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Interview with Siva Kumar (Souryam director)
Date: September 23, 2008, Hyderabad
siva kumar

Persistence and patience are the traits of a successful technician. The glamour world is a mix of sweet dreams and nightmares. Here is one cinematographer, Siva kumar alias Siva from Chennai, who chose not to dream at all, but to make a non-stop pursuit of the concrete goal – to become a director. A Gold-medalist from Adayar Film Institute and son of a popular documentary photographer Jayakumar, he started his career in Tollywood … a small worker in the cinematography department for Venky’s film Jayam Manadera. In a brief journey of 5 years, he did the DOP (Director of Photography) for about 15 films, all over the South. Now, Siva waits for the victorious moment in his life as the “debut director” of Gopichand’s film Souryam, set for release on September 25th. In an exclusive interview to Idlebrain, Siva tells about his smooth but happening journey in Tollywood.

Tell us about your journey into Tollywood?
My name is Sivakumar and I am widely called as cameraman Siva. I come from Chennai. I pursued career in photography. In 1998, I took my gold medal from the Adayar Film Institute. I worked with Jayram Vincent (popular cinematographer) and as operative cameraman with some other technicians before coming into Tollywood. It so happened that I came to Hyderabad to work for Venkatesh Babu’s film Jayam Manadera (2000) as operative cameraman. From 2002, I became an active technician and I worked as Cinematographer for about 15 films. They include Nenunnanu and Boss of Nagarjuna; Sriram, Gowtham SSC; Charlie Chaplin and Badri in Tamil. Mine is a slow but careful journey. I never faltered anywhere.

Before coming to the photography field, I cherished a lot of interest in fine arts, particularly writing poetry, small plays. I got the Best Orator Award thrice in Tamilnadu. I used to write a lot of things during the nights and observe my surroundings for new things each day. This helped me when I wanted to become a director. Though I took up cinematography as profession, always I was gripped by the ambition to become a director. But due to professional commitments and other technical reasons, it got delayed for all these years.

Last year, I took it stubborn that I should become a director. I just took complete rest from my profession and readied five scripts. I picked up one script and went to Hero Gopichand and narrated it to him. You know what happened? He immediately shook his hands with me. He never asked a single question. But gave me the answer: Yes. Siva, we are doing the film. It is my next film. Go, get ready. (That time, he was engaged to Ontari). First I took it lightly. But, I found that Gopichand really liked my subject and believed me like his brother. I had no time to waste. Things went down fast and we successfully completed the film Souryam.

How confident are you with Souryam?
Confidence flows all over my body. First of all, it is the trust that matters a lot. I trusted myself, I trusted the script, I trusted the people, and I trusted the cast and crew. After preparing the script, I narrated it to more than 100 people in the age group of 10-25 and even beyond that up to 50 and 60. I met the audience from all walks of life, but not connected to the film industry. They were rikshaw-pullers, autowallahs, software people and the like. Not to bluff, almost all of them liked the script. It injected the vile of courage into me. That’s it.

Into which category or genre does Souryam fit into?
It is a pucca mass entertainer and will justify the image of Gopichand. The story has powerful commercial shades, hilarious comedy. I reiterate that so far Gopichand has not done such a role in his career. Souryam is all about hilarious comedy, mind-blowing stunts, and moving sentiments

How do you justify a powerful title like Souryam?
Yes. The movie will just arrest the audience and make them sit from the start to finish. Souryam means courage. Not ordinary courage. There are two kinds of wars. 1) Internal war with the self & 2) External war with enemies. When a person wants to a wage a war against both these aspects simultaneously, he needs a mountain of courage. That is what we call Souryam. My script will provide one hundred percent justice to the title.

Your experiences as debut director with mass hero Gopichand?
He simply believed me. From the day one when I narrated the subject till the completion of the shoot and even today, Gopichand looks confident at the same level. You can see that in each and every frame.

Is there any modification to the script after you narrated the subject to the hero?
Not even a single modification at any level. However, a lot of comedy scenes were created and incorporated suitably.

Tell us about the power of comedy in Souryam?
Yes. From the start to finish, the audience will definitely be entertained with hilarious comedy. This department is not a separate track. It is run with Gopichand, Ali and Anushka. I can’t stop appreciating Anushka for her great performance. I really wondered at her and the way how she handled the comedy thread. The power of comedy can only be felt in the theatres and it can’t be explained. Raghubabu told me the movie is going to become a super hit.

Why you repeated Anushka for Gopichand (after Lakshyam)?
Yes. It is a grand repetition. Audience who watched Lakshyam found Anushka and Gopichand a perfect screen pair. Yes. On the screen, they are made for each other. Going by my subject, such chemistry is very much required between the hero and heroine. So, there is no other go for us, but to fix Anushka. I am lucky and thankful to her. Her performance is tremendous. Beyond my words to express. Just, she did complete justice to my idea of the heroine. If Anushka is not there, certainly would have been at a big loss.

What about the music?
We got good response to the audio. RR is going to be the highlight of the film. Mani Sharma garu saw the scenes and told me: “Siva, you wait and see what I will do?” He scored terrific music all through. He did not out of commercial attitude alone. But, he got himself involved with the film. He owned it. Having seen the film bit by bit, this composer of grandeur emphatically said that Souryam is going to be a blockbuster.

What is the main highlight of the film?
Human emotions. See, there are lavish episodes followed by painful episodes. But, you find perfect balance between them. A truly purgatory experience!

Tell us about the stunts?
They are powerful and well suit the title Souryam. For instance, you have a terrific stunt sequence at the climax. It was completely shot in dust and gales. Gopichand, indeed, took great risk, though we asked not to do so. His efforts will never go waste.

What about villains?
Manoj K. Jayan and Ajay did the prime villainy. The former is popular both in Malayalam and Tamil film industries. You know how powerful Ajay can be as a villain. But, I assure the audience that it is not ordinary kind of villainy. The audience will thoroughly enjoy the villains and their performance. How, I can’t say. It has to be watched. This is a secret.

Where did you shoot Souryam? Tell us about the locations?
We shot the film in about 85 different locations. You find each and every scene fresh like morning sun. Three areas are there. Kolkota (the film has this backdrop); Hyderabad (talkie, songs and general sequences) and Switzerland (songs).

What about your producer?
I shall be grateful to my producer Anand Prasad garu for my entire life. He is my first producer. So far, he never interfered into our work. He never asked me a single question and he never doubted me. Certainly, he is a rare person with great heart. He never behaved like a producer, but as the brother of the film unit.

What kind of films you watch? Which influenced a lot?
I watch all kinds of films. I kept it a rule that I should watch one movie every day. The films – Samarasimha Reddy, Narasimha Naidu, Adi and Indra – have a very strong impact on me. I saw Ramgopal Varma’s Shiva for about 60 times. I also like the film Swathi Mutyam of K. Vishwanath garu.

Do you have plans to make direction and cinematography simultaneously?
Yes. I like it. But technically, it’s not possible. Supposing we want to shoot a massive train episode, that time I have to control the public crowds. I can’t do cinematography. My knowledge of the camera is a big plus point to me. I can see from the cameraman’s angle also.

What’s your preference now? Cinematographer or director?
Director. And director only, because it’s my long cherished dream realized now.

Next plans?
Waiting for the Souryam result. I am tense but I see success before me. And I have four more powerful scripts. Let me see. I am not in a hurry.

Anything else?
I am a big fan of My hearty Dasara greetings to all the viewers. Thank you.

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