Cinematographer Murali G, best known for 'Andala Rakshasi' and 'Kabali', is making a comeback to Tollywood with 'Kushi'. The Vijay Deverakonda-Samantha Ruth Prabhu film, he says, is a feel-good romance with a specific visual flavour. He describes director Shiva Nirvana as a meticulous filmmaker and the producers at Mythri Movie Makers as passionate.
The film releases in theatres on September 1. Read on to learn more about its cinematographer and his style...
I hail from a small village in Tamil Nadu. My parents were elementary school teachers. After Intermediate, I pursued fine arts. I joined a music college to explore my artistic persuasions and creativity. I used to paint as a teen. My mother is an artist. I am an alumnus of the Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), where the intake was extremely limited. The number of seats was just 14 but the competition was nation-wide. 'Andala Rakshasi' is my first feature film. Before that, I won a National Award for a film I did while at the FTII. After my Telugu debut, I did 'Madras', 'Kabali', 'Kaala' and 'Sarpatta Parambarai' with Pa. Ranjith in Tamil.
I like realistic movies. I also enjoy doing politically conscious movies. That's why I have worked more in Tamil over the years. As a teen, I was part of the student wing of the Communist Party of India. I am inclined toward Communism but I am not a die-hard Communist. I was a social worker doing street plays and lending other artistic assistance to the party. As a Tamilian, I am inclined to support the Dravidian identity. That said, I believe in universal values and respecting other identities.
'Kushi' is my second Telugu film, which I bagged through Mythri Movie Makers. I haven't come across more humble and patient producers in my career. Y Ravi Shankar sir and Naveen Yerneni sir are not commercial in their mindset. They are passionate about cinema. They are clear about what they want from their team of artists and technicians. When I accepted 'Kushi', I didn't even know who its director was.
Vijay Deverakonda is a Mani Ratnam fan in the movie. His character is fascinated by his filmography. But he is jolted by reality (when he moves to Kashmir). The frames in my Tamil films have been raw and rustic. In Mani Ratnam's films, there is an element of dreamy fantasy. That flavour has been brought to life in 'Kushi'. I have always been into realistic cinematography. For 'Kushi', I had to change my approach. Director Shiva Nirvana told me the film is commercial in nature but the frames have to look realistic while being colourful. Nirvana is a light-hearted person. He is a passionate filmmaker. He is meticulous and has a strong sense of music. He knows how to handle his cast. We started the shoot soon after doing a recce (in Kashmir).
In 'Kabali', the colour palette was dominated by black. 'Kaala' was a political film and therefore, the colour black dominated. In 'Kushi', bright colours dominate in some scenes because it is feel-good. The production designer of 'Kushi' was particular about the colours to be used for the Kashmir portions, the Hyderabad portions, in the portions where the lead pair develops friction... The backdrop, the colours - everything was finalized with forethought. There is consistency and visual harmony in 'Kushi'. The audience will sense the harmony on the psychological level.
I have done a limited number of movies because I associate with the project right from start to end. I won't accept another project in the meantime. I didn't move to another project for two years sometimes. 'Kushi' was supposed to be released in theatres in December last year. Due to unforeseen issues (Samantha's health took a beating), the project got delayed.
PC Sreeram made cinematography dramatic. He made the audience clap when his name appeared during the opening credits. He experimented with lighting and angles. The nature of cinema as a visual medium has undergone a change over the decades. Now, you have to change your approach. Things have changed completely. A director of photography has to be conscious of the evolutionary changes.
Vijay Deverakonda is a clear-minded actor. I and he share a nice bond. He is a subtle actor and never goes overboard. Samantha is highly professional and knows how to handle things. Music director Hesham is not replaceable as far as 'Kushi' is concerned. Whatever he has given to this film is what was needed. The songs, the visuals and the performances are in perfect harmony, maintaining a certain mood. The background score will be seen as another highlight.
I will think about my next project only after the release of 'Kushi'.