It’s almost expected of children and grandchildren of film stars to make sure their filmi connection is clearly identified. That’s quite the prototype in today’s film industry in any of the “woods”, be it Bollywood, Sandalwood, or any other, isn’t it? So it comes as a pleasant surprise when newbies to tinsel town S.D. Arvind and Avinash Divakar shy away from clamouring about their stalwart of a grandfather — remarkable comedian Narasimharaju.
One gets the drift that that are keen to be recognised for their own work and efforts, and don’t really want to ride on the name synonymous with Kannada comedy. And why not? They are embarking on a new phase and venture in their lives, trying their hand at a genre way off the tangent that their grandfather was revered for.
“I’ve always wanted to be a professional filmmaker. But I’ve always wanted to alienate myself from the tag of being his grandson,” Arvind admits upon much persuasion. His debut Kannada feature film “Jugaari” released yesterday, and stars younger brother Avinash Divakar. Even much of the crew of the film didn’t know who they were, says Arvind, speaking to MetroPlus just days before the film’s release.
Arvind has been a part of Kannada theatre for over a decade, and had been making corporate advertising films, when “Jugaari”’s producer made him an offer to write and direct the film for him. While figuring out whom they could cast in the lead, Arvind decided that it had to be a newcomer with a rugged look, complete with long hair and a beard. “We didn’t want to make changes in the script to suit the image of a star,” says Arvind. And that’s where younger brother Avinash came into the picture. The fine arts graduate from Karnataka Chitrakala Prishath was into event management when he first auditioned for the role…and got rejected! He took off for a three-month acting course.
“At first I was scared to be in front of the camera. But soon I developed a comfort level with the team and also informally became part of the scripting process,” says Avinash, who promisingly feels like a whiff of fresh cologne on the Kannada movie scene. Through his college days, he helped his older brother behind the sets in theatre. When he got his first offer to act, in “Nirantara” (a silent movie), he was initially apprehensive of making the switch to acting, but gave in. Then came “Kalakar”. “No one really put pressure on us to make an entry into films. But our parents and grandmother were waiting for someone from the family to make a comeback to the Kannada film industry,” explains Avinash.
“Comparisons are going to be inevitable,” admits Arvind, “but it shouldn’t happen because this is a different genre. This is a serious cinema.” Avinash pitches in with the answer to another inevitable — why didn’t they make a comedy? “It’s not easy to make people laugh. Moreover, I don’t think ever since our grandfather there’s been anyone with the kind of comic timing and voice modulation he had. I don’t think it’s easy to imitate him either.” Is comedy in their blood? Arvind is also pretty clear: “Sarcasm is my forte. But comedy, no. We both are good at PJs, though…and I can write some punch lines!” laughs Arvind.
“Jugaari”, meaning gambler, was born from the idea that everyone takes a risk or gamble in their life and they all have certain consequences. And that there are two shades to every one. “Above all it’s a mind game,” explains director Arvind, who’s also the written the screenplay and dialogue, as well as one song in the film. Avinash also pitched in with the poster design.
While Avinash was born two years after his grandfather’s death, Arvind was six, when his grandpa died. His memories are those that kids often have of grandparents — of being bathed by him after sliding on a pile of sand, of them all being given the same haircut by the barber who came home, of being taken to Chamundeshwari Studios during film shooting. But Arvind says he got a great insight into Narasimharaju’s life when he did a series of interviews (a biographical TV series) with the likes of Rajkumar and G.V. Iyer. “It was then that we were able to understand that he was a very practical person who wanted his family to enjoy what he hadn’t. G.V. Iyer spoke of how he (Narasimharaju) would should for four films simultaneously in a day. In fact, Rajkumar mentioned how our grandfather was more popular than him and directors would take his dates first, and then the hero’s!” says Arvind.
How has the Kannada film industry treated their entry into films? “We’ve not entered the industry, or Gandhinagar, as such. We don’t see ourselves as part of it yet. Only on the day of release, we’ll know if we’ve arrived.”