Having a modest budget can be quite beneficial: Lilli cinematographer
Sreeraj Ravindran, who also shot the critically acclaimed Kannada film Katheyondu Shuruvagide,
Among the most striking qualities of the newly released Lilli — apart from its unconventional, never-seen-before treatment — is that in spite of being an independent film made on a shoestring budget, it looks like a film put together by professionals with decades worth of experience. But in reality, barring the editor, everyone on the technical team is a first-timer, including director Prasobh Vijayan.
The credit for that goes to producers Mukesh R Mehta and CV Sarathi of E4 Entertainment, says Lilli's cinematographer Sreeraj Ravindran. "Though we were working on something experimental, the producers didn't want us to make any compromises when it came to the tools we used. They didn't want it to look amateurish; they wanted it to look like a professional film. Given the constraints, we cut down on some portions and went big on others."
Sreeraj, who was trained at Rajiv Menon's Mindscreen Film Institute, also worked on a Kannada film titled Katheyondu Shuruvagide. He met Prasobh around three years ago. "Prasobh's flat was a meeting hub for all his movie nerd pals. I was one of them," he says. They both decided to work on Lilli when another project of Prasobh's didn't materialise.
The cinematographer agrees that the look of some Korean thrillers has influenced Lilli's visual style, in addition to film noir. "Some of these Korean thrillers have a predominantly green colour tone. That was the template we built on. We used green and orange colour a lot. We decided on the colour palette that should be in each frame, and we worked with the costume designer and art director jointly to achieve the look we wanted. Occasionally we used shadows, silhouettes, and fog to achieve the film noir look."
When it came to the lighting, the crew used only what was necessary. For the outdoor shots, they used available light. "Only the lights required for a particular shot were used. We didn't bring anything extra," says Sreeraj. He employed the powerful Red Dragon camera to capture these visuals. "As I said, no compromises were made, especially when it came to the camera."
Though it was planned as a 25-day shoot, the team finished filming in 23 days. "The fact that we finished on time without going over budget brought us immense satisfaction," says Sreeraj, who is actually an editor-turned-cinematographer. His editing background came in handy during filming. "I was doing the editing in my mind. I knew when and where to cut. We had a precise shot breakdown list which we followed to a T. I find that having a modest budget can sometimes be quite beneficial."