Behind the lens and in front
Cinematographer `Nutty' Subramaniam makes his debut as actor in `Naalai.'
NAALAI: For `Nutty' (extreme right) it was an unexpected chance.
He shuttles between Mumbai and Chennai working on different films. While in Mumbai, Natarajan Subramaniam is a well-known cinematographer and in Chennai he is an actor. ``Nutty," as he is affectionately known in the industry, is wielding the camera for Rajkumar Santoshi's latest ``Halla Bol," starring Ajay Devgan and Priyanka Chopra.
Meanwhile, he is awaiting the release of his debut film as an actor, ``Naalai." In the movie, directed by Udayabhanu Maheshwaran, Nutty plays the role of a hoodlum and buddy to actor Richard. The movie is ready and is likely to be released mid-June.
Quite an achievement for a man who has had no formal training in either cinematography or acting.
Drawn to films
Nutty grew up watching the films of MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Rajnikanth. He quit academics after school to work in films. ``I still remember the thrashing I got from my dad after I told him I wanted to work in films but nothing could deter me."
Nutty started off as a camera assistant, learning everything about lighting and cinematography.
He moved to Delhi in search of greener pastures and worked for Jain TV for six months handling the camera for documentaries and news shows. It was there that he met Pradeep Sarkar. It marked the beginning of a fruitful relationship that started with advertisements and music videos and then moved on to feature films.
Nutty has wielded the camera for more than 900 television commercials and around 60 music videos. But he has now lost track of the numbers. His last ad was for Whirlpool with Ajay Devgan and Kajol. Pradeep also offered him the chance to shoot music videos. His first, for the song ``Dhoom pichak dhoom" by ``Euphoria," was so popular that he ended up doing all their videos. Through mutual friends, Nutty met Anurag Kashyap, which marked the start of another great artistic relationship, and Nutty's relocation to Mumbai.
Anurag offered him the chance to shoot his debut movie, ``Paanch" (2003), which was about a rock band that gets caught in a web of crime. Though the movie did the rounds at foreign film festivals and received critical acclaim, it ran into problems with the Censor Board. And it has still not been released in India.
Nutty then shot the Vijay-starrer ``Youth," directed by Vincent Selva. Director Muragadoss was very impressed with his work and offered him ``Ramana," but Nutty was already set to work on Anurag's ``Black Friday" (2004). The movie was also shown at film festivals abroad but again ran into controversy at home.
Nutty moved onto a larger, colourful and big budget canvas with ``Parineeta," which was produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and directed by Pradeep. Chopra offered him his next film, ``Eklavya - The Royal Guard," starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, Sanjay Dutt and Jackie Shroff.
But Nutty was in for a surprise with his next project. ``I actually signed on to work on `Naalai' as the cinematographer because my friend, Mahesh, was directing it. I also helped actor Prashant Narayanan (Chhal, Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II) get into the skin of the character he was supposed to play that of a hoodlum and also with the Chennai lingo, the dialogues, accent, etc. But Prashant could not do the movie because of some date problems. Mahesh then asked me to do the role. The first few days in front of the camera were tough. I thought everyone was looking at me, and I thought I was making a fool of myself."
Slowly, Nutty learnt to relax in front of the camera, but says the dance sequences were tough. ``Stunts, however, were no problem as I got into fights frequently while growing up," he says with a laugh.
But there were other problems too. ``As the director of photography, you are the boss. But when you act, you have to do what you are told by the director and the cinematographer." But didn't he want to go and peep into the camera even once? ``No," he says. The producer Nallamuthu, himself a cinematographer, says, ``That is one good thing about Nutty. Not even once did he look through the viewfinder."
Now that he has overcome the fear of facing the camera, Nutty says, ``I am not going to quit acting. I am actually looking forward to the audience reaction to my debut role." In the future, he will be behind the camera and in front Rajkumar Santoshi's ``London Dreams," which has Ajay Devgan and Salman Khan, is one he will be filming, and he is looking forward to portraying cop in his second Tamil film, ``Asan."
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