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Hollywood beckons Santosh Sivan
Sanu George

June 13, 2000 1540 Hrs (IST)

Thiruvananthapuram: It has taken ace cinematographer Santhosh Sivan 11 years to make the journey from Thiruvanathapuram, his home city and the capital of Kerala state, to Hollywood, via the metropolis of Chennai and Mumbai.

Today he is known in film circles in the United States as the director of "Terrorist" which won rare reviews at the prestigious Sundance Festival at Park City, Arizona, early this year.

Not only has he been featured in all important newspapers in the U.S. and in the American Cinematographer magazine, considered by many as the "Bible" of cinema - he is the first Indian cinematographer who has been featured in it - Sivan has received more than a dozen offers from Hollywood to direct films.

"Terrorist" has been shown in 50 American cities and will be released in Europe shortly. "I am now eagerly waiting for the response from Europe," Santhosh Sivan told India Abroad News Service.

Santhosh Sivan, 39, burst into the tinsel world in 1988 when he wielded the camera for a 16mm Malayalam film directed by Vijaykrishna. The film is still in the cans but that did not deter him from forging ahead in the film business. He has won five national awards for cinematography and a total of 10 for his various films since then.

Sivan strongly believes that it is experiments like the ones he carried out in "Terrorist," and children's films like "Malli" and "Hallo" and even in his just completed Hindi commercial film "Fiza," directed by Khalid Mohammed that have made him what he is today. The actors in "Terrorist" were mostly his unit boys and some college students who came to do a project with him.

Even in "Fiza" which stars Hrithik Roshan, Karisma Kapoor and Jaya Bachchan, most of the technical and back-up unit hands are newcomers. "It is in fact easy to vibe with new talent because they have fresh ideas and new approaches. The biggest advantage which they have is that they do not do it as a formula," Sivan says.

On asked whether he would like to be known as a director or a cinematographer, he replies, both are dear to me. These days he wields the camera for not more than two films at a time. The rest of the time he is absorbed in research for his next project. Now, after almost five years of research, he is getting ready for his next mega directorial project, "Emperor Asoka," which he feels will take him to even greater heights of filmmaking.

Sivan discloses "Emperor Asoka" will be told like a folk tale, with the Kalinga war in the background. Shah Rukh Khan, who is producing the film, will play the lead role opposite newcomer Kareena Kapoor.

Santhosh Sivan believes a filmmaker has to keep abreast with advancements in technology. "One has to be updated and this definitely helps you to improve," he observes. However, Sivan has a particular attachment for an old camera belonging to his father, which is now nearly two decades old. He has used it in all his films. " There are certain things which this can do what the sophisticated one cannot do," he explains.

India Abroad News Service