Noted award winning cinematographer Mankada Ravi Varma(84) the doyen among cameramen died at his house in Chennai on Monday (Nov 22) evening. He was the only cameraman in Indian cinema who was very particular to do only art house films mainly with Adoor. He has won two National Awards for the best cinematographer, one for Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Swayamvaram in 1972 and in 2000 for his documentary Kalamandalam Gopi.
He was under treatment for Alzheimer's disease at his sister's residence in Chennai for a few years.
Some of the finest cameramen in Indian cinema have come out from the backwaters of Kerala, where they honed their skills making films on a shoe string budget. Who can forget the contribution of cameramen like Vincent Master, Mankada Ravi Varma, Balu Mahendra, Sivan, Ramachandra Babu and others to Malayalam cinema.
Mankada Ravi Varma was one of the pioneers among cameramen in Malayalam films. And his association with Adoor Gopalakrishnan as his Aasthana cameraman, made him a legend.
Ravi ettan as he was affectionately called by Adoor had cranked his camera for the great director for all his feature films barring last two due to health problem. His last film with Adoor Gopalakrishnan was Nizhalkuthu.
The only other art house directors who had worked with Mankada were PM Azeez (Aval), PN Menon (Olavum Theeravum), Aravindan (Utharayanam) and Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao (Dikkattha Parvathy). The critics even now talk about his black and white camerawork using natural light in PN Menon's Olavum Theeravum (1967), the first Malayalam film that was shot entirely in outdoor locations.
Mankada's best is supposed to be Adoor's Elipatthayam. But the master director himself in an interview has said: "I would rate Nizhalkuthu (2002), as Ravi ettan's best ever work, 30 years after we started our journey together with Swayamvaram (1972)."
Adoor Gopalakrishnan in an obituary to Mankada Ravi Varma has said: "I never asked him why he only worked only with me, as he used to say he wanted to do only good films. Ravi ettan is the only person to whom I used to courier my script before they were made. His response and clarity on my script encouraged me a lot."
The funeral will be held today at Chennai. Ravi ettan will truly be missed in an era when cameramen are only interested in doing gimmicks with the camera rather than giving the viewer a natural look.
He was the only cameraman in Indian cinema who was very particular to do only art house films mainly with Adoor. He has won two National Awards for the best cinematographer, one for Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Swayamvaram in 1972 and in 2000 for his documentary Kalamandalam Gopi.