I want to do movies with mass appeal, says Kerala State Award-winning cinematographer Manesh Madhavan

Manesh is busy with the upcoming movie of director Maju who earlier helmed the critically acclaimed film 'Appan'.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published Sep 02, 2023 | 5:30 PMUpdatedSep 02, 2023 | 5:30 PM

Manesh Madhavan bagged the best cinematographer award

Manesh Madhavan is busy shooting for his new movie. The project is being shot near Ottapalam in Kerala.

The young cinematographer made headlines recently by bagging the 53rd Kerala State Best Cinematographer Award for Ela Veezha Poonchira (2022).

This is the second time that he won the award. Earlier, it was for his debut movie Aedan (2017).

In an exclusive chat with South First, Manesh speaks about his ambitions, vision for cinematography, and much more.

No compromises made

Ela Veezha Poonchira is directed by Shahi Kabir

‘Ela Veezha Poonchira’ is directed by Shahi Kabir. (Supplied)

After Aeden, Manesh worked for Joseph (2018), 19 (1)(A) (2021), and Wonder Women (2022).

Speaking about Ela Veezha Poonchira, the cinematographer said, “Writers Nitheesh G, Shaji Maarad, and Shahi Kabir are police officers. They worked in a remote place like the lead characters in the film. Nitheesh G wrote the story of Ela Veezha Poonchira but he makes it clear that there are changes from the original story.

Ilaveezha Poonchira, a scenic hilltop in Kerala’s Kottayam province, is located 3,200 feet above sea level. The movie is set in a small wireless police station on this hilltop.

Speaking about the technical quality, Manesh noted that the team made no compromise in the technical aspects and the post-production works were taken up in Mumbai.

“Shahi sir (director Shahi Kabir) took the stills of the location well in advance. He used to take us to the spot and explain the scenes. We tested the shots and colour tone before launching the original shoot. All the departments, including the music and art direction, were involved in the pre-production discussions,” he recalled.

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Interested in different genres

Manesh is an alumnus FTII of Pune

Manesh Madhavan is an alumnus of FTII-Pune. (Supplied)

Manesh Madhavan likes to do different subjects because it makes him excited and throws new challenges, too.

The cinematographer is now busy with a new movie directed by Maju who earlier helmed the critically acclaimed Appan (2022).

The pre-production work of the project was completed a long time ago.

Manesh revealed that his parents initially raised objections when he wanted to study cinematography at the Film and Television Institute of India-Pune in 2006. However, they are happy now with his achievements.

He considers himself lucky to work with talented directors in the Malayalam industry.

“Sanju Surendran (Aedan director) is a National Award winner and my senior at FTII. Before Aedan, we both worked on a short film titled Kapila in 2014. Similarly, I became friends with Shahi Kabir sir while working on his film. He never behaved like a senior,” he recollected.

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Inspirations and aspirations

According to Manesh Madhavan, many international and Indian cinematographers inspired him to take up the job.

“Santosh Sivan, Venu, Mankada Ravi Varma, Shaji N Karun, Rajeev Ravi, and Madhu Neelakandan have been my inspirations. Incidentally, Santosh Sivan and Venu taught me at FTII-Pune, while Rajeev Ravi and Madhu Neelakandan were my seniors,” he was all smiles.

The cinematographer likes to work in Tamil. “I also want to do commercial films like Kamal Haasan’s Vikram (2022) which has a mass appeal or a Rajinikanth’s movie.”

Also Read:  Tamil watchlist: Films to look forward to this September

Hails OTT space

Manesh hails from Kochi

Cinematographer Manesh Madhavan hails from Kochi. (Supplied)

Manesh feels that OTT platforms are a boon for the industry as his film Ela Veezha Poonchira got a good reception after its release on Amazon Prime.

“OTT helped Malayalam films get a wider reach and a good audience. For the past three to five years, the OTT space has been flooded with creative content and commercial films. The huge plus is that it isn’t star-centric content,” he observed.

He further explained, “Many web series are being shot in Malayalam these days. OTT platforms make sure the technical aspects are good. For example, they insist on the use of best cameras and high quality in post-production.”

Manesh added, “These factors sometimes go missing in a commercial movie. But the money spent is worth it as their (OTT’s) parent companies are located outside.”

Cinematography tough for comedy films

Manesh Madhavan wants to work in more commercial films

Manesh Madhavan wants to work in more commercial films. (Supplied)

Manesh Madhavan noted that it’s not that difficult to get applause for cinematography in an investigative film. But it’s difficult in the case of comedy.

He explained why. “The cinematography of films done by Siddique Lal was done by Venu sir. camera and the angles played an important role in these movies for the humour to work out.”

He added, “Many comedy films were released in the 90s. But the quality of Siddique Lal’s flicks was good as they had a good script, the right casting, and apt cinematography. These films are contemporary and are at the best level.”

“Well, all films demand certain elements and it’s the job of the cinematographer to understand and present them accordingly,” he signed off.

Also Read: Malayalam watchlist for September 2023