My Story: Footprints Of A Tiger – Santosh Sivan

Each of us has, at some point of time in our lives, received life advice from our personal life-coaches – parents, siblings, teachers, mentors, kids, the vegetable vendor or the stranger sitting on the adjacent seat on the flight. Something that moved you, changed you or made a difference to your perspective forever. India Pages brings to you these slices of life, shared by people from all walks of life … Writers, Photographers, Artists, Television Producers, Hands-on mommies, Entrepreneurs and Engineers …. Meet Santosh Sivan

Run very fast and climb the tallest tree

MyStory-1-1-1“I will tell you about an incident in Andhra Pradesh while I was shooting The Story of Tiblu. One day while we were in the thick forest, the path tracker, a tribal, looked very worried after seeing something on the ground. He began to whisper something in the ears of his friends and then all of them looked worried. I asked them what the matter was, and they said the tracker had seen fresh footprints of a tiger. I was petrified and asked them what we should do if we saw the tiger?


They advised me, ‘Run very fast and climb the tallest tree because tigers cannot jump high.’ They could see I was very worried. I said, ‘We better go and climb the tree right away, because I do not know if I can run fast and climb a tree too.’ The tracker said, ‘No problem sir, when you see a tiger, you will learn how to run very fast, and you will also learn how to climb a tree very fast!’

This is what I kept in mind when I met John Malkovich, when I made Terrorist. I just jumped into the project without knowing anything about terrorism. I learnt to run and climb along the way. (Smiles) Another lesson I learnt was when I followed the route of the great river Brahmaputra: the deeper and wider the roots, the more value a tree had for the people who live there, because that tree would not get washed away. I now understand, that it is our roots that will anchor us and help us survive, when emotional storms hit us like flood hit trees.

I also feel that not everything in life is visible and that everything has a mystery. If you see a tree, its roots are hidden. A baby in the womb has gone through an entire life in the womb and the mystery of its earlier life, its hidden lifetime, is always there. We are just not conscious or aware of it. That is the kind of understanding I attempt to bring to my work.”

About the Santosh Sivan:

Santosh Sivan is a renowned Cinematographer-Director, best known for his exquisite camerawork in films like  Dil Se and Ashoka The Great, among many others  An alumni from the Film & Television Institute of India, he has more than  45 feature films and 40 documentaries till date. He became the first Cinematographer in the Asia-Pacific region to be honoured with American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) membership. As a cinematographer, he has won five National Film Awards – including four for Best Feature Film Cinematography. As of 2014, he has received 11 National Film Awards , and 21 international awards, for his work in various films. He was awarded the Padmashree by the president of India in the year 2014. His brothers Sangeeth and Sanjeev are also directors, and his father Sivan, is well-known Cinematographer Sivan


Author Rakesh Anand Bakshi with Santosh Sivan

 (Reproduced with  permission from Author Rakesh Anand Bakshi , Cinematographer/Director Santosh Sivan’s chapter in the book Directors’ Diaries – The Road to Their First Film.)

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Suhana Bhatia
Suhana Bhatia
Features Editor