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Impressive oeuvre

Prema Manmadhan

Cinematographer S. Shamdat returns to Malayalam after making his name in other languages.



Angling for the right frame: S. Shamdat

The Palakkad lad who went out of Kerala to find his feet is back, firmly entrenched in cinema. This time, S. Shamdat, cinematographer from the Ravi K. Chandran stable, has established himself in Malayalam, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and English movies. Shamdat's oeuvre is small, but impressive. It includes, apart from documentaries, video albums and ad films, 3D Max Media's `Tantric Genre', `Premayanamaha,' a Telugu movie, `Annu Mazhayayirunnu,' a telefilm, and now, `Krityam.'

"I will be doing Shyamaprasad's movie on O.V. Vijayan's `Kazakkinte Ithihasam,' Rosshan Andrrew's next project and `PC,' directed by Shaji Kailas," said the unassuming cinematographer.

Shamdat, who was picked by ace cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran to assist him, worked with him for `Dil Chahta Hai,' `Calcutta Mail,' `Koi Mil Gaya,' and `Yuva.' Soon after, Shamdat branched off on his own.

Actor turned cinematographer

He boasts of no degree in cinematography. Strangely enough, it was acting that Shamdat studied "in an obscure institute in the State capital," as he puts it. But the camera fascinated the teenager and it was a battle of sorts with his headmaster-father to buy him a camera. The SLR that his father gave him opened the world of photography and he won a State and national award for his photographs. "I almost fell in love with my camera. I would go to sleep, hugging it and once, I lost it. But after some weeks, I got it back."

Pitching in the money he earned from commissioned work, (Rs.26,000) he made a black-and-white documentary, `Dominion,' which got a lot of attention in the film festival circuit. With that he shifted to moving pictures.

It was `Dominion' that brought Shamdat into the national scene.

"I read whatever I could on photography. Later, in the course of my career, 3D Max gave me a flat, car and whatever books I needed just to learn more about cinematography, to make `Tantric Genre.' I benefited a lot from that experience," Shamdat says.

Shamdat says that cinema is artificial and the colour scheme of a scene should be carefully composed if the viewer is to get the right message, intended by the makers of the movie.

He will go to any extent to see that quality is maintained "because we have to keep comparing our work with the best in the international scene if we are to improve."

Research and study is important to Shamdat, who, apart from the work of Ravi, watches the films of Shyam Benegal and Mani Rathnam to study compositions. Shamdat is happiest, he says, while looking through a viewfinder to perfect the angles.

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