Shaji N. Karun

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Shaji N. Karun
Shri Shaji N Karun alongwith other directors speaking on 'Meet The Juries' during the 40th International Film Festival (IFFI-2009), at Panaji, Goa on November 30, 2009.jpg
Shaji N. Karun, IFFI (2009)
Shaji Neelakantan Karunakaran

(1952-01-01) 1 January 1952 (age 69)
Kollam, Kerala, India
OccupationFilm director, cinematographer
Years active1974 - present
Spouse(s)Anasuya Devaki Warrier
ChildrenAnil Shaji [1]
Appu Shaji [2]
  • N. Karunakaran (father)
  • Chandramati (mother)
Awards1989, Special Mention, Caméra d'Or, Cannes Film Festival (Piravi), FIRST Charlie Chaplin Award 1989 (Piravi) on Sir Chaplin's 100th birth day, Eastman Kodak Award for Excellence (Cinematography),Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres from Govt of FRANCE, Padmashree by Govt of India 2011 [3]

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 married Anasuya Warrier, daughter of Dr. P. K. R. Warrier, who was his neighbor in Trivandrum for quite some time, on 1 January 1975. 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. [4] [5] 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 N. Karun giving a lecture at Saarang 2011, IIT Madras Malayalam-directore-padmashri-shaji-n-karun-presenting-a-lecture-at-saarang-2011-iit-madras.jpg
Shaji N. Karun giving a lecture at Saarang 2011, IIT Madras

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. [6] 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. [7] 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. [8] 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." [9]

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

As a cinematographer

As a director

National Film Awards:

Kerala State Film Awards:

Filmfare Awards Souths:

Filmography as director

Short films

As a cinematographer

Related Research Articles

Malayalam cinema Malayalam language film industry

Malayalam cinema is the Indian film industry based in the southern state of Kerala, dedicated to the production of motion pictures in the Malayalam language. It is also known by the sobriquet Mollywood in various print and online media. It's also known as Wonderwood due to its wonderful contributions to Indian film industry. Malayalam film industry is the fourth biggest film industry in India. The films produced here are known for their cinematography and story-driven realistic plots. Works such as Marana Simhasanam and Vanaprastham were screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. Marana Simhasanam garnered the coveted Caméra d'Or for that year.

Mammootty Indian actor and film producer

Muhammad Kutty Panaparambil Ismail, better known by his stage name Mammootty, is an Indian film actor and producer who works predominantly in Malayalam-language cinema. In a career spanning four decades, he has acted in over 400 films, mainly in Malayalam, with several in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and English. He is regarded as one of the greatest actors in Indian cinema.

G. Aravindan Indian film director

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<i>Vanaprastham</i> 1999 Indo-French drama film by Shaji N. Karun

Vanaprastham: The Last Dance is a 1999 Indo-French psychological drama period film in Malayalam-language that was directed by Shaji N. Karun. It was produced by Pierre Assouline and co-produced by Mohanlal. The screenplay was written by Karun and Raghunath Paleri based on a story by Assouline. It features Mohanlal in the lead role, with Suhasini Maniratnam, Mattannur Sankarankutty Marar, Kalamandalam Gopi, Venmani Haridas, and Kukku Parameshwaram in supporting roles. The film's music was composed by Zakir Hussain.


Piravi is a 1989 Indian Malayalam-language drama film directed by Shaji N. Karun. It stars Premji, Archana and Lakshmi Krishnamurthy. The film is based on the life of professor T. V. Eachara Warrier, whose son, a student in Regional Engineering College, Calicut, was killed in police custody during the National Emergency Period of 1976. The film's music was composed by G. Aravindan and Mohan Sithara. Piravi received widespread critical acclaim upon release. The film was screened and very well received at many film festivals and won at least 31 awards, including the Caméra d'Or — Mention Spéciale at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival. It also won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film at the Indian National Film Awards in 1989.


Swaham is a 1994 Indian Malayalam-language drama film produced, co-written and directed by Shaji N. Karun. The film stars Ashwini, Venumani Vishnu, and Mullenezhi. The film's music was composed by Isaac Thomas Kottukapally and K. Raghavan. Swaham met with widespread critical acclaim upon release. The film was screened at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or.

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Mullamangalath Parameshwaran Bhattathiripad, commonly known as M. P. Bhatathirippad or Premji, was a social reformer, cultural leader and actor from Kerala state, India. Premji joined Yogakshema Sabha and worked with V. T. Bhattathiripad, E. M. S. Namboodiripad and his brother M. R. Bhattathiripad in the fight against the casteism and conservatism that existed in the Nambudiri community. Premji was also a noted stage and film actor who won the National Film Award for Best Actor for the film Piravi.

<i>Kutty Srank</i>

Kutty Srank is a 2010 Indian Malayalam arthouse film directed by Shaji N. Karun. Mammootty played the title role for the film. The film was produced by Reliance Entertainment under the banner of Big Motion Pictures, their first production in Malayalam. The film was released at the theatres of Kerala on 23 July 2010.The film won the national award for best feature film along with three other awards.

Sunny Joseph

Sunny Joseph is an Indian cinematographer and director from Kerala, most known for his work in Shaji N. Karun classic, Piravi, for which he won the 1988 Kerala State Film Award for Best Photography. He has Post Graduate Diploma in Cinematography from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. Currently he is the President of Indian Society of Cinematographers, (ISC).

Pranavam Arts International

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M. J. Radhakrishnan

M. J. Radhakrishnan was an Indian cinematographer working mainly in Malayalam films. He got National film award 2018 as best cinematographer for his work on Malayalam movie 'Oolu'. He won Kerala State Award for Best Cinematography 7 times, equal with Mankada Ravi Varma. Earlier he worked as a still photographer and then as an associate to cinematographer turned director Shaji N. Karun. His important works included Deshadanam (1996), Karunam (1999) Naalu Pennungal (2007).Veettilekkulla Vazhi (2010) and Akasathinte Niram His films were screened at several prominent film festivals around the world including Cannes, Shanghai, Cairo, Montreal, Telluride, Jeonju, Toronto, Chicago, Rhode Island and Rotterdam. One of his works, Marana Simhasanam, won Caméra d'Or in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. Another film Veyilmarangal won Golden Goblet award for Outstanding Artistic achievement at Shanghai International Film Festival 2019. He worked on over 117 feature films and several documentaries and worked with some of the prominent Indian filmmakers including Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Murali Nair, Shaji N. Karun, TV Chandran, Dr. Biju, Jayaraj and Renjith. He mostly worked on arthouse films and was known for his natural lighting styles. In a career spanning more than two decades, he worked with a number of young film makers, mostly in their maiden ventures..Film Kalamandalam Hyderali 2019, directed by Kiran G.nath was his last completed work as director of photography.

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T. Krishnanunni is one of the most reputed sound designers in India. He has received multiple National Film Awards and Kerala State Film Awards. He has worked with almost all the eminent film makers in Kerala, including Adoor Gopalakrishnan, G. Aravindan and Shaji N. Karun.

Isaac Thomas Kottukapally was an Indian film score composer, music director and script writer working mainly in Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi films. He scored music for several English documentaries and commercials.


Oolu is an Indian Malayalam-language Fantasy film directed by Shaji N Karun and written by T D Ramakrishnan. The film stars Shane Nigam, Indrans, Kani Kusruti, Esther Anil in the lead role; produced by A V Anoop. The film was the opening film at the 49th International Film Festival of India (2018). It was also screened at a few other major film festivals.


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