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A graduate in cinematography from the FTII, Pune, Shaji N. Karun started working with notable directors like G. Aravindan, K. G. George and M. T. Vasudevan Nair as a cinematographer. His camera work, especially the films of Aravindan from Kanchana Seeta to Chidambaram, for some defines the look of Kerala's New Wave Cinema.
Shaji made his directorial debut with the Malayalam film Piravi ("The Birth",1988), which won him the prestigious 'Camera-d'Or' at the 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 the competition section of Cannes Film Festival in 1994. Vaanaprastham ("The Final Dance", 1999) dealt with the identity crisis faced by an actor. Mohanlal played the lead role in this film. His latest film, Nishad, made in Hindi, was completed in May 2002, and premiered in Fukuoka International Film Festival held September 2002 at Japan. 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 (Moving Picture) 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 .