After a long gap, Eeram director Arivazhagan is making a return with Vallinam. The film explores a group of students’ love for basketball. Newbie cinematographer Bhaskaran K M reveals to City Express why shooting a sports-based film posed a challenge.
“I worked as an associate to cameraman Vijay Milton for Kadhalil Vizhunthen, Eppadi Manasakkul Vandhai and Vazhakku En 18/9. Arivazhagan wanted him to shoot Vallinam. But since he was busy, he suggested my name instead,” says Bhaskaran. The challenge was to convey a message through the sport of basketball, without boring the audience or sounding preachy. To do justice to the game, he had to first learn it himself. So, he accompanied the cast and director to every live championship in the city, even during the pre-production stage.
“It is easier to film a game of cricket with actors pretending to play. But basketball is different. The rules state that the ball can’t be held by any player for more than three seconds. The ball is constantly on the move, and so are the players! Therefore, I had to literally run with the camera even as Arivazhagan shouted instructions from his monitor about which direction the ball or the players were going! I had to shoot, with my right eye on the viewfinder, and the left eye on the ball or a player!”
No computer graphics were involved in the picturisation of matches, confirms Bhaskaran, praising the efforts of Nakul, Chandru, Naren, Amzath and Jagan in mastering the game. “They had no idea where the camera was. All they were told was to play. They only saw the result at the final screening of the movie,” he says. He followed the movements using shoulder cameras, cranes, steady cams and zoom lenses.
To convey the raw feel of a sports film, they decided on earthy browns and warm red colour tones. “Arivu has a refined visual taste. He wanted to convey the film’s message through visuals, more than dialogues. He didn’t want any vibrant colors to overshadow the actor’s performances. So sun, sweat and sand were key. Wherever there is a basketball match on screen, one of those three elements is dominant visually.”