B.R. Vijayalakshmi stepped into the shoes of a cinematographer at a time when hardly a handful of women worked behind the screen. Cinema has always been a part of her family with the famous director and producer B.R. Panthulu as father and filmmaker brother B.R. Ravishankar. Vijayalakshmi, however, clarifies that her father being a filmmaker did not give her any advantage in the industry.
My father passed away when I was 16 years old, but my brother was a filmmaker and he introduced me to cinematographer Ashok Kumar. He encouraged me to join him and thus it started out as a hobby. When I joined him, Suhasini was already working as his assistant, she moved on to become an actress and I stayed behind to become a cinematographer. After one year it became more of a passion." Today, after having worked in about 22 feature films, some as a director and writer, the first female cinematographer of Asia is once again donning the hat of a director. Her film Abhi & Anu, a bilingual is awaiting release in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The film starring Tovino Thomas and Pia Bajpai in the lead goes by the name Abhiyum Anuvum in Tamil and Abhiyude Katha Anuvinteyum in Malayalam. "When the plan for this project came up, we thought we will go into true stories. We went through a few true stories, one with euthanasia, another with cancer, Alzheimer's, etc. But it was this story that caught my attention, because the couple faces an unusual situation. What the couple goes through and what they decide to do is the crux of the story. I came across this true incident through newspaper reports and online searches," explains Vijayalakshmi.
On why she chose to go for a bilingual project, she says, "The initial decision was made by SaReGaMa. I would have made it in Tamil and Kannada. The reason I chose to make it in Malayalam as well is because the story is such that it demands a culturally advanced audience."
This is not her first tryst with Kerala. Vijayalakshmi's husband Sunil Shree Nair is a Malayalee. He is also the editor for the movie. "Kerala is like my hometown. From the time I started work, I have been associated with this place. Ashok Kumar sir had so many Malayalam projects. Moreover, Santhosh and Sangeeth Sivan are my close friends. So I have always been in touch with Kerala."
Explaining about why she decided to zero in on Pia Bajpai, for a southern bilingual, despite so many fresh new faces in the two film industries, she says,
"This story is very unusual, the characters are unusual. The first half demands the female lead to be a bubbly character and the second half demands an intense actor. I could've chosen anyone else but then I happened to watch Pia in the short film The Virgins and I loved it. Moreover, I was thinking about the on-screen chemistry part too and I think Tovino Thomas and Pia look good on screen. screen....