Ashok Kumar (cinematographer)

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Ashok Kumar
Born Ashok Kumar Aggarwal
Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died 22 October 2014 (aged 73)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Occupation Cinematographer, film director
Years active 1969–2006
Children 4 sons

Ashok Kumar Agarwal (died 22 October 2014)[1] was an Indian cinematographer and director who worked mainly in the South Indian film industry. In a career that spanned over four decades, he worked in over 125 feature films in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi languages. Apart from numerous state government awards, he was also a recipient of the National Film Award for Best Cinematography.[2] Kumar also directed six feature films. He was married and had four sons. One of his sons is a cinematographer as well.


Ashok Kumar was Born in Allahabad, North-Western Provinces, British India to Kedarnath Agarwal, a Hindi poet. He was passionate about cinema right from his childhood despite his family not being connected to films. His reluctant family was initially not supportive of his decision to pursue a career in film but eventually agreed imposing that he should go only to Madras rather than Bombay.[3] After obtaining a diploma in photography from the Allahabad University, he went to Madras and joined the Institute of Film Technology, Adyar, to do a course in motion photography.[2] At the institute, he watched films from World cinema including that of Satyajit Ray's. After graduating from the institute, he made his debut as a cinematographer in the 1969 Malayalam film Janmabhoomi.[4] The film was made by a group of friends who studied with him at the institute. John Sankaramangalam, his teacher at the institute was its director.[3] Ashok Kumar had financially supported the film in its pre-production work and distribution. The film dealt with the theme of religious co-existence and won the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration at the 16th National Film Awards. Ashok Kumar also became the first recipient of the Kerala State Film Award for Best Cinematography for the film.[3] Following that, he received offers to work in numerous Malayalam films for directors such as P. N. Menon, Ramu Kariat and Bharathan. His involvement with the Malayalam film industry in the 1970s, earned him two more Kerala state government awards—for Swapnam (1973) and Taxi Driver (1977).[4]

In 1978, when Tamil film director J. Mahendran was searching for a cinematographer to shoot his directorial debut Mullum Malarum, he approached Malayalam cinematographer Ramachandra Babu. Babu who was busy with his Malayalam films at the time suggested Ashok Kumar to Mahendran.[5] However, another cinematographer Balu Mahendra was eventually selected for the film based on actor Kamal Haasan's suggestion to Mahendran. For his second film Uthiripookkal, Mahendran approached Ashok Kumar to be the cinematographer as Balu Mahendra was busy directing Azhiyadha Kolangal.[6] Mahendran had watched some of Ashok Kumar's films in Malayalam and found some of his angles and lighting techniques to be very interesting.[5] The latter accepted the offer this time, thus making his Tamil cinema debut.[4] Following the film, Ashok Kumar continued to work in many Tamil films. He became Mahendran's regular cinematographer and worked in nine of his twelve films, including Johnny (1980), Nenjathai Killathe (1980), Nandu (1981) and Metti (1982).[7] For his work on Nenjathai Killathe Kumar garnered "Best Cinematographer" awards at the national, and state level.[3]

During the 1980s, Ashok Kumar concentrated more on commercial films. He also worked in My Dear Kuttichathan (1984), India's first 3D film.[3][8] His Hindi films include Kamagni (1987), Bawandar (2000) and Kehtaa Hai Dil Baar Baar (2002). Bawandar won international acclaim and won the "Best Picture" awards in many international film festivals. Ashok Kumar won the V. Shantaram Award for Best Cinematography for the film.[9] He served as jury member of the 43rd National Film Awards.[10] Over his film career, his assistants include P. S. Nivas, Suhasini Maniratnam and B. R. Vijayalakshmi. Contemporary cinematographers such as Balu Mahendra, P. C. Sreeram, Babu and Venu have also spoken of being inspired by his work.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Kumar was married and had four sons. Two of his sons, Akash Ashok Kumar and Sameer Ashok Kumar are also cinematographers, Film producers as well as real estate builders based in Hyderabad and Dubai.[8] The family is based in Chennai. Following severe illness in June 2014, Ashok Kumar was admitted to hospitals in Hyderabad and Chennai where he had undergone treatment for a period of about six months before passing away on 22 October 2014 at the age of 73 in Chennai.[11]


National Film Award for Best Cinematography[edit]

Kerala State Film Award for Best Cinematography[edit]

Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Cinematographer[edit]

Nandi Award for Best Cinematographer[edit]

  • 2000 – Sri Sai Mahima[12]

V. Shantaram Awards[edit]


As cinematographer
As director


  1. ^ "Cinematographer Ashok Kumar passes away". India Today. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "28th National Film Awards" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved 8 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Warrier, Shobha (25 March 1999). "'Alas, realistic movies are dead'". Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c ராஜா, செந்தில் நாதன். "உதிர்ந்தது ஓர் உதிரிப் பூ!". Cinema Express (in Tamil). Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Srinivasan, Sudhir (25 October 2014). "My friend Ashok". The Hindu. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "மகேந்திரன் டைரக்ஷனில் உருவான மிகச்சிறந்த கலைப்படைப்பு 'உதிரிப்பூக்கள்'". Maalai Malar (in Tamil). 14 May 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  7. ^ "அசல் கலைஞன்!". Ananda Vikatan (in Tamil). 30 October 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c P.K., Ajith Kumar (24 October 2014). "He created magic with movie camera". The Hindu. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "'Backwaters' brings a mystery of India". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 24 June 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "43rd National Film Awards". Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  11. ^ "Ace cinematographer of Tamil films Ashok Kumar dies". 22 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Nandi Awards 2000 – 2001". 19 September 2002. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "Straight Telugu films released in year 2000". Retrieved 19 November 2014. 

External links[edit]