Ramachandra Babu (1947-2019) was an Indian cinematographer with over 130 films in multiple languages. His works were predominantly in the Malayalam film Industry. His notable films are Nirmalyam (1973), Chamaram (1980), Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989), and Kanmadham (1998). He is also one of the founding members of the Indian Society of Cinematographers (ISC), established in 1995. He passed away on 21 December 2019 after suffering a fatal cardiac arrest.
Kunjan Ramachandra Babu was born on 15 December 1947 (aged 72 years; at the time of death) in Maduranthakam, Chengalpattu District, Tamil Nadu. His zodiac sign is Sagittarius. He was a bright student who got double promotions in various grades at school. He finished school at the age of 14 years. He graduated in Chemistry in 1966 from Loyola College in Chennai, after which he got a Diploma in Cinema (Motion Picture Photography) at the Film Institute of India at Poona (now, Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune).
He is from a Keralite family settled in Marudanthakam, Tamil Nadu.
Parents & Siblings
Ramachandra Babu’s parents are Kunjan Pillai and Padmini Amma. His parents are both from Alappuzha, Kerala. He is the eldest of their seven children.
His youngest brother Ravi K. Chandran, is an established cinematographer and film director. He is known for his films Virasat (1997), Dil Chahta Hai (2001), and Saawariya (2007).
Wife & Children
Ramachandra Babu married K. Lathika Rani in 1982. His children are Abhishek R. Babu and Abhilash R. Babu.
His nephew Santhana Krishnan Ravichandran is a cinematographer with the majority of his works in Bollywood. Some of his works are the Malayalam film Two Countries (2015), Baaghi 2 (2018), and Kabir Singh (2019).
Ramachandra Babu belongs to a Hindu family.
He is from the Keralite Pillai community, which is part of the Nair caste.
It was during the third year of his Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) course that he made his film debut, being the lensman of the film Vidhyarthikale Ithile Ithile (1971). The film was directed by John Abraham, one of his seniors from FTII. His work was much appreciated.
He was the cinematographer for Nirmalyam (1973), the directorial debut of M. T. Vasudevan Nair. It featured P. J. Antony, Sukumaran, and his batchmate Ravi Menon in one of the lead roles. It won many awards.
He was also the cinematographer for the film Swapnadanam (1976), the directorial debut of K. G. George. It featured Rani Chandra and Dr Mohan Das in the lead roles. These two films established Ramachandra Babu in the field of cinematography in the film industry.
Ramachandra Babu’s first colour film was Dweepu (1977 ) directed by Ramu Kariat. It won him the Best Cinematographer Award at the Kerala State Film Awards.
He ushered in many technical upgrades in the field of cinematography. Though he was the first to do the cinemascope film Alauddinum Albhuthavilakkum (1979), its release was delayed. So, even though on record, Thacholi Ambu (1978) is the first cinemascope film in Malayalam, it was Ramachandra Babu who was the first to work on it. He was also the cinematographer of the first 70mm film in Malayalam, Padayottam (1982).
His first Tamil film Agraharathil Kazhuthai (1977) was directed by John Abraham. His first Telugu film is Tholireyi Gadichindi (1977). He was the cinematographer for Rajiv Anchal’s English language film Beyond the Soul (2003). His Arabic film Al Boom was directed by Khalid Al Zidjali.
He also won awards for Rathinirvedam (1978), Chamaram (1980), and Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989). The film Professor Dinkan was his directorial debut but unfortunately, he passed away before the film was completed.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- In 1976, Ramachandra Babu won the Best Cinematography Award at the Kerala State Film Awards for the film Dweepu.
- In 1978, he won the Kerala State Best Cinematography Award for the film Rathinirvedam.
- In 1980, the film Chamaram won him the Kerala State Best Cinematography Award.
- In 1981, he won the Best Cinematography Award at the Kerala Film Critics Awards for the film Nidra directed by Bharathan.
- In 1989, he won the Kerala State Best Cinematography Award for the film Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha.
- In 2008, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern India Cinematographers Association (SICA).
- In 2010, he won the Best Cinematography Award at the Kerala Film Critics Awards for the film Kadaksham.
Ramachandra Babu was on a location hunt at Kozhikode when he collapsed due to a fatal heart attack. Even though he was rushed to the hospital, he passed away on 21 December 2019. He was cremated with full State honours at Santhi Kavadam in Thycaud, Thiruvananthapuram.
- Ramachandra Babu is the author of the book Celluloid Swapnadakan. The book published by Mathrubhumi Publications, is an autobiography of his cinematography career.
- The first shot in his career was a close-up shot of actress Jayabharathi, for the film Vidhyarthikale Ithile Ithile. She expressed concern over the lighting techniques of Ramachandra Babu, as it was not the usual pattern she has seen so far in the industry.
- Jaya Bhaduri, Danny Dengzopa, Ravi Menon, and K. G. George are his batchmates from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).
- He was a voracious reader and wrote poems and blogs. He was also a painter.
- He connected creativity with technology by developing Cineku, a platform for short film creation. The name Cineku is inspired by the short poems termed Haiku.
- His first published photo was one which was submitted during his admission to the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). It was published in the Tamil Magazine, Kalki. The model was one of his younger brothers.