“Innum oru iravu” – was my favorite song to shoot after “paravaye engu irukirai” in Ram’s Kattradhu Thamizh, and it was the only song we had in hand in a complete recorded format before we went for shooting, rest of the songs were been given to us as just tunes with nothing more on musical part done. So we had no choice to keep us charged apart from hearing “innum oar iravu”… more over that’s a special song in terms of lyrics too. To be honest as a DOP to get the mood of the film, this song helped me a lot. Ram and I never compromised in search of virgin locations for this film. As this song is all about Prabhakar’s ‘on the run’ we just had a open mind to shoot it anywhere that looked interesting and supportive to improve its visual. Half of the song was shot near Cudappah in Andhra.
That was an interesting experience. After finishing our first schedule, we were waiting for Jiiva’s dates. At that time Ram asked me to search for some interesting locations near Chennai. Then I came with an idea to go to Cudappah, just with a vague idea that due to Cudappa stone’s colour there may be some grey hue filled locations . So I told Ram that I am not sure, we may come back empty handed. So a still photographer & me went to Cudappah.
The first wicket went for a duck when we didn’t find anything like what I imagined, but my fellow cameraman was just charging me up to search more,so we didn’t gave up.
In that attempt of searching at the outskirts of Cudappah, we ended up in village to take some rest. We were just inquiring about near by locations to the locals and one guy said there is a ruined temple near a river, that is somewhere 60km far away.
Cut to- we were standing at one end of the river looking at the temple opposite, and the river was running on knee level. I told my cameraman “if we come here for shooting, don’t say anybody that we had to hunt for this location, else we will be scolded like anything” Boss, it was looking awesome and picturesque.
But to shoot there u have to cross the river about 0.5km, by walk and there was no bridge. We were planning to shoot in march, so the heat of summer would kill too. But the location had the elements that were there in the lyrics, in that song there were few notes on Lord Shiva, and we found a idol of Shiva in ruins inside the temple. Like that what not matches with that song. I told him it’s ‘worth coming here, Ram will be very happy to see the location’.
Cut to – Ram was jumping,because he was planning to shoot this song majorly in Thiruvannamalai. But everything changed after we finalized this location, the look, the approach, the style etc.
While shooting, because it made no sense to take generator or lights, which cant even reach half the way to the location, I told the the line producer, I’m just going to shoot naturally and lets have Jimmy Jib for only one day, rest i can manage with conventional track & trolly crane, no lights and no generator. Naturally he was happy (coz he would be saving money).
One fine morning, the last day at Cudappah, when we were summarizing our work till date, Ram said that we lack visuals for the second anthra, rest will be done today, but if we extend till night we can finish and wrap up straight to Chennai.
I got fused and confused, what? Shooting at night without lights, I thought I’m f**ked, I told Ram why don’t we extend it for tomorrow? Or else bring lights from Chennai immediately within evening, well that was not possible both the ways and there was a problem with Jiiva’s dates again, he had to be there in Chennai the next morning, so we only had 24 hrs and nothing else.
I asked the set assistants to get loads of fire wood and torches about 10 or so. On the day we shot for the musical part comfortably, but when it got dark, it was totally difficult without service light, we just had firewood and torches. Also we could burn the firewood only during the take, as the heat was so much that camera body gets into a critical temperature to work with. I was keeping on insisting Jiiva to be as close as he can to the fire so that he will be into my exposure latitude, but he suffered a lot to be near again because of the heat.
Everyone was happy after the shoot as they felt that they have achieved something by tackling the timely situation to shoot & complete the song, EXCEPT ME!
The only person unhappy was me because only I knew that every shot I exposed were 2 stops under, even push processing can do nothing much in this case. But I kept quiet with only one hope that I believed my lens setup more than my exposure- ‘Ultra prime lenses should save me’ was my mantra throughout the day & night till I saw it on the telecine monitor.
Those RGB graphs was in a solid raise to the required density, which I compared to my confidence level on the day of shooting. I rushed to the rest room and breathed heavily (what to do yaar?, naanum valikadha madhiriye evlo neram thaan nadikiradhu? i.e how long can I act as if it’s not paining )
Only then we came to shoot the lead scene and the beginning shots of the song. That was near a a railway track, and my manager came up with a new issue that ‘ sir, there is no permission to light up, because we have only near by road permission, not from the railway department, so can u adjust without lights?’And I said ‘u know it is night effect?’, he said, ‘yeah, but I know u can shoot without light even in night’ Saala kya bol sakta hoon mein?I said ‘atleast give me a petromax light’ and he was saying loudly sir ‘I’ll give u two petromax lights sir’. But this time I didn’t panic because of my previous experience, so it went cool as we shot that scene with the vehicle’s head light and one petromax light,because the second one was not burning as these things always happen!
Inside the streets we shot on 8 frames and extended it to 24 frames, to achieve the strokes of the sources which gave the song a trippy mood ( I think it gave )
those lyrics actually fit tme better than even the character Prabhakar (played by Jiivaa)
“Innum oru iruvu,
innum oru nilavu (the alternate source I had other than the fire & petromax )
innum oru ninaivu,
idho idho yedhiril irundhu bayamuruthum…”
Check out the song “Innum Oru Iravu”
This article was originally written in early 2009, but it has now been re-edited and published.
Note- S.R.Kathiir is a well known cinematographer who has been the DOP on popular Tamil films like Kattradhu Thamizh, Subramaniyapuram, Naadodigal, Poraali, Easan etc.