around me also get excited about the visuals I show them, I go ahead with the confidence that this is working out.

Do you usually do any alteration to the output when you package pre-release content for YouTube?

We do certain color gradings to suite the YouTube platform but many a times we don't get enough time. There are no proper timelines or schedules we function with in this industry which makes it sometime very difficult. At times content gets out even before it is completely graded.

How does a multistar casting idea affect your work?

As I told you for a daring cinematographer, it is an interesting game to play. I try and be better than Nawazuddin's acting. I mean, that is how I push the performance and my work to the next level. It is a very harmonious process. With small camera movements and ranges, I can elevate the performance.

You being very critical of your own work is your USP or mantra?

Yes. I think me being unsatisfied with my work keeps me alive and urges me to do more and more. That holds the undying spirit to learn and innovate.

Thank you for your time sir. Your flow of thought shows how the craft of filmmaking has crafted you as a person. I cannot wait to see your act of magic with your camera in Petta.


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