‘Malayalam cinema gives space for experimentation’
...says Maradona cinematographer Deepak D Menon as he talks to us about his working process and technical choices
Before making his debut in Malayalam with Tovino Thomas' Tharangam, cinematographer Deepak D Menon worked in the Tamil and Telugu film industry with established names such as AR Murugadoss. Deepak is the director of photography of Maradona, his second Malayalam film. He discusses his working process and some of the technical decisions made in the film.
Maradona's green tone was to establish a particular mood, Deepak tells us. "As there was the possibility of more colours coming into the picture, we didn't want to take away the viewer's attention, and that's why we used mostly green for the exteriors and warm colours for the interiors."
On photographing Chemban Vinod's character, he says, "As Martin is always cool, we didn't want to use a stylish shot to build him, except for that scene where he brings down the shutter, and that too with low angles, shadows and flares. We wanted to keep things subtle and avoided all the dynamic shots which would look out of place in scenes that didn't need them."
The film's intense fight scenes, which oscillate between raw and stylish, are some of the best in recent memory. "We are dealing with a situation where two men are pitted against fifteen. It's quite an implausible situation and so we felt it would be okay to stylise it in a few places. It helps in increasing the tempo," says Deepak.
The entire sequence, he adds, was a bit challenging to film. "Every two hours, the climate would change. Initially, it was all cloudy and we were in a great mood. Everything was exactly the way we wanted it to be. And then right when we were about to start shooting, the sun appeared and we were quite frustrated. After waiting for a while, not many clouds showed up. While we were in the middle of shooting it, the clouds came and went. Because of the tempo, these changes are not noticeable. Also, given the elevation, following the characters with the camera was a challenge."
Deepak doesn't believing in shooting a lot of footage; only what's necessary. "Unless a need arises to improve a particular scene with a few extra shots, I don't like to keep the camera rolling for superfluous footage. With Maradona, we planned everything in advance, such as the placement of actors in a frame. We followed a specific pattern. And the music also helped in a great way, especially the rap song which gelled perfectly with the sequences."
The working methods are quite different in Tamil and Malayalam film industry, according to Deepak. "There is more space for experimentation in Malayalam cinema. In Tamil cinema, a more glossy look is preferred, except in the case of a few experimental filmmakers. In Malayalam, it's not that big a deal if you don't light the actors' face that brightly, whereas in Tamil cinema, the actors' faces must be clearly lit and visible to the viewer. But that doesn't mean we can't make it interesting. It's possible to apply slight variations to this method as well."