Sreekanth, Lighting Designer
Sreekanth, a very renowned Thiruvananthapuram-based lighting designer in the country, started his career as a theatre actor and performance facilitator, where he found himself into theatre lighting design under the guidance of exponent lighting designers like V. Ramamurthy (India) and Remy Nicholas (France). He speaks to Lighting India about his journey so far and his new venture.
What drove you towards lighting firstly, what fascinated you towards Stage lighting?
After my formal education I too had the confusion and chaos as part of the general mindset of a youngster as to what to do and what to become. I joined a theatre group named ‘Abhinaya’, which moulded me into an artist. In Abhinaya, I have acted in plays directed by S. Ramanujam, Narippatta Raju, P Balachandran, D. Reghoothaman, Abhilash Pillai, etc. But over the course of time, realising my limitations, I moved into coordination and to the technical side of drama. Slowly, I started to learn stage lighting. I assisted D. Reghoothaman in lighting for a play by Kerala’s first women’s theatre named Abhinetri. The play was a big success. At that point, I realised that my future is in lighting and I should learn more about it. Still, I was very unfamiliar in the technical jargon used in it. The main challenge was that no authentic books, journals or literature were available here to continue my learning process. A golden change came at that time. A businessman and art enthusiast, Achani Ravi from Kollam – Kerala, started a theatre named Sopanam and he constructed an auditorium also. V. Ramamoorthy was in charge of installation of lighting equipments in the theatre. Afterwards, he conducted a lighting workshop for finding new talents who can operate the equipments in the newly constructed theatre. I along with a few friends attended the workshop and that fascinated me. From that time onwards, I had attended all the workshops of V. Ramamoorthy and slowly became his assistant. Later on, I attended the NSD Technical workshop in Kerala under his guidance. What fascinated me more was attending the NSD festival in New Delhi. Now, I was able to connect everything which I had learned and which I had seen all these days and there my journey as a lighting designer started and is still going on. Coming back to Kerala with the rich experience, I had to face so many challenges like minimal and outdated equipments, no acknowledgement after the performance or show, no name of the lighting designer in the brochure, etc. 20 years back I used to get Rs.300 for a show working as a lighting designer which is way more than what an actor used to get. This, the need to survive, has also driven me to become a lighting designer.
Cameo Light House
Classical choreographic Work
How do you differentiate between theatres, dance performance and art festivals? What goes behind the visualising process? Because each one is different.
Question itself is the answer – ‘because each one is different’. The theatre demands a different mood on the script. It varies from play to play. The ancient theatre follows a set pattern. The modern theatre demands more creativity and there is a space for experiment and the director gives more freedom to us. Here, a pre-production discussion is essential to create the mood.
In the case of dance, in creative dance, scope for lighting has increased. In the case of classical dance forms, it is very difficult to convince the artist about the relevance of lighting in their performance. Situations are changing for better nowadays. The classical dancers are also accepting the importance of lighting in their productions and performances. The upcoming artists, on the other hand, are more aware and let us to explore the possibilities of lighting to improve the quality of their performances.
Festival lighting is a bit challenging. If the organisers have a plan to convey a specific theme, we have to work hard to establish the theme and bring the output. Through the effective and intelligent use of lighting we can establish the theme very well. For e.g. In the Delhi Commonwealth Games, the theme for the performance section was purely Indian. For the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Rabindranath Tagore, the theme was Rabindra Sangeet, where I had to concentrate on the minutest details so that nowhere the theme is missed out. The Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa is another theme based festival. In all these festivals the perfect use of thematic lighting will give a new energy and conveys the message that the organisers have conceived.
In some festivals where there is no such specific thematic element, we have our freedom to use our creativity and aesthetic sense to bring the best output through lighting.
Basically, it is the artists’ imagination that I am conveying through my media. I should have a strong awareness in that. The output that the artist, show director or the choreographer visualises is implemented through me. If the output through my media needs to convey in an effective manner, the wavelength of the thought process between the director and lighting designer should match.
Kerala Tourism Onam Celebration
Mother Jane Band
In spite of having a proper plan, design and visualisation, do you find the need to improvise on the spot? How do you cope up with it?
In ideal situations, we execute what which was planned, plotted and agreed upon through discussions and rehearsals. In a live performance, if an artist breaks this, I also have to, but for good only. Certain situations demand improvisations. In some performances I had done improvisation, when I felt that there is a need for improvisation, without disturbing the wholeness of the performance.
When doing lighting for certain band performances, the artists will improvise or introduce some songs during the performance. Here, we have to adjust and quick and spontaneous reaction is needed. Here is where a lighting designer should have the perfect blend of knowledge of his tools, presence of mind and creativity.
Khattak dance performance
Receiving Kendra Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
Receiving Kerala Sangeet natak Akademi Award
Can you tell us about your ‘Cameo Light Academy’? What is your vision?
In our country, technicians and designers of light learn from their career and experience rather than being formally trained at an institution of quality and expertise. The requirement of qualified professionals in the field is increasing day by day and yet we do not have an institution for training professionals in the field. I have been contributing in the field of Creative Lighting Design for more than one and a half decade across the country and abroad for theatre productions, cultural shows, ambience and architectural lighting, etc. The exposure from this experience made me realise the urgent necessity for an institution dedicated to Creative Lighting Design, for the first time in India. My mission is to impart the practical and theoretical knowledge that I have acquired in these years and I consider this forward step a historic mission.
Even universities are there in Western countries dedicated for Lighting Design and an enthusiast from India will not be able to afford the expenses there. This is another reason why I started this Academy.
I am proud that in the first batch of ‘Lighting Design for the Arts and Creative Industry’, I have been able to train and contribute 15 young talents, including one female, to the lighting industry.
Receiving Vayala Award from Former Chief Minister Shiela Dixit
Light Academy students
Any piece of advice for the budding Lighting Designers in India?
As I have seen, everybody wants to learn the techniques only. They do not want to learn the art and I have seen them lacking the perfect blend of the art and craft. Lighting designer must be an artist who should have awareness of all the art forms. I suggest that a lighting designer should learn music and painting. This will help develop a sense of rhythm and the basics of colour. These are the basics of lighting. Even though it is a technical thing, ultimately lighting design is also an art. If we approach lighting design as an art, we can create magic, even with minimal equipments.