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Cannes Film Festival: Santosh Shivan gets coveted cinematography award

Santosh Shivn (Wearing black hat) receiving the award at the Cannes International Film Festival

Ajit Rai/Cannes

This Cannes International Film Festival seems to be celebrating Indian films. After four Indian filmmakers made it big at Cannes, cinematographer Santosh Shivan was awarded the prestigious ‘Pierre Aunzeneau Excellence in Cinematography award for 2024.

The Award was conferred on him at the Bunuel Theatre of the main Palace. He was accorded the ceremonial red carpet.

Estonia’s young cinematographer, Kadri Koop was given the Special Encouragement Award.

Aanjeneu, a company that makes cameras and modern lenses for shooting films, is the official partner of the Cannes Film Festival.

In 2013, this company, in collaboration with the Cannes Film Festival, started the Life Time Achievement and Encouragement Award in the field of cinematography.

This time this honour was given to India’s world-famous cinematographer Santosh Shivan. On this occasion, Santosh Shivan’s master class and a grand ceremonial dinner were organised at the Majestic Hotel.

The Aunzeneau company was the first to invent the SLR (single lens reflex) camera and zoom lens. Not only this, the camera of this company sent close-up pictures of the surface of the moon for the first time on 31 July 1964 in NASA’s Ranger 7 moon mission.

Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremon said that India is a great country for cinema and after a long time, India’s presence is being felt in a big at the Cannes Film Festival. However, Indian films have been screened at the Cannes Film Festival from the beginning.

He heaped profuse praises on Santosh Sivan. He said that Santosh was a genius and had given cinematography a new dimension.

Emmanuel Sproul, head of Aunzeneau Company, said that Santosh Sivan is one of the greatest cinematographers in the world. He is currently the greatest cinematographer in India. His body of work is the best. French actress Melanie Laurent and Chinese-French actress Jing Wang also praised Santosh Sivan.

India’s Ambassador to France Javed Ashraf dwelt upon the quality of Santosh Sivan’s Hindi films in detail. Recalling the screening of Mani Ratnam’s film Dil Se in Berlin, he said that along with Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta, the audience also liked Santosh Sivan’s beautiful cinematography.

Indian actress Preity Zinta recalled the moments spent with Santosh Sivan during the shooting of the film.

She said acting in front of Santosh Sivan’s camera is a source of happiness and actor can instantly trust him. “You are filled with satisfaction as you know that some miracle is going to happen.”

On this occasion, video messages of eminent Indian actors – Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Mohanlal, Gurinder Chaddha, Nandita Das, Shekhar Kapoor, Mira Nair, Vidya Balan, Anil Mehta, Mani Ratnam, etc were screened. They shared their experiences of shooting with Santosh Shivan. Santosh Shivan has done cinematography for about 57 films and directed more than 17 films.

Santosh has just completed the shooting of Aamir Khan-Rajkumar Santoshi’s film Lahore 1947 and Ritesh Deshmukh’s film Raja Shivaji. He is busy shooting for his film Zooni. He released the trailer of Zooni in his master class. This film is based on the life and poetry of Kashmir’s classical poetess Habba Khatoon.

In his speech, Santosh Shivan said that cinematography is an art that breaks free of the boundaries of languages and countries.

“I can work as easily in Tamil and Malayalam cinema, as I do in Hindi cinema, Hollywood, and the world cinema.

He said that once the Cinematographer Association of Japan invited him he stayed with them for 50 days. “I saw the Japanese sing Chaiya Chaiya from my film Dil Se. Cinematography is a global art and hence it is universal.”

On an emotional note, Santosh said, “I have been a bad husband who often left my wife and son alone due to work. Today they are here and they must be happy.”

He remembered his parents and grandmother from whom he learned about the rich culture of Kerala. I will always be grateful to Malayalam cinema for giving me knowledge.

In a special conversation, he said Indians should learn from the passion, commitment, and style with which the Cannes Film Festival is organized. “These people are not only actors and directors but also technicians. Technicians play an important role in making cinema. You cannot make films without them.”

Talking about his long cinematic journey, he said that it had been amazing. “I became a cinematographer because I wanted to travel and see the world. You see, one life is not enough to shoot even in India. I have not yet been able to shoot at many places in India that I have wanted to.”

He said he had become a member of the American Cinematographic Society ten years ago and could have easily moved to the USA.

“I prefer to stay in India because the kind of cinema I can imagine here cannot be done there. There is so much work to do in India that there is no need to go out. However, if I get an opportunity to work anywhere in the world, I work and come back to my country India.”

Sharing his experiences, Santosh said it was while making a documentary on farmers, he realized that farming is the best job in the world. “If I was not a cinematographer, I would have been a farmer. I thought that my son should grow up in a natural environment away from urban pollution, so I bought some land in Pondicherry and built a house. He also likes all this.

I will take a break from the cinema and do farming. I cannot do both jobs simultaneously. After completing all the shooting that I have left, I will take a long break from the cinema and do farming.”

When asked why was it that Indian cinema was often taken only as Bollywood while the cinema in Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu was equally grandiose.

He said this was changing. “This is happening slowly. Now we have started using a new word – Pan Indian film. In recent years, South Indian films have become very popular in North India.”

Bollywood also started adopting the South’s formula of the larger-than-life picture.

He said nowadays the voices of actors from regional cinema are also being heard. However, I believe that ultimately both cannot be the same. For example, Malayalam cinema has a special character. They must have their house plan. On the trend of South Indian film directors like Sandeep Reddy Vanga and Atlee making Bollywood films, he said that this is a temporary trend.

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“You remember that Raj Kapoor and Karan Johar also did such experiments. But what happened? They can never be the same. In India, the character of every kind of cinema will remain because it is connected to the culture.”

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