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Santosh Sivan Enters the Top League

Santosh Sivan (1976) has become an active member of the American Society of Cinematographers. The club is international (despite the ‘American’ title) and entry is only by invitation from peers. So, entering this league is considered a top honour among cinematographers, and Santosh is the first from South Asia to make it.

Becoming an active member is a four-step process. According to the President of the Society, “First, you have to be recommended by three active members who write letters explaining why they think you’re qualified. They take into consideration your body of work as well as the integrity of your character. Those three letters are not something that you can solicit; they just have to happen. You and your cinematography have to have made enough of an impression that three of the world’s best cinematographers took notice.” Then the candidate is invited to sit before the Membership Committee. After hearing from the candidates’ about their work, thoughts on cinematography, etc., the Committee votes. If favourable, your name goes to the Board of Governors of the Society, who consider the recommendation and vote. If you are still favoured, a letter proposing you for membership is sent to every active member of the Society. If there are no objections within 30 days, the candidate is admitted into the Society.

Santosh Sivan’s name was proposed by Michael Chapman (cinematographer notably of Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull), Theo Van de Sande, and Gabriel Beristain. His interview before the membership committee was in November 2011. The committee found it “very refreshing to hear Santosh’s philosophical, artistic and poetic approach to filmmaking,” reported a participant.

Santosh is the first active member from South Asia. Before him, a few non-cinematographers of South Asian origin have become associate members of the Society.


Trivia: Michael Chapman was the cinematographer of The Fugitive; Santosh Sivan was the cinematographer of its Malayalam remake, Nirnayam.

Scooping Happiness in School
Loyola Goes to Hollywood

Scooping happiness in school

Q. When and where were you happiest?

A. In school. Money had a lot of value then. We knew how to get the best from the limited money we got. For Rs. 2, I would get an ice-cream. And how we treasured that.

— Santosh Sivan (1976), in a recent interview to The Hindu

A Loyolite in the House of Lords

Pic courtesy: London Speaker Bureau
Karan Faridoon Bilimoria (Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea) studied at Loyola School, Trivandrum in the late 1960s. At the age of eight, he attended Loyola, “a typically strict Jesuit school where I was caned for bringing in comics,” recalled Lord Bilimoria in an interview to The Independent. His father was an army officer, and young Bilimoria’s schooling was spread over seven schools, most of them in south India.

Based on available clues, my guess is that he studied in Loyola from 1968-1971, from Standard 3 to 5.

Lord Bilimoria became member of the House of Lords in 2006. He is co-founder and Chairman of Cobra Beer, and holds several distinguished positions in the UK.

Tailpiece: A few years after Karan Bilimoria left Loyola, the school abolished caning as a method of punishment. Today, one of Bilimoria’s schoolmates, Vineeth Abraham, ranks among India’s finest comic collectors.

Hat tip: Anup Kuruvilla John (1997 ISC)

The Good Doctor: Regi M. George

The Good Doctor: Regi M. George

The best of Loyolites is also the least known to us.

Meet Regi M. George (1975 ISC).

By now, his work has been celebrated in India’s mainstream media: in Reader’s Digest (2001), in Outlook (2006), in Open (2009), and in Mint (2010). This week, India Today portrayed him as an “Action Hero”, one of the 50 applauded for being “citizens who can and do” usher in change.

The Loyolite doctor and his wife have been serving adivasi villages in Tamil Nadu for the past 17 years. Let us hope that the school and the alumni movement, at least now, will wake up and see them.

Any fool (and school) will merely invite the couple, hand over an award, bask in reflected glory, and move on. It will be much more meaningful if we — students, old boys, teachers, parents — use this as an entry point to learn and think about taking science to tribal villages, routes to social change, career choices, values, etc. By doing so, all of us will benefit, and the school will be closer to realising its own mission of educating society.

Learn about the work done by Regi and Lalitha…

The Druids of a Lost TribeOutlook magazine

Doctors on CallOpen magazine

Providing Low-cost HealthcareMint newspaper

Website of the Tribal Health Initiative – run by Regi and Lalitha

Hat tip: Joy Elamon (1978)

An Artful Update

Time flies. So do celebrities.

Here’s a quick update on celebrity Loyolites I’ve interviewed for this blog. The thing about celebrities is that they are repeatedly in the news. Still, in case you missed…

Photo courtesy: viia page on Facebook

Three years ago, I interviewed fashion designer Vivek Karunakaran (1998). Then, he was in the news for being selected to the GenNext round of Lakme India Fashion Week. In 2008, he was back at LIFW, and Westside had contracted to sell his designer line. By 2009, he was on Day 1 at LIFW. And now, with Asal (2010), a Tamil movie starrring Ajith Kumar, Vivek has become a costume designer in filmdom. Vidya Balan, on the cover of Verve magazine (February 2010), wears a Vivek design. Vivek has also styled for Vikram.

Santosh Sivan (1976) was interviewed on this blog just ahead of the release of Before the Rains, an American production set in colonial Kerala. His next film Tahaan (2008), set in Kashmir, was shown at various international film festivals. Like his earlier children’s films, this one too picked up a couple of awards. This year, Santosh Sivan will mark his debut as actor. He has played the lead role, of painter Raja Ravi Varma, in Lenin Rajendran’s film Makaramanju.

Last month, Jishnu Dasgupta’s (1996) Swarathma won the Best Band of the Year award at the JD Rock Awards 2010. Their debut album “Swarathma” has sold 4,200 copies, and they recently composed songs for Suvarna News TV channel. They tour the country quite a bit and so, if you live in one of India’s metros, you can catch them easily.

Hat tip: Deepak Madhusoodanan (1996)

Batch 1984 sets an example

Batch 1984 sets an example

Kudos to the 1984 batch for planning and executing a series of efforts in Loyola. A news report last month talked of the batch

  • setting up a nature/spices club
  • donating virtualization software
  • sponsoring means-cum-merit scholarships
  • holding mentor sessions for students
  • organising medical camps, and health lectures
  • gifting cash to non-teaching staff of Loyola

On contacting an organiser, I learnt that the batch gifted Rs 20,000 to each of the non-teaching staff of its time; that the scholarship fund is of Rs 5 lakh, and future contributions will be added to the corpus; and that a medical camp was held on 4 August. In the last week of July, the 1984 batch had a wonderful reunion (25th anniversary of their leaving school), which included an audio-video show, ottam thullal, bharatnatyam, and skit. Teachers were honoured and their blessings sought in the traditional way.

It is nice to hear that Loyola old boys are braving opposition within their own batch and collaborating across continents to do things in school and society. The big challenge for Batch 1984 will be to sustain their interest beyond two years. Most voluntary, alumni activities by batches and individuals begin with a bang, and die out soon. While trying to organise activities, Batch 1984 will learn a few lessons the hard way. But that cannot be an excuse for doing nothing. Best wishes to 1984 on taking a step in the right direction. Hope more batches follow suit.

Idea-wise, most of these are unimaginative, though, and other batches should think harder. In its salad days, LOBA undertook many of these activities — cash to staff, medical camps, career talks, etc. Old students have been ever ready to finance scholarships, but few know that the LOBA Scholarship Fund often remained unused — teachers strained themselves to find a deserving candidate. In the 1980s, the school’s scholarship scheme worked (the school itself had one before LOBA entered the scene, if I recall rightly), probably because there were a few not-so-affluent students. The school, in those days, ran the scheme silently — typically, you would not know that your chum was receiving financial help from the school. If Loyola today has few poor students on its rolls, alumni desiring to finance the education of needy children, can establish scholarships for students in government and private schools in Sreekariyam.

When we decide to do things for the school, we rarely bother to first identify the school’s problem areas, or need areas. Quite naturally, we tend to think from our angle — our skills, our memories and expectations of the school, and our resources. Consequently, we end up with solutions in search of problems. This happens because there is no regular channel to communicate the school’s needs, or alumni’s expectations. There is no forum to exchange views freely, and arrive at a programme of constructive action. Meaningful interventions will result only after a series of interactions, and dialogue. From the school’s side, the lack of an Alumni Relations Office indicates a disinterest in tapping alumni on a long-term basis; from the old boys’ side, LOBA has reduced alumni meetings to food fests (porotta and beef curry parties).

Notably, unlike the 1977 batch which associates with LOBA, the 1984 batch is implementing its ideas directly. It is a bold move, and if you ask me, a wise one; resident sceptics of LOBA’s executive committee would have formed a sub-committee to kill such wide-ranging proposals. Interestingly, the school too backed 1984’s efforts. Is this is a signal for other batches to deal directly with the school? Or a signal to LOBA to pull up its socks?

Discuss: What are your thoughts on giving back to the school? How can you contribute? What prevents you from chipping in?

Inputs: Thomas Vaidhyan (1984)