The Shooting Star

FRAMED LIKE A PICTURE Santhosh Sivan agreed to act because Makaramanju is based on Ravi Varma's life

FRAMED LIKE A PICTURE Santhosh Sivan agreed to act because Makaramanju is based on Ravi Varma's life  


Santosh Sivan sketches his mindscape, as Saraswathy Nagarajanwatches the cinematographer-director morph into an actor too

In a white dhothi, silk kurta and angavastram, you almost miss seeing cinematographer-director-actor Santosh Sivan on the sets of his new film Makaramanju.As you gape at him in his new get-up, he laughs loudly and adds that he never knew acting was so cool.

Facing the camera

“Both the director and a cinematographer leave the set only when pack-up is announced. Now I am so pampered on the sets. After my shot is over, I am allowed to go home and in between my shots, I can interact with the cast and crew… This is really cool,” says Santosh.

After Raakh, Santosh is facing the camera for the first time as hero in Lenin Rajendran's Makaramanjuafter years of proving his excellence behind the camera as cinematographer and director of both commercials flicks and art house films.

He says the stars of Raavan(Abishek, Aiswarya and Prithviraj), on which he was working as director of photography, encouraged him to face the camera. “You know, once Shah Rukh told me: ‘Santa, act with me… then people will say I look good,” he says with a guffaw.

Santosh, an alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India (1985 batch), says he agreed to don the greasepaint only because it was Ravi Varma who he reveres as “this artist has shaped our visual aesthetics…”

It could also be because Santosh not only paints the silver screen with his breathtaking visuals but also wields a brush to fill canvases with his impressions of things around him.

Exhibition of paintings

“In fact, Owais, M.F Husain's son, and I plan to hold an exhibition of my works soon,” says Santosh, a little reluctant to reveal more about his paintings. “You will see,” he says.

Moreover Santosh is also set to shoot a film on M.F. Hussain. “I had also photographed his works in Dubai recently as he would only trust me with his works.”

Once Makaramanju is over, Santosh plans to get working on two films. While one will be on Tamil refugees in Sri Lanka, his dream is to shoot a period film in Kerala “which will have no coconut trees at all…,” he says. This globetrotting filmmaker who walks the red carpet with international celebs of cinema says proudly that he still cherishes his links to the city and his school, Loyola.

He admits that he draws inspiration from his childhood and school years to craft stories and visuals that wow viewers and critics.

“For instance, my film Malliwas based on a story ‘The Blue Bead' we learnt in school. On the other hand, Ashokawas inspired by our history teacher who used to act out the lesson in class. After watching Mallimy classmates immediately understood where I had got the story from,” narrates Santosh.

Son of acclaimed still photographer and cinematographer-director Sivan, Santosh says he learnt a lot from his father during their travels.

“I used to be with my father while he was making his documentaries. The only person who has influenced me is my father. I picked up a great deal while working and travelling with him; I feel that travel is the best teacher.”

Meanwhile he tells you with unconcealed pride that his son, two-and-a-half-year old Sarvajith Sivan, has already begun wooing the limelight by releasing a music CD of ‘sing-along' nursery rhymes in Chennai.

Exploring India

Rewinding to his sojourn in cinema, Santosh says there is scarcely a place in India that he has not visited…

“From the Andamans, which I used to visit frequently, to Ladakh, and from Arunchal Pradesh, where I taught for a year, to the western tip of India, I have really explored the country.”

He feels that each place is beautiful and each has its imperfections, “like a person's face…” “See, even Aiswarya feels uncomfortable if I keep gazing at her face… She will immediately ask: ‘What is wrong…?' You have to focus on the beauty of each place or a person's face to highlight the plus points,” he says with a smile.

This ardent admirer of Subroto Mishra (who worked with Satyajit Ray) avers that one has to “love your work” to give it your best.

Winner of several international, National and State awards, Santosh feels his best film is always the next one.

Photo: (cover) R.V. Moorthy

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