P.S. Nivas, who died at the Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode, on Monday at the age of 73, was a cinematographer who made his mark in various south Indian films, including some iconic ones such as 16 Vayathinile and Sagara Sangamam (Silangai Oli).
It was his superb work in the 1977 Malayalam film Mohiniyattam that first gave him wide recognition. He also won the national award for the best cinematographer (black-and-white) for that film directed by Sreekumaran Thampi.
Born in Kozhikode, Nivas learnt cinematography from the Institute of Film Technology, Adyar, Chennai. After assisting in Malayalam films such as Kuttyedathi and Chembarathi, he became an independent cinematographer with Sathyathinte Nizhalil in 1975.
“He had expressed the desire to work with me and I had faith in him as he was a product of the Adyar film institute,” Thampi told The Hindu. “He lived up to my expectations too, as he gave me some wonderful frames in Mohiniyattam.”
Thampi recalled that it was after watching Mohiniyattam at a cinema in Chennai that Bharathiraja signed him up for his directorial debut 16 Vayathinile, which featured Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth and Sridevi, who would all go on to become superstars of Indian cinema. Nivas’s camera played a major role in making the film set in rustic Tamil Nadu attaining cult status. Nivas and Bharathiraja teamed up to make more memorable films such as Kizhakke Pogum Rail, Sigappu Rojakkal and Ilamai Oonjal Aadukirathu.
When Bharathiraja turned actor with Kallukkul Eeram, it was Nivas who directed him.
He directed a few more films, but it was as a cinematographer that he contributed more to cinema. “I think he got fewer opportunities as a cinematographer after he decided to become a director,” said Thampi. “He was one of the finest cinematographers in south Indian cinema in the 1970s and 80s.”
He remained largely unsung though.