Preetha: It was a new experience shooting a food film
'Prakash Raj loves good food, good conversation and good music. For him, all this is a celebration of life' says cinematographer Preetha
Preetha, niece of noted cinematographer P C Sreeram followed in her uncle's footsteps and became a cinematographer. She started her career assisting him before working independently for Anita Udeep's Knock, Knock I Am Looking To Marry.
She made a mark in Tamil with her first Tamil feature film, Priya's Kannapoochi Enada. Another notable film ofhers is Radhamohan's Abhiyum Naanum.
After shooting Radhamohan's Gouravam which failed to impress both critics and viewers, Preetha is back with Prakash Raj's trilingual, a remake of the Malayalam blockbuster Salt N'Pepper.
The film has been titled Un Samayal Arayil in Tamil, Oggarane in Kannada and Ulavacharu Biryani inTelugu.
In this interview, Preetha talks about shooting a trilingual that has food as a major character.
This trilingual continues your association with Prakash Raj?
Yes, this film has added a new dimension to our continuing journey. In Abhiyum Naanum and Gauravam, he was there as the producer and actor but in this film he is also the director.
This is the closest association a cinematographer can have creatively. Working with him this time has been quite enriching for me.
'More than the food, it is the mature love story that attracted me'
What was the difference between Prakash Raj the producer-actor and the director?
While shooting the films, he never showed me the producer's side at all.
I saw him only as the director this time. Only during the release time, I saw the producer in him.
He is the most supportive director I have worked with.
As the director and camera person of the films, we really gelled. We agreed on everything and were in complete harmony.
If everyone is appreciating my work in the film, it is because I was inspired by him.
In a happy environment, where your ideas are encouraged, you do your best. I was so unfettered that I gave my best.
What was your reaction when he said he was going to remake Salt N' Pepper in three languages?
I had heard about the film earlier but not watched it. Once he decided to remake the film, he asked me to watch it and then call him back.
I saw the film and quite liked it. These days you see only films about young people falling in love and here is a film where two mature adults fall in love.
I really liked the idea. It has been a while since we have seen a mature love story, at least in Tamil.
So, it was not the food part that appealed to you?
More than the food, it is the mature love story that attracted me.
I thought food was a good setting but the love story of Sweta Menon and Lal felt so real in Salt N' Pepper.
Image: Prakash Raj in Un Samayal Arayil
'The relationship between the two grows as the cake is being made'
Was Prakash Raj also charmed by the love story?
He is a big foodie. He loves food so much that his whole life revolves around food.
He loves good food, good conversation and good music. For him, all this is a celebration of life.
He used to say that he felt close to the main character who was an archaeologist and loves food and literature. All the characteristics in him are there in this character.
Are you not a foodie?
I love good food but I'm not a foodie, my husband is. So in the last ten years, I have become close to a foodie!
I am very fanatical about my coffee. It has to be really good. I am not very particular about anything else. I can manage with anything.
What delighted you the most - the various food being cooked or the love story?
Both. There is a cake story where both talk about the cake being made. It was very interesting to shoot that part. The relationship between the two grows as the cake is being made.
The film starts with shots of various kinds of food being made...
Yes, in the opening sequence we show the food of each state being cooked. It was like shooting for a Food and Travel show with candid shots of food being cooked, people eating and enjoying the food.
With a hand held camera, we walked around the streets capturing real moments. It was a kind of unlearning for me because they were not very well composed shots but candid moments where some shots may be over exposed or some not focused. What we wanted to show was the feel and smell of food.
We were not shooting with a big crew - just me with another guy with a hand held camera. It was documentary style of shooting with no lights.
Image: Sneha in Un Samayal Arayil
'Prakash being a foodie, we always had great food on the sets'
Did you choose the food that is specific to each language?
There is a song in the background which talks about the food of the region. What I did was, cut the lyrics into parts, and shoot what the lyrics say. Then, we try to find out where we can shoot those foods most beautifully, and in the natural settings.
For the Kannada version, we chose the heritage places in Bangalore and Mysore where they make vennai dosai or ragi mudde. I went early in the morning with the camera to the food streets and shot them.
In Chennai, I went to the Karpagambal mess in Mylapore in the morning where steaming hot idlis are made, and to the beach in the evening where you can see bajjis of all kinds being made.
For the Telugu version, we shot biryanis and kababs being made.
Did you enjoy shooting this film?
Very much. The cake making scene was really funny. Those who were on the sets were drooling over the cake as it was being made with strawberries, cream, and melting chocolate!
Prakash being a foodie, we always had great food on the sets. It was a very nice, beautiful and relaxing shoot.
Was it tough shooting in three languages simultaneously?
They were such seasoned actors, except for a couple of newcomers, that shooting in three languages was smooth. It was like going for three takes, and not shooting for three films.
For me, it didn't seem like shooting a trilingual. We did a lot of rehearsals as Prakash believes in rehearsals.
Image: Un Samayal Arayil
'Because this is in three languages, I am getting calls from all the three states'
Any response about your work that you cherish?
PC Sir sent me a message saying, very good work! That was one compliment I cherish.
I must say, people have been calling me and messaging very nice things. For Abhiyum Naanum also, I got many compliments but because this is in three languages, I am getting calls from all the three states. It is a very humbling experience
Prakash Raj has the Hindi rights of Salt N Pepper too. Will you be shooting the Hindi version too?
He would like to make it in Hindi and I would definitely shoot it too. I will not let him shoot the film with anybody else.
Have you started work on your next film?
Not yet. I am still revelling in the response to this film. Prakash is producing Priya's (of Kannampochi Enada) next film, and I will be shooting the film next. Also, whatever Prakash directs next!