A-Z Challenge | 80s Tamil Movie Directors | N for PS Nivas

PS Nivas

Cinematographers graduate from shooting movies to become directors. There have been many cinematographers who have tried their hand in direction, but only a few were successful in the quest. PS Nivas was one of the earliest on the list, and he made a mark as a cinematographer and director.Although the Tamil industry knew him only through Bharathiraja’s 16 Vayathinile, PS Nivas had already made his mark in the Malayalam industry and had received a National award. A Kozhikode born, he graduated from the St.Joseph’s college, Devagiri and then completed his Diploma in Motion Picture Technology from Adyar film institute. He started as an Assistant Cameraman to Ashok Kumar in Malayalam.

He debuted as an independent cameraman with Sathyathinte Nizhal (1975, directed by Nathankode) and received the National Award for Best Cinematography (Black and White) in 1976 for his 3rd film, Mohiniyattam directed by Sreekumaran Thampi. Please note that until 1986, there were two awards in the category, one for Black and White and the other for colour.

Incidentally, PS Nivas and Ashok Kumar entered Tamil industry at the same time. It was Bharathiraja who brought PS Nivas into Tamil industry with his 16 Vayathinile. They were friends during their stint at the institute and Nivas obliged to become the cameraman although it was a low-budgeted movie. The world knows how vital Nivas was for 16 Vayathinile and the film for Tamil industry. They collaborated few more movies like Sigappu Rojakkal, Kizhakke Pogum Rail and PS Nivas directed Bharathiraja in Kallukkul Eeram.

PS Nivas was known for his point-source lighting and his pioneering work in Day-for-night shots in movies. ORWO films appreciated his work done with their film technology. PS Nivas graduated to become a director with Kallukkul Eeram (1980) that was written by Bharathiraja.

Break-out movie: Kallukkul Eeram

It’s so surprising that Tamil directors haven’t had success in making a movie about movie-makers. Except for some interesting experiments like Kadhai Thiraikadhai Vasanam Iyakkam (I hate Jigarthanda), the films are not that interesting. You might see clips from Neengalum Herothan that makes fun of actors and their fans, but otherwise, movies about moviemakers aren’t that interesting.

But Nivas and Bharathiraja succeeded in making a movie about the life of moviemakers, their love and the celebrity craze of villagers. It’s a story of a film crew that arrives at a village for a shoot. Two young village women, clamoured by the film crew and their life, start following them. After an altercation, Solai (played by Aruna) falls in love with the director Bharathiraja (played by Bharathiraja himself) but doesn’t express it. Her friend Kaathi (played by Vijayashanthi) falls in love with the hero (Sudhakar), but he rejects her citing that everyone loves him. Kaathi commits suicide, but Solai grows her affection for Bharathiraja. The rest of the movie is whether Solai expresses her affection and what happens to the film crew.

As Bharathiraja wrote the screenplay, the movie had some compelling characterisations, be it Solai’s father played by Goundamani or limp played by Chandrasekhar. The film did have the usual village cliches, but on the other hand, it showed how a village’s life changes when a cinema crew lands in their village.

The movie was a hit, but Bharathiraja didn’t attempt to act after that. But now, he is creating ripples as a supporting actor with some scintillating performances in movies like Aayutha Ezhuthu, Pandiyanaadu and Kurangu Bommai. The film had some beautiful music from Ilaiyaraaja, and there is a complete Koothu performance. Manobala and Manivannan are credited as Assistant Directors.

YouTube link to the movie

Movies to watch

  1. Nizhal Thedum Nenjangal

As cinematographer

  1. 16 Vayathinile
  2. Sigappu Rojakkal
  3. My Dear Lisa
  4. Saagara Sangamam


  1. Camera Kangal — CJ Rajkumar — Published by Kalaikuviyal