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Shaji N. Karun

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Shaji Neelakantan Karun (born 1 January 1952) is an Indian film director and cinematographer. His debut film Piravi (1988) won the Caméra d'Or – Mention d'honneur at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival. He was the premiere chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, the first academy for film and TV in India and was also the executive chairman of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) from 1998 to 2001. He is best known for his award-winning films Piravi (1988), Swaham (1994), Vanaprastham (1999) and Kutty Srank (2009). He won the National Award for Best Director for his debut film Piravi. He also won two Kerala State Film Awards for Best Director for his films Swaham and Vanaprastham.Currently, he is the Chairman of Kerala State Film Development Corporation.


Shaji N. Karun was born on New Year's Day, 1952, as the eldest son of Mr. N. Karunakaran and Mrs. Chandramati in present-day Kollam district in the former state of Travancore state (now Kerala), India. The family moved to Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the state in 1963. He did his schooling in Palkulangara H.S. and took a bachelor's degree from University College, Thiruvananthapuram. In 1971 he entered the Film and Television Institute of India, where he took his diploma in cinematography. His diploma film Genesis (1974), directed by Rahul Dasgupta, got many awards and started his career. He won the GOLD medal on graduation in 1974. After graduation, he worked in ISRO Ahmedabad, Mumbai TV, Madras Film Industry on contract basis till 1975 when Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC) was about to realize. He became responsible with founder Chairman P R S Pillai, and its then Managing Director G.Vivekanandan for the planning, designing future visions of KSFDC to bring back the Film Industry that was till then rooted in Madras. His role with the participation in meaningful cinema activities through the contribution of KSFDC and well-known giants in Malayalam filmmakers resulted in many landmark achievements to the Malayalam Cinema nationally and Internationally.
1998, He started and presided the first film academy in India as Kerala State Chalachitra Academy under Government of Kerala and leadership of then Cultural Minister Marxist Late Shri T K Ramakrshnan. It is in the same year he started the International Film Festival (IFFK) as competitive and further FIAPF recognized the festival as International competitive under his tenure. He has presented three films- Piravi, Swaham, Vanaprastham consecutively to Cannes official sections, a rare achievement for any filmmakers worldwide, where the film Swaham was in competition of Cannes in 1994. Since then, till now, no films from INDIA selected to compete for Cannes' Palme d'Or. He is the Only Malayalam filmmaker who achieved three national best films (Piravi, Vanaprastham, Kuttysrank) for the Malayalam language.

Personal life

Shaji is married to Anasuya Warrier on 1 January 1975, daughter of P. K. R. Warrier, who was his neighbor in Trivandrum for quite some time. After a brief stint in the south Indian city of Madras, he returned to Thiruvananthapuram in 1976 where he got an appointment as film officer in the newly formed state Film Development Corporation. They have 2 sons, Anil and Appu. His association with the legendary Malayalam filmmaker G. Aravindan began at this time. Then he continued working with notable directors like G. Aravindan, K. G. George and M. T. Vasudevan Nair as a cinematographer. His career also spreads to many activities by Government of India and Kerala where he served in the capacities of advisory status on policy decisions. 20th International film festival of Kerala conducted by the government of Kerala, in 2015 December 4–11, under his advisory capacity is marked by the Press and film lovers as the best of the festivals held so far. Aug 2018, he is selected for the position of 8th President of Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham (Progressive Arts & Literary Organization) an Association for Art and Letters. On 31 May 2019, the government of Kerala has appointed him as the Chairman of Kerala State Film Development Corporation and assumed the position from 17 June 2019.

Career in film direction

Shaji made his directorial debut with the Malayalam film Piravi ("The Birth", 1988), which won him the prestigious Caméra d'Or – Mention d'honneur at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival. While Piravi was about the grief of a father who loses his son, Shaji's second film, Swaham (1994) continued with the theme of grief. Swaham was selected to compete at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. Vaanaprastham ("The Final Dance", 1999) dealt with the identity crisis faced by an actor. Mohanlal played the lead role in this film. He directed the film Nishad, made in Hindi, which was completed in May 2002, and premiered in the Fukuoka International Film Festival held in September 2002 in Japan. His latest film is titled Kutty Srank with Mammootty playing the lead role. The film was released theatrically in Kerala on July 2010.Swapaanam with Jayaram and Kadambari in lead roles has premiered at Dubai International Film Festival on 8 December 2013, a rare recognition for Malayalam Cinema as the World premier screening outside India. Olu, his latest film, under 'fantasy perception' and narrative, had chosen the inaugural film of Indian Panorama film selections presented in International Film Festival of India Goa-2018. OLU has also been chosen as the "OPENING FILMS" of TWO major International film festivals- International film festival of INNSBRUCK 2019.AUSTRIA, ISOLA Cinema International film festival 2019, SLOVENIA. Olu also won the National Film Award for Best Cinematography (2018) award in the 66th National Film Awards.
He has also made around a dozen short films and documentaries. Besides making films, Shaji Karun has been active as a juror at many international film festivals and an active participant in governmental and academic arenas. He was the Premiere Chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, the first academy for film and TV in India and was also the Executive Chairman of International Film Festival of Kerala from 1998 to 2001.

Upcoming Projects

As of January 2018 Shaji is completing the post-production of a new movie titled Olu with Shane Nigam and Esther Anil playing the lead roles. In a recent interview, Shaji revealed that Olu is the tale of a girl who gets gang raped and sunk to the bottom of the backwaters where she can mysteriously survive and live for the next nine months -until she delivers her ‘baby from rape’. The film will attempt to convey her perception of innocent feminine desires – spiritual and transcendental feelings."
His project Gaadha was announced in September 2012. Though was expected to commence shooting by November 2014, it has been postponed till further notice. Music was to be composed by the Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner.

Awards and milestones

National and international honors

  • Life Time Achievement Award- 12th Jaipur International Film Festival INDIA-2020
  • Life Time Achievement- Tyrol : IFFI Prize (2014) Innsbruck Film Festival, AUSTRIA
  • Padma Shri in 2011 INDIA
  • Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1999) FRANCE
  • The first Sir Charles Chaplin Award to commemorate the centenary of Chaplin's birth (1989) Edinburgh Film Festival,UK

As a cinematographer

  • Eastman Kodak Award for Excellence, Hawaii International Film Festival (1989)
  • National Film Award: Thampu (Circus Tent) (1979)
  • Awards from the Government of Kerala: Kanchana Sita (1977), Esthappan (1981), Onnumuthal Poojayam Vare (1986)

As a director

  • Cannes Film Festival, nominated for Palme d'Or (Best Film): Swaham (1994)
  • Cannes Film Festival, Caméra d'Or (Special Mention): Piravi (1989)
  • London Film Festival, Outstanding Film: Piravi (1989)
  • Locarno International Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize (Silver Leopard): Piravi (1989)
  • 1999 Cannes Film Festival: Vanaprastham was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival (1999)
National Film Awards:
  • 2009 – Best Film – Kutty Srank
  • 1999 – Best Film – Vanaprastham
  • 1997 – Best Non-Feature Film – Sham's Vision (English)
  • 1994 – Special Jury Award – Swaham
  • 1988 – Best Film – (Producer) Piravi
  • 1988 – Best Director – Piravi
  • 1979 – Best Cinematographer (Black & White) – Thampu
Kerala State Film Awards:
  • 1999 – Best Director – Vanaprastham
  • 1994 – Second Best Film – Swaham
  • 1994 – Best Director – Swaham
  • 1988 – Second Best Film – Piravi
  • 1986 – Best Cinematographer – Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare
  • 1979 – Best Cinematographer – Esthappan
  • 1977 – Best Cinematographer – Kanchana Sita
Filmfare Awards Souths:
  • 1989: Filmfare Award for Best Director – Malayalam – Piravi
  • Filmography as director

    • Oolu (2018)
    • Swapaanam (2013)
    • Kutty Shranku (2009)
    • Nishad (2002)
    • Vanaprastham (1999)
    • Swaham (1994)
    • Piravi (1988)

    Short films

    • Wild Life of Kerala (1979)
    • Kerala Carnival (1980)
    • Kannikal (1986)
    • Sham's Vision (1996)
    • Bhavam (1998)
    • G. Aravindan (2000)
    • Big Man & Small World (2002)
    • Yathrakkidayil (2004)
    • Moving Focus-A Voyage with K G Subramanyan (2006)
    • AKG (2007)
    • "Fine Balance" (2010)
    • "Waiting" (2011)
    • "Artist Namboodiri-'NERUVARA'/'trueline' " (2015)

    As a cinematographer

    • Genesis (1974)
    • Lakshmi Vijayam (1976)
    • Njavalppazhangal (1976)
    • Kanchana Sita (1977)
    • Muhoorthangal (1977)
    • Thampu (1978)
    • Kanchana Sita (1978)
    • Kummatty (1979)
    • Esthappan (1979)
    • Pokkuveyil (1981)
    • Enikku Vishakunnu (1982)
    • Koodevide (1983)
    • Manju (film) (1983)
    • Lekhayude Maranam Oru Flashback (1983)
    • Mangalam Nerunnu (1984)
    • Panchavadi Palam (1984)
    • Chidambaram (film) (1985)
    • Meenamasathile Sooryan (1985)
    • Principal Olivil (1985)
    • Nakhakshathangal (1986)
    • Arappatta Kettiya Gramathil (1986)
    • Ek Chadar Maili Si (1986)
    • Neram Pularumbol (1986)
    • Meenamasathile Sooryan (1986)
    • Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare (1986)
    • Panchagni (1986)
    • Oridathu (1987)
    • Marattam (1988)
    • Antim Nyay (1993)
    • Sargam (1992)

    External links

  • Category:Cinematographers from Kerala
    Category:Malayalam film directors
    Category:Living people
    Category:Film and Television Institute of India alumni
    Category:Kerala State Film Award winners
    Category:1952 births
    Category:Film directors from Thiruvananthapuram
    Category:Chevaliers of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
    Category:Recipients of the Padma Shri in arts
    Category:Malayalam film cinematographers
    Category:Indian documentary filmmakers
    Category:Best Director National Film Award winners
    Category:Best Cinematography National Film Award winners
    Category:Artists from Kollam
    Category:20th-century Indian film directors
    Category:21st-century Indian film directors
    Category:20th-century Indian photographers
    Category:Malayalam film producers
    Category:Film producers from Thiruvananthapuram
    Category:Special Jury Award (feature film) National Film Award winners
    Category:Directors who won the Best Feature Film National Film Award
    Category:Best Feature Film National Film Award winners

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