Colours of labour: The Kaala cinematographer interview
Cinematographer Murali G discusses Kaala, its colour schemes, and of course, what it was like to work with Rajinikanth
Kaala has cinematographer Murali G working with Rajinikanth for the second time (after Kabali), but it didn't stop him from being almost a fanboy on the sets. His admiration for the actor is evident from how he can't stop waxing lyrical about the Superstar. "He's full of questions on the sets and is, even today, open to learning. He tries to understand the little details, but never interferes when it comes to creative decisions. As Kabali was my first film with him, I was a bit tense, but here, in Kaala, I was more relaxed," he admits.
Murali has grown up on a diet of Rajinikanth films, and understood the magnitude of the responsibility thrust upon him. "It's a big deal for me. There's a reason why he's called the Superstar. He's a big fan of cinema himself, and is never short of encouragement for technicians," he says.
Murali is optimistic about Kaala, and expresses that Rajinikanth's contributions cannot be overstated. "Some people do films, and then they lose interest. Kaala is his 164th project, but he still retains a childlike enthusiasm, which is totally amazing. His energy levels are unmatched. He knows everything about our equipment and the software."
Be it Rajini sir or Ranjith, they extend freedom to their technicians. That's why their films have been successful.
Murali shares that the colour schemes used in the film, are customised for each character. "It's predominantly black, white and red. Ranjith, Ramalingam (the art director) and I come from a fine arts background; we studied painting. Naturally, that helps us be creative with our palette choices."
He asks, "Why does a politician wear white all the time? Why does a don dress in black? These may seem like simple questions, but it is a reflection of one's environment. Nana Patekar is seen wearing white when he talks about cleanliness. What does it depict? Would you believe if I say that ideologies are related to colours, and in a sense, influence how you understand the world? The moment you think of black, you associate that with something unpleasant. We've delved into these aspects."
Kaala isn't an extension of Kabali. People can't jump into conclusions on seeing the promo videos.
The technician assures that Kaala will be a step ahead of Kabali in every way. As a cinematographer, he says shooting the opening scenes were particularly challenging. "Thalaivar-oda entry dhan mass-ey. The man has a larger-than-life image, and his fans come to theatres with high expectations. Catering to those demands and fulfilling them consciously took us all some time."
Murali, who made his debut with the Telugu film, Andala Rakshasi (2012) knows Ranjith from his Madras days. "He is a revolutionary, and doesn't see himself as a commercial director. I am not saying this because he's my friend. We share similar ideologies, and I share an emotional bond with him. He wants to bring about a change in the society, and sees cinema as a movement. Ranjith-oda voice, aana Rajini sir hero. That's Kaala!"
He says the film revolves around the subject of land mafia. Can he reveal more about the film? "Remember the line, 'Nilam engal urimai'? The film discusses the effects of globalisation and why there exist slums like Dharavi today. We all think people who live there are unhappy, but it's actually the opposite. Ranjith has beautifully shown them on screen. Kaala (the character) represents the voice of the oppressed, and he's loved unconditionally by them in return," he says.
At the audio launch, Rajinikanth had said that after Antony in Baashha and Neelambari in Padayappa, he's found a worthy adversary in Hari dada (Nana Patekar) in Kaala. Murali agrees and can't wait for the audience to find out why. "It was a delight to be on the sets and see them work. Besides punch dialogues, Kaala also showcases sir's persona and how audiences relate to him." As a parting line, he lets out a bit about the film: "Kaththi sandai irukaadhu. Buddhi sandai naraiya irukum. (The battle in this film is fought with the mind, not the sword)"