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SHOT at success

Tamil films too have jumped on the brandwagon. SUDHISH KAMATH hitches a ride for a sneak peek


FOR A while, everyone was busy giving English titles to Tamil films and Tamil titles to English (dubbed) films to make movies `Run' and make the crowds `Whistle.' Also, there were the films with titles that tried to exploit the Madras lingo to the fullest. Sample: "Dhil", "Dhool", "Dum" and the forthcoming releases "Gilli" and "Machi".

And, others that resorted to titles with religious connotations. Sample: "Saamy", "Thirumalai", "Anjaneya" (in the tradition of "Arunachalam", "Padayappa", "Baba") and even recently, "Kovil" and "Arul" (unreleased).

After having run out of Tamizh, Tamil, English and Slummil (Slum Tamil) titles, producers, finally, have discovered a way out to brand their films differently. Not just through titles, but through the look, vibe and feel that the movie promises. Through colours, photographs, typefaces and innovative publicity material.

As Siddharth of Mitrra Media puts it: "Till the audio launch, the face of the film is its publicity." Siddharth was just into designing for corporates and advertising agencies until "Lesa Lesa" happened. And suddenly, he found that there was a huge demand for such work. "Boys" followed suit, after Venket Ram, who shot the stills for the movie introduced him to director Shankar.

Venket, who started photo-shoots with "Samurai" three years ago, today, is among the leading photographers in the city to cater for Kodambakkam's increasing needs. He has had Mani Ratnam's "Ayutha Ezhuthu", AVM's "Peralagan" and Vijay's "Madurai" to keep himself busy in the last 45 days, apart from his regular fashion and advertising photography.

"It is completely the director's vision to come up with one or two stills that are going to talk about the whole film," says Venket. "A director like Mani Ratnam is very sure of what image he wants to portray. He brings part of the continuity stills to the studio and gets exactly that. As they are shown in the film." With Shankar, however, Venket had a ball, experimenting and trying out different things. He recalls the much-publicised shot of the boys jumping in the air, by the beach, set against a blue sky. "I got the effect by using flash in daylight. If the natural light meter reading shows 16, I set the flash light meter reading for 22 so that the ambience becomes saturated and the characters get highlighted. Shankar wanted the same effect in the movie. But these are things we can try only in stills. The film lights aren't as powerful as the flash we use for stills." Vinyl hoardings have had a huge role to play in packaging films. Even the biggest in the business haven't been able to resist the film bug. Take one look at all those "Virumaandi" hoardings and you'll know. That's Sharad Haksar's touch to Kamal Hassan's biggest hit ever. (We couldn't talk to Sharad about this but his work is doing all the talking.) Siddharth, through his company Mitrra Media, has introduced innovative publicity design to Kollywood. You just can't peep into his office without your eyeballs hitting either a "Manmathan" clock or a "Jay Jay" audio release cover or "Machi" pooja invite or the whole series of "Boys" signboards.

"For `Manmathan', they took us to Mumbai and we stayed for ten days to get it right. We shot with Daboo Ratnani there. That's the kind of importance producers give publicity these days. They are looking for a complete brand identity for the movie, just as advertisers do for products," says Siddharth.

The improvement in advertising standards has rubbed off on movies, he believes. "You go out on the roads and you'll see that out of ten posters, three or four clearly stand out. That's the power of design," he says, opening a `Photoshop' window on his computer to show how he lit up Simbu's face and made it glow for "Manmathan." And the price? "Well, the costs are miniscule. Sometimes, they are not even one per cent of the total cost of production. My rates are the same, whether it is advertising or film. If we are putting up sets and hiring studios, then the costs will be a bit more than shooting at my studio. Sometimes, the art director will have his ideas. Thota Tharani came up with sets when we shot for AVM's `Peralagan' with Suriya and Jyotika," says Venket.

"Personally, I think you can be a lot more creative when you are shooting for films because in an advertisement, the layouts are all set. You just fill in the picture element. In movies, you can experiment. They are looking out for something new all the time," he adds.

So, there was fire generated in his studio for "Madurai" Vijay to fight, courtesy cooking gas cylinders. There was a storm with colourful leaves blowing wildly, courtesy the giant fan and rain created through shower accessories.

These might not necessarily be part of the movie. But what the heck, it's just to give you a feel of the movie and get your attention. As they say, all is fair in love and war. And our movies have always been about either or well, both.

Whodunnit?

Lensman Venket Ram has clicked it for:

Mani Ratnam: Ayutha Ezhuthu (unreleased), Kannathil Muthamittaal

Shankar: Boys

Vijay: Madurai (unreleased)

Suriya: AVM's Peralagan (unreleased) and Kaakha Kaakha

Vikram Singh: Lesa Lesa

Designer Siddharth's Mitrra Media packed the punch into: Lesa Lesa, Boys, Jay Jay, Manmathan (unreleased), Machi (unreleased) and Chellamey (unreleased)

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