Shaji N Karun to shoot MF Husain's film
Noted filmmaker Shaji N Karun has moved on from his Malayalam film Kutti Srank now that it has been adjudged the Best Indian film by the National Awards jury.
Awards are not new to this talented director. Three of his films Piravi (his first), then Vaanaprasatham and now Kutti Srank have bagged the Best Films Award in India. He was also chosen as the best director for Piravi. Not many people are aware today that he had also won a National Award for cinematography for late Aravindan's Thampu.
He had discontinued his medical education to join the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune to train himself in cinematography. After passing out with a gold medal, he joined renowned filmmaker Aravindan as his cinematographer.
Shaji N Karun had done the cinematography of Aravindan's Kaanchana Sita, Thampu, and Estappan. Other than Aravindan's, he has done cinematography of around 40 films which include a few Hindi films too, notable one being Ek Chaddar Mailisi. Hariharan's Sargam was his last outing as a cinematographer.
Asked why he stopped doing cinematography after he turned to direction, he replies with a smile, "Nobody calls me now-a-days. I would have definitely done films if asked."
Painter M F Husain, an admirer of the late Aravindan's works, was also fascinated by Shaji's Vaanaprasatham. He went to the extent of naming his Kathakali painting in a palace in Qatar after the ace cinematographer. He called the painting 'Shaji's Kathakali'!
"It is a big honour for me, a tribute to my work. I also found that he was a lot like Aravindettan (Aravindan). Both of them are good painters and both of them have in-depth knowledge of music as well. I found many such similarities. When we met, Hussain spoke a lot about Aravindettan's films like Thampu and Estappan," says Shaji.
That is how the painter asked Shaji to crank the camera for his new film, and he immediately accepted the offer. "I will start shooting for the Husain film in April. We will be going all around the world -- China, Italy, Europe, South Africa -- to shoot. You know he is a wanderer. I will know more about the film when I meet him next month."
Asked whether he is excited about turning a cinematographer again after such a long gap, Shaji says, "I am (very excited). It has been a long time! Cinematography is a very relaxed work. I've wanted to work as a cinematographer and that was when Husain saahib offered me his film. The entire shooting will be over in two months' time and after that I will start my film in Ladakh."
Image: M F Husain
Coming soon: Hindi film with Mohanlal
After the Husain film, Shaji will be off to Ladakh to shoot his next film in Hindi. The film is based on noted Malayalam short story writer T Padmanabhan's story Kadal (Sea) but the film is titled Gaadha (Legend). It is the story of a Keralite who marries a woman who has not seen the sea.
The film will star Mohanlal in the lead. When Shaji N Karun and Mohanlal came together in Vaanaprastham, it was sheer magic. This time also, we expect an extraordinary film from them.
"We have chosen Leh in Ladakh to shoot the film as we needed a place where the inhabitants are very far away from the sea. We are yet to decide on the actress who will act opposite Mohanlal.
"Music is an integral part of the film, and Ilayaraja is going to score the music. We are planning an operatic form of music and will record it in Vienna. We will start shooting only after the music is ready as music is like a character in the film. There is a conflict between the real and the unreal in the film," says Shaji.
Camera of Gaadha will be handled by French camera man Renato Berta who did a part of Vaanaprasatham before he had some disagreements with the French producer and left the project. It was Santosh Sivan who completed the rest of Vaanaprastham.
"I had spoken about Kadal to Renato when we were shooting Vaanaprastham itself. He was very keen to do the film and now when I asked him again, he agreed and I find him to be equally excited."
Image: A scene from Vaanaprastham