With his upcoming directorial ventures, Ponniyin Selvan 2 and Indian 2, Ravi Varman is all set to take the audience on a cinematic journey. He also shares some insightful tips on direction and the art of film making.
1. What inspired you to become a cinematographer and director?
Life experiences and circumstances have served as a source of inspiration for me. I have been fortunate enough to delve into the world of art, particularly paintings, which have taught me the significance of elements such as color, light, shadow, and reflection. This understanding has helped me incorporate these elements into my work as a filmmaker.
2. Can you tell us about your experience working on the film “Ponniyin Selvan”?
As a cinematographer with 34 films under my belt, I understand the significance of each frame. My approach remains the same for every project I take on, be it Ponniyin Selvan or any other film. I am dedicated to my craft and work tirelessly to ensure that each frame is crafted with care and precision, as they are all equally important
3. How do you approach lighting and colour in your cinematography?
As a cinematographer, I view my role as pivotal in creating the visual elements of a film. I believe that the combination of color and light is essential to evoke emotions and bring the story to life. After first carefully selecting the appropriate hues, I choreograph the lighting to enhance the mood and create a harmonious balance. The result is a magical interplay of colour and light that elevates the overall viewing experience
4. How do you collaborate with directors and other members of the crew to achieve the desired visual style?
I play a critical role in realising the visual elements of a film. However, it is the collective effort and collaboration of many departments that bring a shot to life. For instance, the director, writer, producer, climate and location may have a specific vision for a scene, but it is the cinematographer who is responsible for fixing the frame, which is the foundation of every shot. After the frame is established, lighting and colour are carefully considered to enhance the visual story. It is through this collaboration between different technicians that a singular vision is realized. I view my role as a vital link in the chain of creative collaboration that makes a movie what it is
5. How do you keep up with advancements in technology and incorporate them into your work?
Definitely, technology has been a great asset in all industries, not just in the film industry. In the past, if one wanted to view a film, they had to go to a theater. Today, there are numerous sources available for viewing films. However, technology only facilitates the process and does not replace the creative aspect of filmmaking. The true source of creativity lies within the individual and is cultivated through experience, education, and reading books. Technology is merely an added advantage that can enhance the process, but it cannot replace the creativity and artistry that a cinematographer brings to the table
6. Please tell us about your process for capturing and creating memorable and impactful shots in a film?
You keep an open mind, you get new ideas. I experiment with different lighting setups and camera angles to find the best way to visually tell the story.
7. Can you talk about any particular challenges you faced while working on “Ponniyin Selvan” and how you overcame them?
To be honest, I faced more challenges while working on the film ‘Barfi’ and ‘Tamasha’ as opposed to ‘Ponniyin Selvan’. It was not an easy task from a creative perspective; it required a lot of hard work due to time and budget constraints. I had to be physically active and work under pressure, which I found to be the most challenging aspect of the project. Mentally, I did not face any difficulties while working on ‘Ponniyin Selvan’. Nevertheless, all projects were rewarding in their own ways and I am proud of the work I have done in each of them
8. How do you balance artistic vision with technical demands in your work?
Indeed, artistic vision is the most important aspect of our work. Just like in painting, earlier one needed a brush to create art and now it can be done digitally. The tools have changed but the process remains the same. The painting must come from your mind, and the thought process is more significant than the technology. In cinematography, it’s the same, technology is just a tool, but the creative vision must come from within, and that is what truly makes the difference
9. Can you share any tips for aspiring cinematographers and directors?
Self-respect is of the utmost importance for anyone who wishes to pursue a career in filmmaking. They must be good readers. Read a lot of books. If you have self-respect, you exude confidence in yourself, and you can achieve anything. Maintaining one’s self-respect is crucial in this industry. This is my tip to all aspiring filmmakers – never lose sight of your self-respect
10. What are some of your favourite films or cinematographers that have influenced your work?
There are many, in fact. As I’ve grown older, my preferences have changed. In Tamil cinema, I have many favorites. When I was introduced to Bollywood, I developed a liking for someone else. Similarly, when I discovered Western and European cinema, I found myself drawn to different individuals. The list goes on and on, and it’s never-ending. In the process of learning and growing as a cinematographer, I get inspired by so many artists and come to appreciate their works
11. Can you discuss your experience working with different types of cameras and lenses?
I believe that lenses are more crucial than the camera itself. Personally, I prefer working with all kinds of lenses. My preferences keep evolving over time as technology keeps evolving.
12. How do you create the mood and atmosphere in a scene through lighting and cinematography?
It is crucial to understand the story that we’re trying to tell. That is the deciding factor. Our perspective as the audience plays a key role in bringing the desired vision to life through lighting
13. Indian 2 and Ponniyin Selvan 2 are one of the most anticipated movies to watch out for. Tell us more about these projects.
Every film I work on holds a special place in my heart. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on both Indian 2 and Ponniyin Selvan 2. I believe that hard work and luck go hand-in-hand in this field, and I am grateful for my good fortune in this regard.
14. What are the future projects you’re working on?
I don’t plan for the future. I only focus on every minute as they pass by and what I am working on today. That’s all that matters to me.
15. Can you share any memorable moments or experiences from your work in Ponniyin Selvan?
The whole movie has been a memorable experience. I grew a lot of grey hair by the end of the movie.