Cinematographers are fortunate to visit several scenic spots as part of film shooting. While capturing the beauty of the location on camera, they also find time to enjoy the scenery. Many cameramen have their personal favourite locations too. For Sujith Vaassudev, who has been part of the team which made several noted movies, shooting in Lakshadweep has been the most fulfilling experience.
''I have loved working in Munnar and Ooty during winters. Similarly, Alappuzha is a dream subject for any cinematographer during and immediately after rains. The harvest season in Alappuzha also presents opportunities to create striking images,'' says Sujith.
His native place Angadipuram in Malappuram district is also blessed with natural beauty. ''The railway station there still evokes nostalgia, being the location for the film, 'Krishnagudiyil Oru Pranayakalathu.' The sights and sounds of Shoranur–Nilambur railway are among my dearest childhood memories,'' says Sujith.
''I love travelling to new places as part of my work and look forward to learning more about the attractions there. When a cinematographer reaches a place, he would be connecting it with the script of the film. Instead of enjoying the beauty of the place, he would try to find the right spot which could be captured on camera to highlight the story,'' he explains.
Sujith has been constantly on the move during the last five years. He loved visiting all the places, but his favourite is Lakshadweep. It was the location for 2015 movie 'Anarkali.' Sujith visited Lakshadweep for the first time for the shooting of the film.
''I searched on Google before heading to the islands and learnt about its people, places, language, food and other peculiarities. Still, the view as we landed at that tiny airport struck me as one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in my life,'' says Sujith. ''The sea was a blue of many shades and sand was pure white. Greenery provided by the coconut groves was eye-catching,'' he explains.
The islands of Lakshadweep are so tiny that many are hardly three to seven km across. Another peculiarity of the islands is that crime is almost non-existent. ''Local people may have realised that there is no place to hide after carrying out something illegal,'' feels Sujith.
The people are gentle and friendly. They neither maintain enmity nor have differences of caste and creed. ''They win you over with their innocence and warmth,'' says Sujith. The 34 days spent shooting 'Anarkali' were among the most memorable in his life.
''Residents of each house considered us to be their guests. I was most welcome among them. This was a feeling I have never felt at any other location,'' he says.
The sea at Lakshadweep also excited Sujith. ''The sea bed is clearly visible here. The most beautiful view of Lakshadweep is from the top angle. From nearby, the beaches on the islands may look like any other such spot in other places. However, from above, the view entirely changes. This made me go widely for top-angle shots in Anarkali,'' he says.
Much homework went into the shooting of 'Anarkali.' The sunrise and sunset were observed closely before shooting them. The sea looked most beautiful during these hours. Between 10 am and 3 pm, the sun reflected on the sea producing a brilliant effect. Such observations helped make the cinematography above par, explains Sujith.
Sujith also faced some dangerous situations during the shooting of 'Anarkali.' On one occasion, the shooting was being done under water. Initially, the water was clear. But while preparing to take the next shot, suddenly the sea became rough. Nothing could be seen even from a close distance. ''There was a huge wave beneath our boat. The dangerous face of the sea was revealed,'' recalls Sujith.
However, he had a lucky escape. The incident made him realise that nothing could be predicted about the sea. At that time, the film team was at the most deep part of the sea. ''Everything was in the hands of nature. All we could do was to follow the instructions of the local people and believe them,'' says the cinematographer.
Being busy with shooting, Sujith could not enjoy the sights in Lakshadweep. He wishes to go there again. The many friends he made among the local people invite him there. ''Now I wish to go there with my family,'' says Sujith.
He has a regret, though. As the weather was not suitable, he could not visit Bangaram Island and Thinakkara for shooting. He wishes to shoot an ad or music album at these scenic islands.
Another memorable shooting location was Vagamon-Kuttikanam area on the borders of Kottayam and Idukki districts of Kerala. Sujith was shooting for the 2014 film '7th Day.' Night scenes of this area are rarely shot. But in the film, a full night's shooting was done, offering a different experience. ''My favourite is a shot in which four vehicles race through the road at night. The moon was bright and provided a dramatic background. It was truly thrilling,'' says Sujith.