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Lens view of life

He draws inspiration from the writings of J.Krishnamurthy, helps raise funds for social causes and continues to excel as cinematographer and ad filmmaker. A profile of P. C. Sreeram, who is now directing his second Tamil film.

"WHEN YOU watch a P.C.Sreeram film, you can take home images that will stay with you for a long time. Regardless of the kind of film and the director, Sreeram always comes up with pleasant surprises on the sets that makes things really interesting". A fitting compliment paid to ace cinematographer and ad filmmaker P.C.Sreeram by his friend and business partner, P.Jayendra of J.S.Films.

Sreeram, whose recent works in the ad field include Pepsodent ("Dishum dishum"), Bajaj Sapphire and Fair and Lovely, is a National Award winning cinematographer ("Nayagan"), who has worked with directors such as Mani Ratnam, Faazil, Priyadarshan and Kamal Hassan.

He creates visual poetry in every film with his camera, enhancing the effect of the story with imaginative and cleverly composed frames. Much ahead of his time, Sreeram has dared to defy convention when he needs to. An intense person, who seems wrapped up in his own thoughts ("I'm not a loner", he insists), 45-year old Sreeram, undeterred by his first disastrous brush with the camera (his first roll didn't yield any prints), says, "It was only in this medium that I was able to find myself.''

School and academics didn't particularly interest him but he plodded on and later got himself enrolled in a cinematography course at the Film and Television Institute, Tamil Nadu.

"In the film world, one cannot touch the camera till you are something, but at the institute you really learn to play with it. My education started at the institute and it opened up new avenues. During this time, I started reading J.Krishnamurthy's books, which gave me the strength to try out new techniques. I also watched Japanese, French and other films made by great masters that helped me explore fresh angles".

Once out of the Institute, films such as "Meendum Oru Kaathal Kathai'' directed by Pratap Pothen and Faazil's ``Poove Poo Chooda Va'' afforded him the scope to showcase his talent.

Then came a host of Mani Ratnam films — ``Mouna Ragam", "Nayagan", "Agni Natchathiram", "Thiruda Thiruda" and the more recent "Alai Payuthe." Also he worked with Kamal Hassan in "Apoorva Sahotharargal" and "Thevar Magan."

Sreeram ventured into the field direction by remaking Govind Nihalani's "Drohkaal" as ``Kurudhi Punal", (a box-office success which had no song and dance sequences). It was India's official entry for the Oscars. His current directorial venture. "Vanam Vasappadum" (based on a novel by Sujatha) won't be just another film, he promises.

Sreeram has carved a niche for himself with his outstanding work, but says he never consciously tries to be different. "I evolve with each film and move ahead with conviction''.

What kind of an effect does he try to achieve when working on a film? "My approach is to concentrate on the story and convey imaginatively what is needed. In "Alai Payuthey", the story called for a totally realistic approach, as also in "Thevar Magan". Everything in a film — tonal value, sets, lighting — the ambience should speak for the characters. I usually put myself in the audience's place and see my work critically. This is a continuous process and a collective effort. I prefer working with people with whom I can relate".

On his equations with Mani Ratnam and Kamal Hassan, he says they are like-minded people. "I work with them on a project, then give a gap because I want to travel and meet more people. Mani brings out the best in me."

Sreeram doesn't believe that his next logical step should be to enter Bollywood. "My progress should be an extension of what I have done so far", he says.

He, who likes variety in work, feels that the approach to advertising and feature film is totally different. He is also an avid photographer and has held several exhibitions. "I indulge in still photography for my own pleasure".

In fact, he has donated some of his stills to The Banyan for fund-raising. Sreeram has so far trained many up and coming camerapersons (Prabhu, Ramji, Fowzia, Deva, Muruga, K.V.Anand and Thirunavukkarasu), who are now establishing themselves in the film industry. No mean contribution this!

SUDHA UMASHANKER

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