Alaipayuthey, released in 2000, boasts of Mani Ratnam's classic touch. The masterly finesse of the ace director with frames and the patterns of colours turned a simple romantic story into a classic.
The credit of tracing exactly how Mani Ratnam visualised the movie to the screen should go to cinematographer P C Sreeram. Magic and realism blend in PC Sreeram's frames giving it a dreamy hue in Alaipayuthey.
No wonder PC Sreeram considers Alaipayuthey as one of the most challenging Mani Ratnam projects he has done.
“Every film has got it's own complications. No film is less easy than other film. But one particular film I can talk about is Alaipayuthe, where lot of things had to be done on camera to bring a different kind of saturation level,” he recalled.
The 'Pachai Nirame' song is the scherzo in the symphony of colours created by these two legends.
The song opens with Madhavan riding a bike on a beach. Mani Ratnam and PC Sreeram opted for a long top-angle wide shot to give a glimpse of the vastness love has brought in Madhavan, bitten by the bug.
With the first verse, 'Pachai Nirame' (Oh, green colour), the camera dances down from a tree mimicking Shalini's steps. This is first of the many colours injected into Madhavan by love.
P C Sreeram heard the lyrics and interpreted the space according to the colours. "Conceptually, director had used the word 'pachai nirmae'; the song itself had a colour coding. So all that was said, had to be seen onscreen. Although it was interesting for me to do, it had it's own tedious moments of getting it across," he noted.
Throughout the song PC Sreeram maintained that either the camera or the artists would move in the frame. At a time when digital enhancements or corrections were unknown, he captured multiple contrast layers of each colour using a Panasonic Varicam.
PC Sreeram, who is known for his style of lighting, used his signature backlit frames once the song entered the blue and orange tones of love.
“The film song called for different colours. To make it that happen, today we do it with technology and enhance things. But at that time, I had to do establish my own methods to bring the kind of colour saturation. At that time, everything had to be planned in such a way that the colour pallates of the film will look different," he concluded.