Santosh Sivan :

"I always put the visual language ahead of the spoken language"


   Santosh Sivan est un cinéaste indien de premier plan ; directeur de la photographie sur des tournages importants tels que Roja et Dil Se (de Mani Ratnam) ou Coup de foudre à Bollywood (de Gurinder Chadha), il est surtout le réalisateur de films de genres et de langues variés : Asoka avec Shah Rukh Khan et Kareena Kapoor, Navarasa, Before the Rains ou encore le fameux film The Terrorist, tant vanté par John Malkovich.
   Il a répondu (en mai 2010) à quelques questions en exclusivité pour
Indes réunionnaises.
   Site officiel :

Interview  -  Vidéos et bandes annonces


  • IR : Santosh Sivan, looking back at all the movies you made and all the awards you won, what is the most important film in your career according to you, and the most important moment?

SS : I think the most important film is usually the first one, the first film I did was for kids, it's like the first step, ha...
   And I really want each of my films to be different, the experiences of each film has been different, though Terrorist is the film that got me noticed abroad, thanks to John Malkovich, Roger Ebert and Michael Ontage.

  • IR : You have been working, as a cinematographer or as a director, in different contexts, with different people of different languages and cultures (Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, English...) : what could you say about this experience ? Actually, are there noticeable differences between these cultures concerning the way they consider cinema?

SS : I would think so, each has its own nuances, in language, the pitch the average, the colors they embrace, and also the kind of lights they prefer, like say tungsten to a tube light.
   But there are the common universal similarities too, like a smile, anger etc etc...
  Though normally the budget of the film escaltes with the language, the more people who speak the language, more the budget.

  • IR : Do you consider yourself as a director who makes movies in a “cinéma d’auteur” (as we say in French) spirit ?  Is this notion (cinéma d’auteur vs commercial cinema) relevant in India, according to you?

SS : I would think so, since I make films in all languages and for all kinds of audiences, think think since I always put the visual language ahead of the spoken language.

  • IR : What are you looking for in making movies ? What is your purpose ? Is it in aesthetic, in artistic, in psychological, social, political… words that we could define it ?

SS : I guess it's a mix of everything, sometimes making a movie that truly reflects how you feel, so making a movie  is almost like giving birth to something.

  • IR : In movies like Navarasa, Before the rains or The Terrorist, you approach social topics (political fight, third sex people, English-Indian relationship during the Raj) : when you direct such movies, what impact do you expect on the audience ? Can you say that actually these movies had an impact ?

SS : Well I guess you made them since it really did have an impact on you, which is why you made those films, however difficult it was, so I guess one can hope to find people who think likewise.

  • IR : Navarasa and The Terrorist are Tamil movies… I would like to talk about Tamil cinema now : who are the directors, the actors or other personalities you consider as very important and significant in Tamil cinema, today and yesterday ? Do you consider some Tamil directors as your models or inspirers ?

SS : I haven't been involved in too many Tamil films as cinematographer, except with Mani Ratnam, who I certainly rate very high, and whose present  film Ravaan I was involved in cinamatography, though I really like some of the older films, especially of Mahendran, and Bharathiraja.
   But since I hail from Kerala I speak Malayalam and hence I'm not really a judge on Tamil cinema nor have I seen too many of them.

  • IR : What are your plans for the coming months ? Are you working on a new movie ?

SS : I'm commencing my new film, it's set in 15th  century Kerala. and is about the first white European who comes in and starts manuplating and trying to gain power to trade and finally rule.

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The Terrorist (1999)

Asoka (2001)

Before the Rains (2007)

Urumi (2011)


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