How did it all begin?
Talking to her about how and when it all started, she told, “ On a bus ride to Salem after writing our boards, three of us friends were taking a trip to her grandfather’s house. I was reading Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead through the night and like many in my generation I was blown away. You know the famous line from it – ‘The question isn’t who is going to let me, it is who is going to stop me’. It was all about making choices. All charged up and inspired I decided I wasn’t going to walk the trodden path. I was going to study something that inspired me. I didn’t know yet what that was but I got off the bus with that clear thought. Often your career may not be about doing what you love, it is a job. I love cinema and cinematography and all the little bits and pieces that go into the creation of movies. So here I am doing what I love and I guess it started on that bus ride.”
Did you always want to do cinematography?
I was always interested in images. Poetry, words, imagery. Being around my uncle PC Sreeram had a sub conscious impact, all those lenses and lights, watching all his films- premiere night, spending summers being obedient models for his photography experiments. My cousins and I were very much part of his creative process, observing his passion for the craft. The bug must have bitten me then. Maybe when I was 10 or 11.
How was the experience on your first shoot?
I was on top of a hill in Ooty. Had shot on small cameras and worked around film cameras as an assistant, but this was my first Ad shoot as a DOP. I put my eye in the eye piece and after the first take rolled I knew all the years of hard work and struggle were for this. I still feel that way when my eye is in the eye piece. A feeling of coming home.
Takeaways and comments from PC Sreeram sir
I know he is very proud of me. He knows I have come a long way in the journey. His body of work from his first film to now continues to inspire me. His style is iconic and inimitable.
How did you get roped in for your first movie?
I was asked to shoot Anita Udeep’s Indie film Knock Knock I’m looking to marry. It was my first feature shot on the early digital camera. A change that then swept the film industry. It was great to research and shoot that.
What was the toughest film or shot that you did?
Nothing is tough when you love what you do. Challenging maybe but it’s all part of the adrenaline rush of the job. Some stress and strife brings out the best in all of us.
What, according to you, is the biggest responsibility of a cinematographer?
Translating the vision of the Director, to tell the story with my aesthetic and with all my experience as a cinematographer and human being. All the books, art and artistic influences, things part of my meta will find their way into every film. At its core it is working with the director to tell a story with conviction and creativity.
Do you think the opportunities for women in your field are equal? Is it changing for the better?
It is not equal. The numbers will tell you that. It is changing. Mindsets should also change for that. Talent not gender should decide who gets a job, this is a universal truth that should apply to every field.
Her work was last seen in Dhoomam (Malayalam) and she is one of the four women cinematographers who are part of Indian society of cinematographers. She wants upcoming cinematographers to stick around, develop coping skills when they don’t get what they want. She also added, “ You can’t be in the movies if you don’t love it. One day on a set will tell you if it’s your calling. We are a mad bunch of people chasing that one perfect shot.”