Cinematography was nowhere in my dreams: 'Jan-E-Mann' cameraman

Vishnu Thandassery was in still photography in the Malayalam film industry for eight years.

The comedy delight called 'Jan-E-Mann' that hit the theatres without many expectations offered a perfect launchpad for Vishnu Thandassery as an independent cinematographer who could brilliantly capture the diametrically opposite emotions and translate them into scenes all soaked in humour. With apt camera movements and tones, he made the viewers howl and cry with laughter. Now that the film has turned out to be a roaring hit, the debutant cinematographer is on cloud nine for being able to do his bit in the admirable feat. Vishnu who hails from Ponnookkara in Thrissur talks about his career graph that stretches back from a still photographer, which could have otherwise confined him to the four walls of studio clicking pictures of events, to that of an independent cinematographer.

Debuted in still photography

I have been in still photography in the Malayalam film industry for eight years. After debuting in V K Prakash's 'Netholi Cheriya Meenalla', I went on to shoot location stills for more than 25 movies such as 'Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi', 'Bangalore Days', 'Iyobinte Pusthakam', 'Premam', 'Trance' etc. 'Joji' was my last project as a still photographer, and went on to assist cinematographer Sameer Thahir in Priyadarshan's Tamil film 'Sometimes'. The confidence I garnered in the project helped me assist Shyju Khalid who cranked the camera for 'Kumbalangi Nights' and 'Ancham Pathira'.


I became part of 'Jaan-E-Mann' through my acquaintance with one of the producers of the film. There wasn't any tension of debuting as a cinematographer as I already knew the actors and other crew of the film. I had worked with Arjun Asokan in 'Parava' and known Ganapathy long before. The film was completed in 35 days adhering to Covid protocol with a limited crew.

Capturing contrasting moods in neighbouring houses

In 'Jaan-E-Mann' I made a conscious effort to naturally can the interesting happenings of a house, where a death has occurred, and the sequences of events of a birthday party which is in full flow in an adjacent residence. The shoot was mainly done during the nights, and I tried to give a cool tone to the mourning house and a warm tone to the other, using practical lights and keeping cinema lights to the minimum. It was a hilarious mood even in the shooting set. All of us had a jolly good time staying at a palatial house, where the actors did the make-up, near the location. The house was very much like that of Sampath's in the film. Though the movie was originally shot for the OTT platform, the scope for theatre release opened up during the preview. It is extremely glad that we could release 'Jaan-E-Mann' in the cinemas. The film will soon be released in the OTT as well.

Never dreamt of entering films

My life was full of twists and turns. I have always had a passion for clicking photos, that's all. Films were nowhere in my dreams, nor have I learnt anything about the craft of filmmaking. After completing my Plus-Two, I joined an institute in Thrissur to study visual effects and animation. Alongside, I joined a studio as an assistant to learn the nuances of photoshop. Initially, my job was to fix the camera without touching the tripod. The job in the studio opened avenues to meet most of the prominent photographers of the time. I was introduced to filmmaker V K Prakash sir through his associate Sajimon, which was rather a turning point in my film career. Prakash sir, soon, offered me to work in his film 'Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla'. I was quick to realise cinema was my forte, though I never had had the faintest desire to be part of the tinsel world. I moved along with the current and soon landed amidst the circle of people who had made my favourite films, putting a full stop to my animation studies,

From still photography to cinematography

Once you have reached the peak of still photography, there is not much scope for experimentation. Cinematographer Sameer Thahir had once asked me if I wished to continue my career in still photography. He made me his assistant when I expressed my desire to work with him. That was my second innings, which was nurtured under the tutelage of cinematographer-turned filmmakers Amal Neerad and Shyju Khalid. I wielded the camera for the documentary 'Sarah Thaha Thoufeeq' which was about India's oldest living Jewish woman Sarah Cohen of Mattanchery. The first screening was held in Israel.

Future plans?

Discussions are on for new projects, Though still photography is my forte I wish to concentrate on cinematography.


My father Unnikrishnan is a businessman and my mother is Sheeja. I have a sister who is a fashion communicator in Delhi. Currently, I reside in Kochi, busy with a job and other matters. 

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