Exclusive : Celebrating a career in color

Y.Sunita Chowdhary

Colorist Raghunath Varma Somala is an unpretentious technician, he started young and made it big in a very short time. He had established his own company and is a successful business man too. Having achieved and accomplished everything in his career in a superlative way, he now in his early forties wonders if it is time to hang up his boots and look at something else new and interesting. In a freewheeling conversation with Klapboardpost.com, Raghu says one shouldn’t pull the rope too far. “Every person has an expiry date and you shouldn’t go beyond that and instead quit when you are doing great and look for something else to beat the monotony. One has to give rest, respect to the body and spend time with family. I don’t believe in burning out. A new job will turn you into a student, develop your knowledge and offer fresh challenges. You give space to others by quitting. A person should never depend on a company, it will collapse if that happens.”

“On my friend Manoj Paramahamsa’s suggestion, I came up with this company B2h Studios in 2012. Race Gurram was my first and we worked on a few films in Tamil. All became a hit. In 2015, I spent 25 lakhs and now I have invested over five crores,” says the ‘hit man’ whose client base spread entirely over South India. He doesn’t depend on anyone and spreads his knowledge and expertise wherever he goes and gets a team trained. He reinvests his money into the business, upgrading it constantly and is in the competition. He has been giving successive hits and has broken into the big league long back. Ask Raghu the challenges that a colorist faces, he says, “To ensure a scene has a consistency. Even the color is also a kind of story telling. It is like a wheel in our hands and it is not something we learn if someone teaches and comes by experience. Over a period, we don’t like certain things. If we go to Kashmir, we are happy at the first time and after a week you won’t feel the same. This is similar to our work, we won’t feel the same excitement the second time. So to retain that excitement, what do we do? The iris in the eyes cheats you according to the ambience. The eye becomes neutral every time you revisit the scene. If a colorist works for four or five years, and his career doesn’t move, it is stressful. If a colorist is meticulous and works hard, his career will bloom.”

Is every director knowledgeable and can they differentiate the work a colorist has done? He says, “Every technician has the problem. If a scene is explained and played out and by the time it comes to the editing table and when it reaches the sound engineer..there is a huge process. Even if one makes a mistake we know what goes wrong. If I am a colorist, I can gauge whether a technician has worked and put in sincere effort. Those who have worked for many years can make the difference. It is a technical thing and a director and a producer can’t express in words, they know however there has been a difference. All creative works are challenging. When you do something you like, a DoP might not. We have to travel with the DoP for 15 to 20 days to understand what is on his mind as there will be an emotional attachment. If a DoP is new, I am a fresher for him and that is how I need to behave with him despite having experience. Every person has a profile and we have to apply an approach and style accordingly to that particular person. We should understand their psychology and work, not hurt them and work becomes easy then.”

While you can’t let anyone push you around and stand up for your vision, you have to also be willing to hear other ideas as well. The worst thing you can do is run forward stubbornly and maintain the ‘I am right attitude’. No one wants to work with such a person. Color correction is a great skill to have. It has a visual impact on the image. It is like Photoshop but for moving images You can do a before and after and really see the difference. For an experienced colorist, the toughest, most important part of the job is seeing through the client’s eyes and understanding what they’re seeing and what their eyes like and don’t like. True says Raghu, he adds, “It’s also important to analyze what the client is actually saying to you, keeping in mind that particular color. It can be difficult for some to articulate, that’s where your creativity comes in and where you can chip in your suggestions. There’s more to the job than just making the picture look pretty. There are a lot of talented people out there, but sometimes it comes down to who the client wants to work with. Some think I am a threat to their business but I am not. It is not rocket science and everyone has a space in this world. How good you are with the client determines your stay in the industry. I did 400 films in a span of 12 to 13 years.

Do we have a demand for colorists in the Telugu film industry? “Yes. A film school just teaches the basics but practical training always helps. If there are 100 films and ten colorists, there is a clear deficit. Nowadays we have web series and we need colorists for it as well as for television serials. TV people are now using cinema cameras, lighting, good lenses…they too have multiple channels and are in a competitive mood to showcase content. People do people approach us for jobs, we need a new generation who adapts to new technology. There are many talented colorists than me but because they didn’t get the right film, they are not in the limelight. Healthy competition is good and challenging. We can’t stop people from rising, it is an ideology.”

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