Exclusive : M Sukumar Interview

We spotted M.Sukumar filming in a tiny forest in Hyderabad. His last few films were Chi.La.Sow and Manmadhudu, Republic, Ichata Vahanalu Nilaparadhu and right now he is winding up Yashoda which has Samantha Ruth Prabhu in the lead role. Sukumar is not entirely new to us, we had seen his work in the dubbed films and we are aware that he has helped to craft some of the most memorable images in the history of cinema. His accomplished filmography includes the likes of Myna, Kumki, Thaen (Honey), Nimirindhu Nil, Maan Karate etc. Born and brought up in Madurai, he loved watching cinema like any other kid and moved away from academics to become a still photographer and then he gradually segued into doing feature films as a cinematographer. Though he is good at doing diverse genres, his forte is capturing countryside and the forests as realistic as possible; right now he is into urban stories. A chat with the very talented and accomplished cinematographer:

Sukumar followed his brother to Chennai, where the former was working as a still photographer. He reminisces, “I have been born and brought up in Madurai. In 1992, I relocated to Chennai for a career in cinema. I told my brother I am interested in still photography and want to go to Chennai, my brother was a still photographer. I wasn’t doing much in Madurai and hence thought I would pursue a career in Chennai. Actor Vikram gave me a chance to be an independent photographer/still photographer and I worked for around forty films. My Frames, colors impressed both Vikram and director Prabhu Solomon. On the latter’s encouragement, insistence and proposal I turned an assistant cameraman. At that time, I didn’t know anything about cinematography but I got a chance to be one in Azhagiya Tamil Magan. It was a Vijay starrer and the DoP was Balasubramaniam. Later I asked Prabhu Solomon to give me a chance to prove myself as an independent cameraman. Prabhu Solomon said I was very talented and I shouldn’t confine myself to still photography and upgraded me as a DoP. He gave me a movie 16 Days (Laadam) immediately starring Charmme. It was bilingual and Yashoda is my 36th movie”.

The cinematographer doesn’t like to be known for having a particular skill set and he also doesn’t want to be branded or typecast. He elaborates, “I don’t believe in doing a film in my style. I surrender to the director completely and follow his instructions and the script and its requirements. I want to deliver his vision on the screen.So far I have worked in multiple genres and I must say I do give my inputs. I do suggest the colours, frames etc but the feel and soul will be that of the director. I don’t like to be branded for my visuals and be known for delivering something particular. I always wish to give what the script demands which is why my visuals have an element of diversity. Be it Myna, Kumki, Man Karate, Bhairava…there have been umpteen hits and average films. Very few have not worked at the box office. Manmadhudu 2, Cheela Sow..my contributions are visible. Be it set, costumes etc…When it comes to the script, I never think about the budget. Be it a big canvas or a tiny canvas, I am game to be a part of the film. I have done a film called Thaen (Honey) and the budget of the film was seventy five lakhs. It is on Sony and it fetched 110 awards. That was very gratifying.”

How does Sukumar break a dry subject with his creative inputs? “After the director’s narration..we decide if it is to be a film depiction or it should be portrayed in a natural or a realistic style. I follow the content and give my inputs accordingly. For me all directors are the best, each of them come with new and fresh content but if you insist whom I want to work with, I would like to associate with director Sukumar. Cinema is universal and it has no language in particular. It is all about creativity and technique. My inspiration is cinematographer Jeeva who has done fabulous films like Vaali, Kushi. When it comes to my films, I find all of them challenging, I treat each film as a new project and a first film and I give my 100 percent to it. I don’t come with any baggage. I had worked for a song in Murugadoss film and I worked on a Kannada film too. I strongly believe cinema is one and it transcends boundaries.”

The DoP quips that Yashoda is a very nice, exciting subject and is all praise for Samantha who has performed excellently. He adds, “I love all my artists and their work. When I get connected with an artist’s performance I immediately give them a compliment0 right there. I strive to see there is no loss of time and money for each scene, when I collaborate with set designers or costume designers, managers or set assistants or any associates. My preparation, spade work is perfect. to get set v continuity, lighting, pleasant ambience and flexibility. The output of Yashoda has been very satisfying. There are a lot of talented technicians in the cinema field, the only fact that differentiates one from the other is the success of the film at the box office, we cannot write away anyone’s talent. The factors that determine the success of the film are also extraneous. All of us are yearning for a theatrical release. I do agree OTT has provided opportunities for a lot, the work that we do is the same for both OTT and big screen but the big screen has its own magic and it is the producer’s choice where he wants to release it.”

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