WHILE Urumi (2011) is the last film he directed in Malayalam, it is also Santosh Sivan’s initiation into production, under August Cinema — in partnership with Prithviraj, Arya and Shaji Nadesan. Interestingly, despite releasing the dubbed versions in Tamil and Telugu within a year, the Hindi version (Ek Yodha Shoorveer) is only releasing this week. “Back then we’d wanted to do it simultaneously in Hindi, but couldn’t as we wanted original voices. Honestly, we didn’t realise that the story of Vasco Da Gama would interest so many — especially in other languages. It was more about educating them,” shares Sivan.
The cinematographer-director has just wrapped up shooting his first British film, Lies We Tell, directed by Mitu Misra. Starring Harvey Keitel and Gabriel Byrne, Sivan—who is also co-producing the film—was often active on Twitter, sharing pictures from the set. Meanwhile, he is also excited about filming the next Murugodass directorial, starring Mahesh Babu — his first Telugu film in a career spanning over three decades. “I like to do one film at a time. When you walk into a film, most of the people are new; it’s a fresh experience. Never mind the genre, serious or parallel, you learn so much from it. I like that,” he admits.
For Sivan, cinematography is very Zen-like—there is so much creativity involved. “Technology has changed over the years, but the sensibilities remain the same. That’s why we still look at films of Vincent Master, VK Murthy, Balu Mahendra or Ashok Kumar with reverence — they captured it in all its simplicity and purity. We should have a sensibility that comes from our culture, rather than the internet,” he says. His assistants talk about his ability to work with natural amenities and create magic out of it. “In Urumi, we were shooting in rain and we got waterfalls like shower curtains. That was later used in so many films.”
He likes the fact that today the audience is able to differentiate between good and bad cinematography—“that makes them appreciate it more.” While Sivan does read the “occasional sensible constructive review,” he says that with the advent of social media, everyone is a film critic. “I don’t expect any film to connect 100 per cent with people — everyone will have some reservations on some aspects of the film,” he shrugs.
Travelling is Sivan’s second greatest love; nature comes first. Currently creating a miniature forest in Pondicherry, it is his passion project. “I did a documentary on Farmers of Kuttanadu, after which I got a couple of acres to plant trees as per the star signs (different trees for different stars) and medicinal plants.”