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'Hisss didn't work with the critics'

Last updated on: October 27, 2010 11:42 IST

'Hisss didn't work with the critics'

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Shobha Warrier in Chennai

Well known cinematographer Madhu Ambat has won the National Award two times -- one for G V Iyer's Sanskrit film Adi Shankara and the other for Sarada Ramanathan's Tamil film Sringaram.

Some of his interesting works in a career spanning 35 years is Manoj Night Shyamalan's Praying with Anger, G V Iyer's Bhagavat Gita, Bharatan's Vaishali, Mani Ratnam's Anjali, Prema Karanth's Phaniyamma, and Girish Kasaravalli's Thabaran Kathe to name a few.

His latest film is Hisss starring Mallika Sherawat and Irrfan Khan. But unlike his other important projects, the film has come under a lot of criticism.

In this interview, he talks about shooting Hisss and the final product that reached the theatres.

How did Hisss come to you?

Mallika's brother and Govind Menon are very well known to me. After Maan Gaye Mughal- e-Azam, we became very close and started discussing this project. So, it was not like they gave the script to me; all of us were together when the story idea developed.


Image: Madhu Ambat and Jennifer Lynch

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'Jennifer wanted the naagin to be loveable'

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As a cinematographer, how challenging was the film for you?

The main challenge was the style of the film. Jennifer (Lynch, director) had decided that though the story is about revenge, it was not going to be a horror film. She wanted the naagin to be loveable.

But the final product has a horror film look and Jennifer Lynch is said to have disowned the film...

True. As the daughter of David Lynch who is knowledgeable about Indian philosophy, culture, yoga, meditation, the film she made was more philosophical in nature. But editing changed the mood of the entire film. She was unhappy with the 'American cut' which gave a horror look to the film and the philosophical aspect was gone. She had to opt out in the end saying this was not the film she started to make.

When I saw the way it was being edited, I also felt that the philosophical aspect which we wanted to portray was lost. I had also told them this but then the producers went ahead anyway. I feel the editor did not understand what Jennifer wanted to convey and what we shot.

How was it working with Jennifer Lynch?

Jennifer is a wonderful director. We got along and co-ordinated well as we spoke the same language of cinema which made shooting the film a great experience. Mallika is also a very cinema literate person.

We worked really hard on the film, and it is very close to my heart.


Image: A scene from Hisss

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'Mallika had to suffer the rain, slush, leeches'

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The reviews were uncharitable and the film has fared badly at the box office...

I feel very sad about it. We had put in so much effort. Somehow, it didn't work with the critics. But I must say one thing; most of the critics do not know what they are writing about. No review has written about the cinematography of the film. I don't mind them criticising and saying that it was bad. Photography is an integral part of the film but they have no opinion about it.

Why did you choose the thick forest for the transformation scene?

The transformation had to take place in a deep forest. The story starts in 2000 BC and to create the 2000 BC forest look, we wanted a tropical forest. That was how we chose Idukki. All the forest scenes were shot in Idukki.

There was slush, rain, leeches and what not in the forest and the person who had to suffer the most was Mallika. It took us half a day to shoot the transformation scene but she had to prepare herself for 5 hours.

 


Image: A scene from Hisss

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'I am shooting Mohan Sharma's Malayalam film Gramam next'

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Is there any difference in shooting a film for a western audience as compared to an Indian one?

There is a difference. The exposure is different. We underexpose films for the foreign audience. So, we underexposed by two aperture stops. But we cannot underexpose here because of the lighting conditions in our theatres. It will be just dark in our theatres.

What are you working on right now?

I am shooting Mohan Sharma's Malayalam film Gramam. Mohan Sharma had acted in films like Nellu, Chattakari etc. He is turning a director with Gramam. Balamurali Krishan composes music. The story is about the Tamil Brahmins of Kerala, so, the language is a kind of Tamil mixed with Malayalam. The film is a bilingual in Tamil and Malayalam. The story is set in the 1940s and ends with India's independence.


Image: A scene from Hisss

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