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Exclusive! Santosh Sivan: An experiment like Navarasa was possible only because of a platform like Netflix

Cinematographer-turned-filmmaker Santosh Sivan talks about his upcoming projects; Navarasa, Mumbaikar and Jack and Jill

Thinkal Menon
Aug 03, 2021
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Santosh Sivan

Ace lensman Santosh Sivan has his hands full – he has two of his directorial projects (one each in Hindi and Malayalam) awaiting release – apart from Barroz: Guardian of D' Gama's Treasure, the ambitious fantasy flick in Malayalam, which marks the directorial debut of Mohanlal. The veteran technician, who is currently in Wayanad, Kerala, is all geared up for the shooting of an anthology in Malayalam, produced by Netflix, which comprises of eight stories by legendary screenwriter MT Vasudevan Nair.

Meanwhile, Navarasa, the anthology he shot for Netflix in Tamil, is releasing this Friday. Roudhram, the segment he is part of, has Arvind Swami at its helm and AR Rahman scoring music. In a tête-à-tête with OTTplay, Santosh talks in detail about the surplus of options available for filmmakers and audience today because of the OTT boom, his association with Arvind Swami and AR Rahman, and how content consumption has changed in the recent times.

You were the cinematographer for Mani Ratnam’s iconic films, Thalapathi and Roja, which also marked the sensational debut of Arvind Swami and AR Rahman respectively. Now, your film Roudhram, which has Mani Ratnam as one of its presenters, is releasing in a few days. Rahman has composed music for the project, which marks Arvind as the director. How special is this project and how has been the journey with them?

Navarasa for me was an interesting collaboration in different ways. The fact that many filmmakers and actors from different industries in south working together without taking remuneration for an initiative aimed at lending financial support to the needy in film industry itself is a noble cause. Though we had our own struggles while shooting during the lockdown, it was fun and gratifying. Arvind came up with an idea and asked me if I could shoot it, and I said yes. Both Arvind and Rahman are friends and we all know each other for a long time. Our segment, Roudhram, as the title suggests, deals with the emotion, ‘anger’. Arvind was not keen on roping in big stars for the film. He did a lot of audition before finalizing the cast. I think it has come out beautifully. Arvind is someone who always had certain qualities to become a filmmaker. He is planning his next project now.

People are now confined to their homes, thanks to the pandemic and movie halls opening with 100 per cent occupancy seems to be a far-fetched dream. The digital platforms are ruling the roost now. How do you look at this shift in content consumption?

The experience a movie theatre offers is unmatchable, no matter what. There is a magic in people empathizing with characters and enjoying emotions together under one roof. Having said that, OTT platforms are now preferred as the right alternative for content consumption. It reaches out to more people across the globe at the same time. People are exposed to content from different languages like never before.

Do you think this has opened opportunities for filmmakers to tell stories which otherwise would have been impossible?

Yes, I think so. The advantage is that we can explore a plethora of stories now; stories from different parts of the world. All stories are unique, and what matters now are good scripts and captivating performances. The Malayalam anthology I’m part of now has eight stories and all of them are set in different places and time period. Navarasa, too, has varied emotions handled by different filmmakers, all under one umbrella. An experiment like this was possible only because of a platform like Netflix.

Your directorial projects, Mumbaikar and Jack and Jill were wrapped up a while ago. Can we expect the films any time soon?

The digital rights of Jack and Jill have been sold, though I’m keen on a theatrical release. We had released only a lyric video from the movie. There are talks going on with regard to the release of Mumbaikar, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

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