Shivam Nair was born in Kerala but spent some of his growing years in Palamau in Bihar. When he was a student, he had written to to director Shyam Benegal whether he could assist him. Benegal insisted that Shivam first complete his studies and then join a film institute to gain knowledge about filmmaking. Shivam's financial constraints did not allow him to do so. When he came to Mumbai, he did many odd jobs as an assistant. He would write constantly. There was no creative training as such. He learnt by observing how shots were taken. It's with these films that I gained confidence to work in the industry. Initially, I was paid a negligible amount. But the priority then was to learn and not earn.
For the first three years, he worked as an executive producer in Gujarati and Marathi serials. The first serial I worked on was a Marathi serial called Gotiyan.
His first editing assignment was in 1991 with director Sriram Raghavan [who later made Ek Hasina Thi], on a docu-drama based on serial killer Raman Raghav, who was active in 1968 in Mumbai. He directed, edited and was the executive producer for a docu-drama on a serial killer called Auto Narayan in Chennai. It was written by Anurag Kashyap, his first screenplay after which he went on to write Satya for Ram Gopal Varma.
Shivam worked in a production house called Media Classics for seven years. The four docu-dramas that he made were appreciated and we started getting work outside.
After leaving the production house, Shivam directed Sea Hawks with UTV Productions. It was a big hit on DD. This was followed by Ankahee for Zee TV, which got the Indian Television award and a horror story called Rooh for Zee TV, which won the RAPA award for the Best Suspense Thriller in 2005. He also directed some episodes of Saturday Suspense for Zee TV and music videos.
When Shivam thought of directing films, two of his ideas got sanctioned but later got stuck and the project got shelved.
Soon, his friend Imtiaz Ali trusted him to direct his script and thus came Ahista Ahista, which starred Abhay Deol and Soha Ali Khan.
Shivam knew producer Anjum Rizwi [who produced Charas earlier] who wanted to start a film. When Shivam showed Anjum the script, he liked it.
Shivam then took over the direction of Maharathi (based on a play by Uttam Gada) when Vikram Bhatt stepped down.