UNDERSTANDING THE TECHNICALITIES OF SIVA
Siva is a 1989 crime drama film written and directed by Ram Gopal Varma. It has created a sensation and startled the entire film industry and audience. This is considered as a cult classic and divided Telugu cinema into two eras: before and after the film. RGV has introduced steadicam and the new sound recording techniques into Telugu cinema. Within a year of the film’s release, more than ten steadicams were imported into India. This film has attracted young audience during its theatrical release and inspired many filmmakers to explore a variety of themes and make experimental films. Let us explore why Siva is a technical brilliance in Telugu cinema and what’s new about it.
Every film is considered to be a masterpiece and a game changer based on the time period it was made.
Hero in Telugu cinema has a predefined definition until Siva was released. A hero in Telugu cinema will be so energetic and talkative. He flirts heroine and trashes any goon. But for the first time Telugu audience have witnessed a new characterisation. Siva speaks very less in the film. He looks very serious and rarely smiles. Facial expressions of characters are very minimal. In some scenes characters communicate each other with only eyes and head nods. There is a scene where hero was attacked on the road and he runs away from the goons to protect the child. There is no introduction song for the hero. In the opening shot, Siva just calmly walks into empty frame and leaves. This startled audience unlike other films where heroes will fight back any kind of situation. Characters in the film interact with each other as naturally as possible. Costume designing seems very normal and natural. There is a subtlety in characters’ behaviour, actions, fights and dialogue delivery.
Siva cinematography was handled by S. Gopal Reddy. Before Siva, there used to be a movement in the camera in Telugu cinema. But it was limited to only some distance because of the limitations in the equipment. The camera has to be handheld in order to follow the character continuously but the result will be an unstabilized shot. Because of this reason, most of the cameramen used to avoid handheld shots. This was the time, RGV has introduced the steadicam. It is a camera stabilizer which mechanically isolates the operator’s movement, allowing for a smooth shot, even when the camera moves over an irregular surface. This steadicam movement has given a realistic feel. RGV has literally put the audience physically into the film with a simple POV shot in a scene where Siva runs through the narrow streets with the kid.
Watch this amazing chase sequence from 2:28 minutes from the below video.
Until Shiva, sound design was not cared much as one of the film crafts in Telugu cinema. The dialogues were used to be dubbed and a continuous background score was used in every scene. But with Siva, RGV has changed the entire scenario of sound design in Telugu cinema. The dialogues and the location ambience in Siva seem like sync sounded but it wasn’t. Varma has dubbed the dialogues and natural location ambience was added in the re-recording. Verma pulled off each scene only with silence and location ambience using a subtle background score only for elevation of the emotion.
The speciality of the sound design can be explained by one particular scene from the film. A car enters the frame at the hotel Highlight in a long shot. The car sound and the road ambience were heard louder in the foreground and a song from the hotel was heard in the background. Gangster Ganesh gets down the car and enters the hotel premises. He enquires the hotel owner about Siva and takes over a chair to wait for some time. Now the hotel ambience and the song will be heard a bit louder. As soon as Siva comes, hotel owner informs him and the shot cuts to a long shot. This long shot frame has a burning stove in foreground, Ganesh in the middle ground and Siva in the background. Interestingly the sound of the burning stove dominates, muting the conversation of the characters and the ambience. This frame intentionally conveys the character of Siva who has that true rage of natural fire and anger in him. The sound design conveys that Siva is not ready to listen anything and the sound of fire in him is dominating.
Watch this scene from 06:28 to 07:40 from the video below: