Want to create opportunities for newcomers: Cinematographer Jomon on turning producer

In an interview to TNM, the acclaimed cinematographer talks about turning producer for ‘Thanneer Mathan Dinangal’ that is full of newcomers, his won work in multiple industries and more.
Want to create opportunities for newcomers: Cinematographer Jomon on turning producer
Want to create opportunities for newcomers: Cinematographer Jomon on turning producer
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Like most photographers, Jomon T John has a problem. He does not have a lot of good photographs of himself. The one above is the best he could come up with for now.

“It is a shokam scene,” he says, in Kochi dialect, "shokam" meaning sad. But Jomon is joking; he is cheerful this day, just before the first movie he has co-produced with Shameer Mohammed and Shebin Backer is about to come out – Thanneer Mathan Dinangal, with Vineeth Sreenivasan in the lead. He has done part of the cinematography too -- the much-acclaimed camera person had to rush off to finish his work for a Hindi film – the Akshay Kumar starrer Sooryavanshi.

After Charlie and Jacobinte Swargarajyam in 2016, Jomon had not been able to take up work in Kerala – running between Hindi and Tamil films. The Akshay Kumar film is his third Hindi film and there are two in Tamil -- Enai Noki Paayum Thota and Dhruva Natchathiram - which are yet to release. So, coming home for Thaneer Mathan has been a much-missed break, Jomon says.

He had been planning to take up production and had listened to some scripts for a while. When the new scriptwriters of Thaneer Mathan came to him – Girish AD and Dinoy Paulose -- Jomon liked what they had to say. “They had approached other producers before me, but could not convince anyone. I somehow found something about the script striking. It is about school life and instances we could all relate to. And I wanted to create opportunities for new talents. It is because someone believed in me that I too had got my first opportunity. I should not forget that,” he says.

He is talking about Sameer Thahir, the cinematographer who became popular overnight with his work for Big B. Jomon was his associate. “A man who was so popular – he could have taken anyone for the first film he directed – Chaappa Kurishu. But he asked me,” Jomon says.

He didn’t have the tensions of a first-time cinematographer during Chaappa Kurishu. It is only when the work got over that he even realised he'd become an independent cinematographer, Jomon says now, laughing.

After that Jomon became all too busy – cinematography for Beautiful, Thattathin Marayathu, Ayalum Njanum Thammil, then the movies that won him the State Award -- Nee-NaEnnu Ninte Moideen, and Charlie. He met Vineeth Sreenivasan for the first time during Traffic, when he was associate to cinematographer Shyju Khalid. And then again during Chaappa Kurishu, in which Vineeth played one of the leads. Thattathin Marayathu, that Vineeth directed, also had Jomon as the cinematographer. So then they were pretty thick friends by the time Thaneer Mathan happened and Jomon asked Vineeth if he could do the role of a ‘Sir’ – a schoolteacher – in the film. “He had at first said he was busy with some work. But I told him to hear the script first. When he heard it, he agreed to do the role," he says.

The film is full of newcomers. The story is of a boy’s life through his +2 days – played by Mathew Thomas, who played the youngest brother in Kumbalangi Nights. Jomon says there are quite a few moments from the film that took him back to his school life. “Waiting in the bus stop to watch someone, cycling with your gang of friends, it is all so relatable. When films become relatable, they click. That’s why as soon as we released the first song, there’s been such a good response," he notes.

The song shows Mathew and Anaswara Rajan – who appears to play his girlfriend – slowly getting to know each other. Jomon’s own schooling had been in Cherthala Holy Family High School he says, and it was pre-degree after that.

Being producer helped him take crucial decisions during cinematography. “As cinematographers we can control the budget in certain ways. We know how much is needed in a scene, and can cut out the extravaganza. Like in this movie, we show a church festival with 20 people. But another person viewing it wouldn’t realise it is only so many.”

He enjoyed putting his head into other departments he has not seen before: “I could observe the whole process of a script being converted into a movie. I really enjoyed that.”

But Jomon had to go back after 20 days, leaving the rest of the cinematography to his friend Vinod Illampally. He had to shift to Mumbai three years ago, with all the work he was doing in Hindi. “In between, I also came to do the cinematography of Love Action Drama. But I could again do only part of the work, since it didn’t get over in the planned time,” he says.

He is going to make up for all that he is missing in Malayalam cinema, by doing more productions. “I am in talks with two more directors, have heard their scripts. One of them is a newcomer. I am going to do more of this,” he says cheerfully.

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