His camera recognises and records beauty. Be it the finesse oozing out of Ayalum Njanum Thammil or the rugged frames of Thira, Jomon T John brings a touch of class to his craft. His lens never falters in the bustle-and-bristle of visuals and as a technician he looks for an ‘unassuming fluidity’ in his own terms. From blockbusters to unconventional adventures, he has cranked the camera for a slew of films and is definitely one of the most-sought-after crew members today. “But I am just 11 films old in the industry,” says the young cinematographer who has just wrapped up Lal Jose’s Vikramadithyan and Major Ravi’s Picket 43. “Presently I am busy with Ennu Ninte Moideen. It’s a poignant love story, a period film that dates back to a couple of decades,” he informs.
Jomon says he was always in love with the alchemy of colours, the ballet created by light and shadow. “I think when you strongly desire something, the whole universe conspires in your favour. Wielding the camera was my biggest dream all through childhood and adolescence. It was a pursuit from which I never backed out or sidetracked. I wanted to be a lensman, but had no connections in the industry. But finally I ended up where I always wanted to be,” Jomon says. He turned an independent cinematographer within two years entering the industry as an assistant. “Chappa Kurishu happened so suddenly and after that I was never out of work. I don’t remember working through any rough patch,” he says about his early years.
As someone who helmed the digital transition in Mollywood, Jomon had to bear the brunt of many when his debut Chappa Kurishu hit the screens. “It was an experiential attempt, but within two years the whole scene changed.” He says choosing the format is always a part of creativity and there is no hard-and-fast rule about it. “I shot my last film Picket 43 in film. It’s set in the snow-capped terrains of Kashmir, an atmospheric we are not very familiar with. I wanted a specific texture for Picket 43 which cannot be achieved in digital format,” he adds.
Jomon says cinematography never ceases to be an art and the change of equipment can hardly affect the totality of a film.
“Following the script is my priority than perfecting a frame. Technology is a mere tool, what matters is the artistry in handling it.”
He says camerawork sabotaging the script shows the failure of a cinematographer. “When people compliment me for my work I feel a little unsure. If the camera drags your attention from storytelling it’s a major lapse. If they notice the frames it means the camera broke their indulgence in the subject. If you go for over-the-top camera gimmicks the film will look cheap and tasteless when you watch it after a handful of years,” he says.
In his 4-year career Jomon has teamed up with a crop of prominent filmmakers and says he could easily adapt to their varying tempos. “I don’t believe in this new-gen tag and am quite comfortable with them all.”
Calling the shots definitely tops his wishlist and the young cinematographer says he is waiting for the right stuff to get his feet wet.
“I have been offered a spate of scripts, some of which were good. But there was nothing out-of-the-box, not a single story that thrilled and intrigued me. I see cinema as an art form that reaches out to maximum people. I don’t want to whip up something for a selective audience,” he adds.
Over the years cinematography has gained an aura of stardom with an ever-growing pool of aspirants. And Jomon says it’s not a place for you unless driven by sheer passion.
“This is something that calls for a certain degree of devotion. If you are lured by the fame and limelight you will never fit in. Cinema is an art, at the same time it has a definite commercial angle and is the livelihood of many. I don’t think cinematography is an area for casual fortune seekers,” he signs off.