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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 72)
Kollam, Kerala, India
Occupation(s)Film director, cinematographer
Years active1974 - present
SpouseAnasuya 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 until 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 until 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, until 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[edit]

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. personal website www.shajinkarun.com

Career in film direction[edit]

Shaji N. Karun giving a lecture at Saarang 2011, IIT Madras
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 in July 2010.Swapaanam with Jayaram and Kadambari has premiered at Dubai International Film Festival on 8 December 2013, a rare recognition for Malayalam Cinema as the World premiere 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[edit]

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][non-primary source needed] 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 until further notice. Music was to be composed by the Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner.

In May 2022 Shaji N Karun announced his next project based on the life of Amrita Sher-Gil, pioneer of Indian modern art. In an interview with Jisha Surya of News9Live The cinematographer-director said that the multilingual movie will be based on the biographical writings of Sher-Gil. Conceived as an Indo-French-US collaborative project, the movie will have international actors and technicians. Karun has approached a Mexican actor to play the lead role of the Hungarian-Indian painter.

Awards and milestones[edit]

National and international honors[edit]

  • 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[10]
  • Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1999) FRANCE
  • The first Sir Charles Chaplin Award to commemorate the centenary of Chaplin's birth (1989) Edinburgh International Film Festival, UK

As a cinematographer[edit]

As a director[edit]

National Film Awards:

Kerala State Film Awards:

Filmfare Awards Souths:

Filmography as director[edit]

Short films[edit]

  • 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[edit]


  1. ^ "Anil Shaji". faculty.iisertvm.ac.in. Kerala, India: IISER Thiruvananthapuram. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Appu Shaji - Google Scholar Citations". scholar.google.com. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Press Information Bureau". Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  4. ^ "Thampu". IMDb.
  5. ^ "Panchavadi Palam". IMDb.
  6. ^ a b "Festival de Cannes: Swaham". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  7. ^ "Indian Entertainment News, Movie News, Movie Features – Bollywood – Tamil – Telugu – Malayalam – Kannada Movies". Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  8. ^ "AVA Productions". facebook.com. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Pickle". picklemag.com. Archived from the original on 2 January 2018. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  11. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Piravi". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  12. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Vanaprastham". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 26 December 2010.

External links[edit]