Santosh Sivan ASC, ISC (born 8 February 1964) is an Indian cinematographer, film director, producer and actor in Indian cinema. Santosh graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and has to date completed 45 feature films and 41 documentaries. He is a founding member of the Indian Society of Cinematographers (ISC) and is the most awarded Director of Photography (DOP) in India. Sivan became the first Cinematographer in the Asia-Pacific region to be honoured with American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) membership. As a cinematographer, he has won five National Film Awards – including four for Best Feature Film Cinematography. As of 2014, he has received 11 National Film Awards for his work in various films.He was awarded the Padmashree by the president of India in the year 2014.
Santosh was born into a family of artists. His grandmother used to teach him painting and music in the palace and as a kid he accompanied her to the palace. These visits gave him an opportunity to become familiar with the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, a nineteenth-century Indian painter whose renowned works were themes from Hindu mythology, and everyday life of his times.
His grandmother often narrated the mythological stories of the themes of these paintings, where in the postures, colours guided the imagination. This turned out to be his very first visual education ( later he made some of these into celluloid and also acted as “Raja Ravi Varma” in a feature! ).
His father used to make documentaries and during holidays he would excitedly, volunteer to help. These trips were very interesting. He loved sketching with charcoal, and was fascinated by details that you observe when you want to sketch. During these travels to remote areas in South India, He was fortunate to listen folklore’s and stories of people of the land. He is the younger brother of filmmaker Sangeeth Sivan and elder brother of Sanjeev Sivan. The trio are the sons of the well known cinematographer and director Sivan.
Santosh, a founder member of the Indian Society of Cinematographers and the most awarded Director of Photography in this country, graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India and went on to completing 45 features and 41 documentaries.
He was awarded the National Award for best Cinematographer for the films Perumthachan (Malayalam/1991), Kalapani (Malayalam / 1996), Mohiniyattam (Malayalam / 1991), Iruvar (Tamil/1998) and Dil Se.. (Hindi/1999).
Santosh was honoured by the Japanese Society of Cinematographers and has been on the Jury for the Busan Film Festival. He is a “mentor” to students for Mira Nair’s “Maisha Film Lab: in Uganda and is a director to the Sivan Foundation of photography. He was also a governing council member at the Pune Film Institute.
Late 1999s and present
Santosh received worldwide accolades for The Terrorist (presented by John Malkovich), which won the Best Director, Best Actress Awards and the Golden Pyramid Award for The Best Film at the 23rd Cairo International Film Festival. It was awarded the National Award (1999) for The Best Tamil Film and was an Official Selection at the Sundance, Seattle and Toronto Film Festivals of that year. The film was also listed in Roger Ebert‘s 100 Best Films (1999). the film was Quoted as being “a film scripted by the camera”
Following the success of The Terrorist, Santosh’s film MALLI won the National Award for Best Environmental Film in India (2000), the National Award in India for Best Child Artist (2000) and was honoured at the 18th International Festival of Film for Children in Poznan, Poland where it won the Poznan Goat for Best Director, Best Child Actress & Best Music and the Best Film-Audience Award at the Indian Film Festival|Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles in Los Angeles.
Santosh’s subsequent films include ASOKA, which screened at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals (2001) and Navarasa, which won the National Award for Best Tamil Film (2004) and the Monaco Award for Best Film & Best Supporting Actor awarded at the Lyons Film Festival. The latter also participated in the Pusan and Rotterdam Film Festivals. His debut Malayalam Language film as director, Anandabhadram (2005), went on to win several State Awards, including Best Director & Best Cinematographer. Santosh has worked as the Cinematographer in Gurinder Chadha‘s Bride & Prejudice (2004) and Paul Mayeda Berges‘ The Mistress of Spices (2005).
Santosh directed Before the Rains which is premiered as a Special Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival (2007). In addition, his short film PRARAMBHA, which was created for the Bill and Melinda Gates AIDS Foundation, also premiered at the Mavericks section of the Festival. It won the National Awards 2007 for Best Producer and Best Director in the Educational and Motivational Film category.
His film, Tahaan, won a High Commendation in Children’s Feature Film section at the 2009 Asia Pacific Screen Awards and UNICEF Award at 11th Olympia International Film Festival for Children and Young People in 2008 held at Greece. Tahaan won “The German Star of India award” at “Bollywood and Beyond” festival at Stuttgart Germany in 2009.
His latest Malayalam film, Urumi (2011) was screened at the Indian Panorama of the International Film Festival of India to be held in Goa 2012, to Busan and NHK film festivals. He was also the cinematographer for the Tamil movie Thuppakki, starring Vijay & directed by AR Murugadoss.