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Santosh Sivan on road to Hollywood
New Delhi, July 23 From terrorism to historical
characters, Santosh Sivan has tried his hand at everything. And
now he transcends borders with his period film "Before the
Rains" which has Hollywood actors and producers.
The film, about a British planter in colonial India who wants to
build a road to the hills to commercially tap the spices grown
there, will be premiered at the Sep 6-15 Toronto
International Film Festival.
Jointly produced by Hollywood studio Echo Lake and Sivan, the
film revolves around the planter, played by Linus Roache, his
wife (Jennifer Ehle), his lover (Nandita Das) and his assistant
"I was approached by them with a script set in a colonial
background. I thought it was a story that could be set in the
hills of Kerala. I often wondered as a kid as to who made these
long winding roads through thick jungle. So writer Cathy Rabin
spent time researching and adapted it to those times," Sivan
Though the Hollywood producers wanted to shoot the film in South
Africa, Sivan was very keen on Munnar. And he had a valid
He said: "It is one of the places that seems as if it's like the
Brits left it, especially the Tata Estate and their buildings,
and our sound recorder Paul Scwartz found it silent enough to do
Sivan started his career as a cinematographer with the acclaimed
Aamir Khan starrer "Raakh" and thereafter went on to win five
National Awards for cinematography. Later he turned director and
his third film, "The Terrorist", grabbed attention. The film had
Ayesha Dharker playing a young female terrorist on a suicide
The cinematography in all his films is simply breathtaking.
Asked about the importance of visuals in films, he said: "I
think it is only the visual language that makes everything
universal. Hence, I think a balance and harmony of both -
visuals and characters - make scenes poignant."
"Before the Rains", which was earlier titled "Road to the Sky",
is relevant in today's time, feels Sivan.
"Though it's a period film set in 1937, it has human drama. It
has a very contemporary and compelling story," said Sivan, who
had earlier made a period film with Bollywood superstar Shah
Rukh Khan titled "Asoka".
The director feels Indian films haven't made the desired impact
on the world audience, despite India being one of the largest
film producing countries, because of the traditional way of
storytelling that distances it from the global audience.
"We don't really lack anything. It's just that we are very
comfortable with our Indian tradition of storytelling with
songs, etc. Hence it distances the viewers not comfortable with
it. For this very reason it has also kept Hollywood from
intruding into our market, unlike in Europe."
Do you believe that Bollywood is overshadowing regional cinema?
"In terms of visibility and media patronage, yes."
On the release of "Before the Rains" in the country, Sivan said:
"I guess it will be only after the Toronto festival that
everything will be finalised."
Sivan has bagged another prestigious project. He is making a
film on Afghanistan for the BBC titled "Wedding Party". However,
he is not ready to reveal anything about the film as it is still
at a nascent stage.
"We haven't quite finalised the details," he said.
And finally, any plans to make another Hindi film?
"Very much, and hope, soon."