'I was very nervous about how a legendary filmmaker like Joshiy would respond to my work'
...says cinematographer Ajay David Kachapilly on shooting the director's comeback film Porinju Mariyam Jose
A lot of folks were surprised when director Joshiy, who normally works with seasoned actors and technicians, assembled a bunch of up-and-coming actors and technicians for his new film, Porinju Mariyam Jose. Among them is cinematographer Ajay David Kachappilly, who tells us he is glad that the legendary filmmaker decided to take a chance on somebody with only a few credits to his name.
Ajay, who made his debut with Adi Kapyare Kootamani, says Joshiy was initially sceptical about him but was later impressed with his work. “I was very nervous about how he would respond to my work. However, on the third day of the shoot, he appreciated the way I lit a particular scene. That was a huge confidence-booster for me.”
Ajay found the experience of working with Joshiy surreal. “It’s amazing that even after being in the field for more than 40 years, his passion for cinema is still intense. In spite of having some other projects lined up, he picked up Porinju Mariyam Jose because he was more excited about it. And I could see why. When I read the script, I realised that it presented a lot of possibilities for a cinematographer.”
To Ajay, Porinju Mariyam Jose was like a breath of fresh air after an array of realistic films that came from Malayalam cinema. “Not that I have a problem with realistic cinema — I loved films like Sudani from Nigeria and Maheshinte Prathikaram — but we occasionally need mass entertainers like this too. And who better than Joshiy sir to do it?” he asks.
Since Ajay was involved with the film’s pre-production work for a long time, he managed to get a thorough grasp of the material and learned a lot from Joshiy in the process. “He can correct a scene or infuse the necessary punch into it by simply adding a word or two.”
When asked about the film’s distinct visual style, Ajay explains that the themes in the story dictated the colour palette. “85 per cent of the film takes place at night, and we wanted to capture the various moods the film goes through — celebration, romance, revenge, and so on. If you have noticed, the quantity of red is more in the second half. But I must say that a cinematographer’s work can be satisfactory only if all departments — art, camera, costumes — work together. A director of photography can’t achieve everything on his own.”
Since the film is set in the 80s, the team worked hard to get the vintage look right. Ajay says he was relieved to know that they got it right after music director Jakes Bejoy and sound designer Vishnu Shankar remarked that they could really feel the time period. “We were not going for a realistic look. What you see on the screen is what I saw in my mind while reading the script. The idea was to do something very cinematic.”