Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 9.42.05 PM

Eminent cinematographer Ravi K Chandran, the man behind blockbusters including My Name Is Khan, Ghajini and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, talks about his bitter sweet experiences while making The Deadly Farewell, his first short film.

Ravi K Chandran has exciting new projects. Yaan starring south superstars Jiiva and Shruti Hassan is his feature directorial debut while The Deadly Farewell is his short film debut as a director.

He puts his skills to test, in a black and white 7.03-min film with The Deadly Farewell (TDF). The renowned cameraman recalls, “Canon came out with the new camera, C300, and asked the cinematographers to test it out (through Western India Cinematographers Association). That’s where the idea for a short film stemmed from.”

An enthusiastic Ravi K Chandran not only jumped  at the opportunity of making his directorial debut but also wrote the story.  “I decided to write and make a film that would be suitable to test the camera as well as my skills as a director. I was getting into movie direction and this was a good exercise. My story is about an assassin whose bag gets stolen by a kid while on a murder assignment. I wrote it in shot division format on my mobile phone, ” says the DOP-turned-director, who was sure he did not want to cast any of the star actors he has worked with in the past. Interestingly Dhanush and Jiiva were persistent to be a part of the cinematographer’s directorial project.

As Chandran set off on a journey bringing the funny yet sad script alive, he was faced with hard situations with the project initiators. “We had a bitter experience with Canon India. They offered the Indian cinematographers a set of old lenses, probably thirty-year-old lenses, and a zoom lens, which thankfully was new.” What really made the experience worse and the cinematographer  angry is that the Indian films were screened alongside their international counterparts  who had shot their work on Canon C500 4k HD camera. “It’s like comparing a Rolls Royce to a Maruti 800! A lot of people walked out of the screening, even film students, and everyone asked me the same question – Why were the Indian cinematographers so unimpressive with their shots while their international counterparts were great at the screening?” notes the disappointed cameraman. This unfair system was brought up by the cinematographers and WICA but Canon India failed to take any notice.

Despite outdated equipment and no finance from the camera company, Chandran chose to make the short film. And unlike the larger-than-life glossy films he is known for,  this film was shot guerrilla style. “When you are involved with big movie projects, making a smaller film is fun. You don’t have much equipment and  your brain processes things more smoothly. You place the lights exactly where they need to be. We shot it with minimal light and shot it very fast. We took over 100 shots over two nights.”

Chandran reminisces, “We had a very small crew of ten people including my cinematographer, Neha Parti. We had a budget of rupees two lakhs and had to cut costs. We ate at McDonalds, used my car for shots in the film, carried our own lights and a small portable generator wherever we went. When we got into trouble with the cops, we always told them we were were film students working on a project and they’d be surprised to see an old person directing it. It was fun!”

The post production was a cakewalk. “We got the sound done at Resul Pookutty’s studio. One of his assistants, suggested incorporating dialogues from English films as voice overs in the film,” he reveals and goes on to talk about the background score, “One of the technicians’ father played some trumpet and just asked me to pay the studio bill. The technicians worked almost free of cost for me.”  Everyone from Shah Rukh Khan, Karan Johar to Priyanka Chopra and Farah Khan did helped spread the word about The Deadly Farewell. Says Chandran, “In one day 17,000 people have seen this on Vimeo!”

With the short film, the cinematographer has entered a new chapter in his professional life. “Unlike what the industry believes, my films are commercial entertainers. Yaan is a complete action film. I believe that my first Hindi film will represent cinematographers and their ability to make commercial films. I am not getting into an arty zone. I am making a film that will make 100-crores,” he ends.

Click the link below to view the film:

– By Rachana Parekh