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HOT 100 – Cinematographers – Senthil Kumar, Bahubali

The striking imagery in the S Rajamouli-directed blockbuster Bahubali has revolutionised how films are conceptualized in Indian cinema. While some pointed out that a good part of it was because of the massive visual effects deployed in it, there is no denying that the captivating cinematography left a lasting impression on movie-goers, who thronged theatres to watch Bahubali.

Cinematographer Senthil Kumar is justifiably happy with his work on the entire film “right from the beginning where Sivagami, played brilliantly by actress Ramya Krishnan, is washed in the river and saves the baby, to the towering waterfall sequence cascading down to the village where Shiva is raised, to the war between Kalakeya and Mahishmati in the climax where the audience cannot tear its eyes from the screen.” No wonder he confessed having difficulty in picking a favourite shot.

Senthil Kumar with the reel-life Bahubali, Prabhas
Senthil Kumar with the reel-life Bahubali, Prabhas

Kumar said, “I look for strong shots which have great lighting, superb angles and good composition, but the story is the key. As a DOP, I have to draw the attention of the audience in a certain way to help my director tell his story.” Rajamouli and Kumar have been collaborating for over 12 years now and Bahubali was their seventh film together.

“He is a visionary,” said Kumar simply of the filmmaker. “My biggest challenge in Bahubali was being one with the director and creating the shots in his mind’s eye.”

Acknowledging that “Bahubali is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” Kumar is now committed to shooting its sequel. And he acknowledged that given the attention and acclaim that the prequel got, filming the second edition will be very challenging, because the bar is already raised so high and there are great expectations all around from the movie.

Moreover, the second part is expected to be a lot more dramatic as the true story and suspense unfolds, so his job will be more crucial as a cinematographer. He will have to let each frame tell the story at its own pace, even as the visual effects team work their magic to bind the audience’s attention.

But Kumar is not really worried about these technical nuances, long-term veteran as he is in this field. He has previously worked for other renowned films like Magadheera, Arundhati and Eega, which went to become big blockbusters in their own right. He even shot a song for Rohit Shetty’s popular Dilwale, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. Bet you did not know that!

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