A still from Parava.
A cinema alchemist who throws a picture at the viewers and make them reflect on the deep mysteries of a perfectly shot scene, 28-year-old Littil Swayamp is up on the banners after his hit, Parava. After dropping out of his designing course, he took up some odd jobs related to editing and costumes. This Sharjah-born, Thiruvananthapuram-raised and Bangalore-based cinematographer is in the process of writing his big tale in the film industry.
What are your current projects?
I'm working on Amal Neerad’s untitled project with Fahadh Faasil and Aishwarya Lekshmi playing the lead roles. Apart from that, there is Anjali Menon’s project with Prithviraj, Parvathy and Nazriya. The movie’s title will be out any minute now and is set to release on July 6. It’s the first time I'm working with Prithviraj and I love the excellence with which he does his work. There are different aspects in both films which I have never shot before. It's a fun crew to work with since I already know Nazriya, Parvathy and Fahadh from Bangalore days.
What is one of the main challenges in this project?
We had to shoot in Ooty and the weather was a menace. The regular uncertain rains delayed our shoots sometimes and we had to wear warm clothes. It is a bit uncomfortable to shoot in thick clothes. I haven’t shot much so both projects are a learning experience for me. They have their unique challenges, but in a way that just helps me hone my skills and strive harder to achieve a good product.
Parava catapulted you to fame. Did you expect this sort of response from the public?
Parava will be very close to my heart, not because it was my debut, but because it made me a better cinematographer. Every scene in the movie was carefully scripted and shot. There was a surprising challenge for the crew every day. It was during the course of shooting I realised that pigeon rearing is a big thing in India. People who rear them have the knowledge of the slightest of difference between the birds. Initially, I thought all the pigeons look alike but there are subtle differences between the birds, like the way they fly, their beaks, their posture and sometimes patches near their wings. Some pigeons only fly for an hour or so but there a few that fly for about 16 hours. The movie had a very novel concept and I was optimistic about its success.
How was it working in Parava?
Dulquer Salmaan is a delight to work with. I had met him on the sets of Ustad Hotel and when he saw me behind the lens in Parava, he was more than just glad. Soubin Shahir and Anwar Rasheed were the pillars that held me up during the entire shoot. Anwar Rasheed is the person who spotted me and told me about the story since I had worked with him for some Kerala Tourism projects before. He was the one who gave me the push to pursue film despite the fact that I used to get stressed out at times. The main challenge in Parava was working with the pigeons. Soubin had trained the birds for over a year in a closed terrace where they would be fed at regular intervals and were allowed to fly in the open at specific times. He had gained the trust of the birds and he made sure that the entire crew was careful while shooting. We used to talk softly as any loud noise can frighten them. There were days when we had to redo scenes as some of the birds flew away and never came back. Soubin was very particular that we don’t hurt the birds in any way so we never forced any scenes on them. The shoot definitely instilled a lot of patience in me. It gave me an opportunity to explore new cameras as the movie was shot with around ten different cameras.
What's the best part of shooting?
When you shoot for 50 to 100 days, there is a bond that is formed between the crew. We become a family and we become sensitive to each other’s needs and woes. I love the people involved and I love the journey. Apart from this, I like the anticipation of watching the final product. I watch it with the audience and it is interesting to see them laugh and clap unexpectedly during the movie.
Which is your favorite movie?
‘My Dear Kuttichathan’ because when I saw it as a child, it liberated my imagination. If you are asking about the movies I worked with, every project is very different from the other, so I would say I love the uniqueness in every movie.
What is your next big step?
After Parava, I think everyone has high expectations on me and I would love to take up movies with a radical element in it because the enigma involved in capturing the story is directly proportional to the happiness I get when I see the film. I like shooting short music videos but I would like to do more movies and probably branch out into writing scripts. When I am not working on films, I generally do ad films. I make sure that I'm always somewhere near the camera all the time.