Padayottam | In conversation with Cinematographer K.Ramachandra Babu, ISC

K Ramachandra Babu  | Cinematographer

[ In the course of putting together whatever information I could on the movie, I  had always felt nothing could ever come close to capturing the spirit of the production than from the stalwarts who were at the helm, who actually made it possible. Legendary DOC K Ramachandra Babu, who was the DOC of Padayottam, was gracious enough to respond to the short note I had send him on his recollection from the production times of Padayottam (1982). Thank you Sir. ]

This is how it went.

With Padayottam, it was your first project with Navodaya Studios, which, in my opinion was a reflection of your own wild, daring spirit in pushing the frontiers of film-making in Malayalam film industry. How did you become a part of the project?

KRB : The film “Alavudheenum Albhutha Vilakkum“, directed by I.V.Sasi was the first Cinemascope Malayalam film. During the production it was decided to make it in to a bilingual film and Tamil artistes were included in the cast and there was naturally some delay in getting the film released and Navodaya’s “Thacholi Ambu” took the honours. Jijo was looking forward for more advancement in the technical side of Malayalam cinema and the next step was naturally, bigger than life 70 MM extravaganza. Prasad lab at Chennai had just started their 70 MM recording theatre and processing facilities and so every thing can be done in our country unlike SHOLAY, which was processed and printed in London. Having seen my earlier work in other films, Navodaya people contacted me to work in Padayottam.

To my knowledge, this was something of a technical ‘innovation’ of the times, which Jijo wanted to prove to the world that it is possible with India. Were there any specific preparations that had to be done in “dressing up” shots during the shooting?

KRB : Jijo is a very meticulous person who plans every thing beforehand so I had no problem with working with him. We took a number of test shots and decided to keep things as sharp as possible. We decided to use slow speed film to have less grain in the image as we were blowing up to 70 MM from the original Cinemascope negative. ( All 70 MM films from India were shot in Cinemascope format only as we have no 65 MM camera available in India.) We selected the best available lenses and used them for our shooting.

Ramachandra Babu with SEIKI and Arri2C Cameras
K Ramachandra Babu with  the SEIKI and Arri2C Cameras

Understand that J Williams, another maverick genius cinematographer was associated with the project for additional photography. Which aspects did he cover of the shoot, if you could recall ?

KRB : The production took nearly a year to complete and had other projects also going on like ” Yavanika” and “Marmaram”. So I had missed out some schedules which was done by Ananda Kuttan and J.Williams.

The Post-production was done at Prasad Labs for the movie. Were there any special equipment put together for processing the final print, or did ingenuity and innovation was involved at that stage too, delivering technical brilliance at down-to-earth commercial bottom-lines?

KRB : Jijo spent more than a month just recording effect sounds at Chitranjali studios and the 6 track stereo sound mixing took more than a month at Chennai. He wanted to ensure that the 70 MM prints were projected properly in the theatres. So a team people from the Lab – a sound engineer, myself and Jijo went to the four theatres at Calicut, Trichur, Ernakulam and Trivandrum with a test reel and projected it and made corrections to their projection system to create optimum viewing experience..

Not many know this or are aware of the fact that your professional expertise and talent have been behind in realising some of the ‘cultural’ milestones in Malayalam cinema. With Padayattom, this was technical brilliance. How does it feel ?🙂

KRB : Most of the film was shot in out door locations and the interiors were also done in a temporary studio erected at Malampuzha where other out door sets were also built. Specially built motorized dolly which could move on circular or “S” shaped tracks made out of bent PVC pipes was used with great effect in some scenes and song sequences.

Padayottam was a project where a star cast, a gripping story and a sweeping perspective with some brilliant performances (definitely one of Prem Nazir’s career best ). How was it working with the legend?

KRB : Whatever may be the technical brilliance ultimately it all amounts to how you tell the story and Jijo excelled in that. Prem Nazir spent a lot of time in the heat and dust of Palakkad patiently with out any complaints, to give a great performance of his life time. It was nice experience staying together and working together with him.

Looking back, does a technical USP ( such as 70mm, cinemascope, 3 D ) add value to the movie as a product in the current context of a movie experience ? Do you think that was a phase and it just ‘worked’ for those times, but not anymore?

KRB : I believe that the basic purpose of Cinema had never changed over the years and it still remains the same – Story Telling. The media may be Cinemascope, 70 MM, IMAX, 3D, Digital or iPhone, how best you tell a story is of prime importance.

Post Script.

So, there you have it, some invaluable perspectives from the DOC of our first indigenous 70mm project, and one of the career best of the Evergreen Hero of Malayalam films. My only regret is that, considering the monumental, loving effort and care that the whole team poured into conceiving the project, the only way future generations would experience it would be from a crappy VCD with Dual Channel/stereo in a squeezed letterbox format onscreen – not quite the experience you look forward to watching a movie in 2012.

Related : Padayottam (1982) | A Sketch in Vengeful Grey

Related : Padayottam | The Magic and Machinery of 70 MM

Related : Padayottam ( 1982 ) | French Count, Chinese Dragon, Malayali infantry in lush Purple Lungis

Related : Remembering Navodaya Appachan (1924 – 23 April 2012 )

3 thoughts on “Padayottam | In conversation with Cinematographer K.Ramachandra Babu, ISC

  1. Dragon could be excused.. as lot of trading was done with Chinese..lot of households still have “bharani” with dragons on it..we have one in our home too..supposed to be around 200 years old.. the slaver trader costumes could have been better. and ribbon clad beauties. remember seeing this in Athulya 70 mm in TVM in 1982..was jampacked and a mega hit..the only thing that spoiled the movie for me was the dubbing of Shankar..was unbrearable..wonder why Jijo let him do that..

    1. PADAYOTTAM was not a big success sibi bhai.. it has done well at box office, but when you consider its cost, the film was finished as an above average earner…

  2. Good weekend release🙂
    Padayottam is one movie that I can watch any number of times without getting bored. Now off to read the other posts…

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