Padayottam | The Magic and Machinery of 70 MM

A 70mm Frame of Padayottam  - from C Ramachandra Babu's archives
A 70mm Frame of Padayottam – from K Ramachandra Babu’s archives

Sri Ramachandra Babu, ISC – the Cinematographer of Padayottam was kind enough to share relevant information on the movie viz, scanned images of the movie Songbook (Pattupusthakam) that breaks down the phenomenon of 35mm, Cinemascope and 70mm to the viewer who is about to embark on this Big Screen experience for the first time. I think it was a first-of-its-kind initiative to bring the viewer up to speed in terms of the technical wizardry that he/she was just about to witness, subtly pushing up the USP of the film as a product.

The Basic Difference of 35 mm, Cinemascope and 70 mm.

The Difference in 35mm, Cinemascope and 70mm - from Padayottam Film Songbook
From the archives of C Ramachandra Babu, ISC

How the 6-Channel Soundtrack of 70 mm was distributed in the Cinema.
( Click on the image for Optimal Reading )

Soundtrack Distribution in a 70mm film track - From Padayottam Film Pattupusthakam
Soundtrack Distribution in a 70mm film track – From Padayottam Film Pattupusthakam.

In an interview with KB Venu for the 2009 Edition of Kodak’s Images Magazine, K Ramachandra Babu looks back on  the challenges and innovative solutions they devised, during the shooting of Padayottam. ( You can download the entire magazine here.)

KODAK IMAGES/ KB VENU : You have the credit of being the cinematographer of Padayottam, the first 70mm movie in Malayalam too?

KRB : That’s right…Usually 70mm movies were shot using 65 mm camera and 65 mm film negative. Then it would be printed on 70 mm film. 65 mm cameras were not available in India at that time. SHOLAY, the first 70 mm film in India was shot in Cinemascope and the negative was taken to London to be blown up to 70 mm size. Padayottam was also shot in Cinemascope. But it was processed in Prasad Labs Chennai. So Padayottam was the first indigenous 70 mm movie in India. Several aspects had to be taken care of while processing that movie.

When we blow up the negative shots in Cinemascope,  there is probability of losing sharpness. So even while shooting the movie, clarity and sharpness had to be ensured. Padayottam had six-track stereophonic sound. Recording of effects itself took a whole month. All the six tracks had to  be mixed properly to ensure quality of sound in theatres. The test print was screened in a 70 mm theatre in Chennai to make sure it was perfect. The same print was screened in all the 4 releasing centers in Kerala in the presence of the Director, the Cinematographer,  Sound Engineer and the Lab Technicians. Projection and Sound System were corrected in all the centers before the release of the movie. In *Thiruvanathapuram, they had to replace the existing screen because it was not big enough. { *That  Cinema Hall in Thiruvanathapuram was Sree Padmanabha – thanks Jay ! }

He also recalls a particular scene in Padayattom as one of the most challenging sequences that he has ever captured on film.

“In the movie Padayottam, there is a chess dance sequence on a boat during the night. There were around 30 dancers in the scene, apart from the crowd. The sky, river, the nearby hill and other details had to be visible. There was a palace on the hill and that also had to be lit up for the scene. We planned to shoot all the long shots during the  ‘magic hour’  But the work had to begin by afternoon.And we could take only one or two shots a day. So we used an additional camera and finished the long shots. But the result is visible in the movie.

Nirathi Oro Karukkal | The Dance Sequence from Padayottam.

For a fabulous website/initiative that still keeps the flame of 70mm bright and burning, with loads of archival material on  world films in 70mm,  click here.

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

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

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

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

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