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A tonal shift in his lens view

It’s raining talent in the Telugu film industry and the latest technician to wow us is cinematographer Sunny Kurapati, whose first film Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya released recently.

Inclined towards fine arts since childhood, Sunny took up a two-year course in animation once he was out of college, and worked for a year. When he figured out that lighting and animation have potential, he pursued a bachelors degree inphotography. He says despite the knowledge, he couldn’t get a place in the movies and disappointed, he went for an additional degree, “I liked what we studied — fashion, wildlife and street photography, and I showed interest in documentary shots. After two years in photography and one year in cinematography, I still found it difficult to get into the film industry.”

Unlike most graduates, he didn’t want to take up jobs related to visual effects and storytelling. Instead, Sunny spent three years as a photographer, shooting portfolios and wedding photos. “I invested the money I earned to study masters in cinematography in Europe. My intention was to learn more about world cinema and I sought admission for a three-year course in a film school in Prague.”

Sunny began to work on short films and documentaries in Prague and Berlin and since he already had a VFX background, it helped him in post production. When asked about the difference in approach to filmmaking in domestic and international circuit, he says, “The learning process and approach to people and filmmaking is different in the international circuit. I had to return home to Hyderabad after that for personal reasons. Two months after my return, I signed Agent Sai Srinivas Athreya. I met Naveen Polishetty during the shoot of Life is Beautiful; he was playing the villain and I did his portraits. When I returned to the city, he introduced me to director Swaroop and the project got going. Meanwhile, I got a call from the Dorasaani team. They saw my foreign showreels and my work. I had also okayed another film foe which the shoot will begin soon.”

Sunny Kurapati

Sunny Kurapati  

He was anxious about Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya as such genres — comic detective thrillers — have a limited appeal. Though he had worked for two feature films abroad, the experience one would get here is different. The story happens in the present but the team wanted to give the film a 90s noir look. “We wanted more saturation of colours. There was no realistic approach and it has been executed in a completely fictional style,” he explains. Sunny adds that due to some technical issues with the camera, they could achieve only 60% of that look. He further says, “Nellore is a dry place, it’s brown and dusty, so right from the beginning we went for saturation like the opening scenes, and the night time in the jail.”

Sunny explains that the camera was dynamic, always moving towards Naveen, “We shot mostly during the night, on the streets and the real challenge was the budget constraint. It was difficult but we pulled it off as we went prepared; we did workshops and choreographed the entire scene in the morning before going for shoot.”

Dorasaani, on the other hand, is a period film and Sunny says it helped that directors of both the films were first-timers. “I went to work on Dorasaani with a lot of confidence and experience I got from Agent…. I knew the working style of Telugu films, from scheduling to the final stages of production,” he says.

The team had to shoot extra scenes for Dorasaani, and since the story needed a settled performance, it was shot in a static method using cranes, slides and Jimmy in live locations in Karimnagar. The colour tone ranged from muddy browns to greens in hard light and the highlight, he reveals, was shooting in the night on top of a fort: “We had only two lights and put it up 1000 feet high.”

Sunny’s next film is Middle Class Melodies with Anand Deverakonda and a new director.

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