Woman with a view
Anjuli Shukla, perhaps the first woman cinematographer in Malayalam cinema, says she is focussed on interpreting director Shaji N. Karun’s cinematic vision of his film ‘Kutty Srank.’
It is an opportunity to use my skills, sensibilities and aesthetics in what, I believe, is a landmark film.
Woman’s perspective: Anjuli Shukla’s camera will depict the portrait of a man as seen through the eyes of three women.
Anjuli Shukla’s name will go down in the history of Malayalam Cinema as the first woman to crank the camera for a Malayalam film.
But the director of photography of Shaji N. Karun’s ‘Kutty Srank’ wants to play down the hype.
“I value the present experience as an opportunity to learn from Shaji, an alumnus of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and one of the top cinematographers in India. For me, more than anything else, it is an opportunity to use my skills, sensibilities and aesthetics in what, I believe, is going to be a landmark film.
“And rather than riding high on the fact or assumption that I am the first woman cameraperson in Malayalam, I hope to rise to my director’s expectations and understand and capture his vision of the film,”asserts the professional.
“I am told he chose me because he wanted a woman behind the camera to add that feminine perspective to the theme that revolves around the perspectives of three women,” she adds.
The story is woven around three women and their relationships with the protagonist, Kutti Srank, played by Mammmotty. The instances are set in three different moods and seasons.
“So each one needs an individualistic treatment; at the same time, it should not stand out from the total cohesive structure of the film,” explains Anjuli.
The crew is currently working on the first schedule of the film that is set in the monsoon season. “We are trying to capture the rain, though it is not pouring as heavily as we expected it to. Even then, we are not using any artificial rain since we are particular about the genuine, rustic look,” adds the cinematographer.
Anjuli also happens to be the first debutante to enter the exclusivity of Shaji’s cinematographic domain. An acclaimed cinematographer himself, Shaji’s films are known for their visual treatment, usually devised by veterans like Reneto Berto, Santosh Sivan, Sunny Joseph and Hari Nair.
“It is humbling to remember that you have such talented predecessors. It also brings in a responsibility, to excel in your work and match the work of such eminent cinematographers,” she points out.
An alumna of FTII, Anjuli started her career with director-cinematographer Santosh Sivan, with whom she did a dozen films, including two Hollywood productions – ‘Before the Rains’ and ‘Mistress of Spices.’ Anjuli has also worked in two Malayalam films. She had worked with Santosh in ‘Ananthabhadram’ and with Manoj Pillai in ‘Achanurangatha Veedu.’
“It gave me great pleasure to work with Manoj Pillai on his first independent work ‘Achanurangatha Veedu.’ We had worked together in Santosh’s films,” she says.
“The best part about working with Santosh Sivan is that he gets you involved in all aspects of filmmaking right from the script; so the experience is much richer. I have enjoyed working in Malayalam films though I still do not know the language well,” she relates.
Talking about her “colourful and vivid memories” about shooting the ‘Pinakkamano’ song in ‘Ananthabhadram,’ she recalls: “It was an interesting experience and a challenge to recreate the Ravi Varma frames for that song.” She adds that she chose cinematography as a profession because she felt the “visual dimension of story telling challenging.”
“I went to FTII because I wanted to learn filmmaking. But then I was re-oreinted to motion picture photography once I realised that it would suit my temperament, both creatively and functionally.
I was excited at the possibilities of giving form to an idea or vision,” she explains.
She points out that it took a lot of introspection to decide on her profession. “Primarily because I come from a non-film background. Even the city I grew up in (Lucknow) did not have a film culture or industry like what you have in Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai or Kerala.”
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