Arjun is keen on doing his bit for society through his film under production, Jai Hind 2. Nikhil Raghavan writes
Creativity, they say, emanates from a spark. It is this spark that gets translated into a work of art. Be it a painter, writer or filmmaker, the genesis of story-telling through pictures, words or movies, is the same – a ‘spark’.
For Srinivasa Sarja, also known as Ashok Babu and better known as Arjun (after the character he played in his first film Simhada Mari Sainya in Kannada), that spark was ignited again, recently, when he was reading a book by former President Abdul Kalam. “Kalam cites an instance where he meets a bright school girl who talks of her future and how she prefers to stay back in a ‘developed’ India. Kalam says it is for each of us to make this dream of a developed India come true for future generations. That set off a spark in me — What prevents us from making India a developed country? Why are we still referred to as a developing nation? My answer is simple — education. Or, the lack of it! Lack of quality education with world-class infrastructure at every level,” says Arjun.
So, in Jai Hind 2 (“Which is NOT a sequel, please.”), Arjun tackles the flaws ailing the education system. “Jai Hind 2 is dedicated to Dr. Kalam as well as to the media. When I am finished with the making of the film, you will know why I have dedicated it to them.”
Arjun prefers not to talk about his 1994 release Jai Hind, as the current production has nothing to do with it, except sharing the title. “But it is turning out to be more like a franchise and I intend to produce socially relevant films under it. Jai Hind 2 reflects Kalam's dream — education for all will help India emerge a superpower. All my earlier movies, including Gentleman and Mudhalvan, spoke about social evils and underlined the need to fight them. In Jai Hind 2, there is no exaggeration, just facts straight from the heart. In today’s education system, there is no motivation, sufficient infrastructure or cleanliness. How do you expect children to study?” asks Arjun.
Surveen Chawla, who acted with Arjun in the recently released Moondru Paer Moondru Kadhal, is expected to play the female lead. Four girls and four boys, all students, will be introduced in Jai Hind 2. The movie is to be made in three languages — Tamil, Telugu and Kannada at a whopping cost of Rs. 20 crore. It will have dialogues by Gopi Krishna and cinematography by Venu. Jagan is the associate director.
The creative spark was kindled in Arjun in 1991 when, disillusioned with the slow progress his career was making, he decided to produce, direct and act in Sevagan, which went on to become a box office success. This gave his career the much-needed boost. “Since then, every time I felt there was a lull in my career or I was unhappy with the roles being offered, I launched a film and directed myself — this helped me satiate my inner urge for creativity. More often than not, my movies have done well at the box office. Sometimes, seeing my capabilities people approach me with challenging roles,” says Arjun. Over the years, he has produced nine films.
Ask Arjun whether handling the responsibilities of production, direction and acting is tough, and he says, “I’m quite comfortable. As a director, I know exactly what is expected of me as an actor, and vice versa. Having done several films for other directors, I know what kind of roles I will be comfortable in. Of course, there are instances where other directors have brought out a new facet of my personality. Like when director Shankar cast me in the role of a Brahmin in Gentleman.”
Today, Arjun juggles his responsibilities of producing and directing quality films even as he regales his fans in character roles in other directors’ movies. “I love being director as he is the captain of the ship with multiple responsibilities. I love the challenge of making a film and when I am directing myself, it gives me a high in addition to the responsibility of delivering my best to my audience. As a producer, I strive to give maximum quality with minimum financial input; I learnt that during the making of Sevagan and continue to follow it till date,” concludes Arjun.