[dropcap]K[/dropcap]arthik Muthukumar bags the Best Cinematographer award (Fiction) for ‘Skylab is Falling’. Karthik in a quick chat with Pandolin.

Congrats on winning the First National Students’ Film Festival award for Best Cinematography. How do you feel about this recognition coming your way?

It sure feels nice. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has rallied around us and helped make the film, especially the team at L.V. Prasad Film & TV Academy. I wish to thank the jury members of the National Students’ Film Festival, who believed the film merited the award.

 ‘Skylab is Falling’ is an interesting theme and the approach seems to have drawn upon the folklore style of story-telling, intrinsic to Tamil Nadu. Tell us more about why you chose such a cinematic interpretation.

Skylab is Falling’ is based on a very traditional form of folk story narration. I had a very strong visual impression when I read the script. And hence, I opted for a cinematic interpretation that allowed me to explore the film visually in myriad ways. Both Manoj Leonel Jahson, director of the film, and I felt that considering that the story had a complex narrative structure, we needed to imbue it with a different visual perspective and bring it to life on screen. It had to be a seamless whole that draws viewers into the film. Just as the verses come together to form a unique poem, the sub-stories in our film merge into a single visual narrative. 


What was the principal approach you adopted for filming as per your discussion with the director?

There are always pleasant unexpected elements that enter the worksphere during the making of a film. A lot of things evolved during the shoot. Am happy that we could put in a concerted effort to shape the film the way we’d conceived it. ‘Skylab is Falling’ is a film that can happen only when backed by people who wish to experiment and think outside the box.  Manoj has been very collaborative and gave me immense creative freedom. Though I would throw any number of ideas at Manoj, he would pick only what was best for the film. With huge freedom comes huge responsibility and I was well aware of this during my work. 

What kind of references did you look at?

Indian miniature paintings, especially those intrinsic to Rajasthan, formed the crux of our visual reference. We set out to create our own world, a multi-layered miniature world that when melded together formed a unique whole. We used the miniature paintings as a key reference to narrate the stories. Colors play a major role in this film; we wanted to use colours as properties. Inspired by the colours that cloak the Indian cities, we drew upon various vivid shades. An aspect ratio of 4:3, not commonly used, helped impart ‘Skylab is Falling’ with a different look and feel.

Tell us about the lighting design

Almost 60 percent to 70 percent of the film was shot in natural light. As far as the lighting design is concerned, it was a purely personal choice not bound by any particular set of rules. Neither is there much of source simulation that I used. I worked using higher apertures to create stronger depth of field. 

What are the current project you are working on?

I am currently working on an independent Malayalam movie, ‘Unto the Dusk,’ directed by Sajin Babu T.A.


Locations of shoot:

The film was shot at Nazarethpet House in Chennai and at Kuttralam (Tamil Nadu).

Camera and lenses:

We used an ARRI 3 S35 Body, Carl Zeiss lenses.

Film Stock and Aspect Ratio:

Kodak 35MM film stocks, and shot using an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 / 4:3.


As told to Smitha Sadanandan