S. SHIVA KUMAR
Mungaru Male is running to packed houses. The idea for this film was born in a BMTC bus when director Yograj Bhatt overheard the conversation of college girls damning Kannada films
It's a weekday and the only morning show that's house full at PVR is Mungaaru Male. It's doing well at all the centres and the film has appealed to a cross section of film goers. Still in it's second week the producer is already receiving an overflow in box-office collections. Two young Tamil stars are eager to buy the remake rights. The film is being dubbed in Telugu and Kannada heroes who'd turned down the film want him to direct them. The young director responsible for all this, Yograj Bhatt stands drenched in a shower of accolades. It takes just one Friday for perceptions to change in the film industry. It takes only one hit for a director to emerge from obscurity into the limelight.
Kurosawa fanA great fan of Kurosawa and fed on a staple diet of Fellini and Godard films, Yograj worked under directors with diverse styles like Sunil Kumar Desai, V. Ravichandran and Girish Kasarvalli. "It was not about who the guru was. It was about being employed," says Yograj. "It was the thrill of watching filmmaking at close quarters. I even enjoyed being admonished by these directors. The thrill of standing next to a camera and listening to it's sound is inexplicable." He directed a TV serial, Chakra before making his first feature, Mani. The film won some awards and one publication compared Yograj to Mani Ratnam but the producer lost money. Yograj moved on to making Ranga SSLC which was a moderate success but earned him brickbats. Would he have made Ranga if Mani had succeeded? "Never. I had to design the script according to the expectations of Sudeep's fans. My thought process clashed with commercial expectations," says the director. Reliable sources say that he was not given a free hand during the making of the film. "I don't want to name anyone, but you're right. It happened from day one. But I never leave any job that I take up unfinished. The easiest thing would have been to quit on the second day but it was a learning process. In fact, I went back to making corporate films," says Yograj.When Yograj overheard the conversation of two college girls in a bus, it was a moment of metamorphosis. "The way they lashed out at our heroes and the poor quality of Kannada films was like listening to the collective voice of the State. I decided I did not want to be the object of such hatred," confesses the director. Close friend `Comedy Time' Ganesh who knew Yograj had an interesting script. They found a producer and that's how Mungaaru Male happened. Since good filmmaking is all about refinement and a freshness of approach, Bhatt took the line. "You are absolutely right. The one word I hate in filmmaking is `different' which all my contemporaries use when describing their films. It' irritating. It's just the presentation that can be different. We're here to entertain people. You can only make the characters and the language spoken contemporary." When you point to a scene where the hero's behaviour is contrary to the way his character has been established Yograj says: "There'll be plenty of such flaws. If you have to entertain people you have to disregard logic. The progress of the story is important. I have my problems with my favourite film, Dil Chahta Hai but as a film it's fantastic."A negative climax is always a difficult decision mainly because of the opposition from well-wishers but the director was surprised when the producer too felt that the love in the film should go unrequited. "You'll be surprised but my co-writer Preetam and me had decided on the end and worked the story backwards. Everybody, including the hero felt that the climax would kill the film. I wouldn't have made the film if producer Krishnappa had not agreed to the ending. It's very hard to explain why a couple in love split. The film, I feel would not have worked if not for the humour. It sort of prepares the audience for the climax. I believe my film has succeeded in bringing back family audiences to watch Kannada films," avers the director.Jog Falls, though not in full flow, is an integral part of the film. You could call it a metaphor for something beautiful to watch but unattainable. Cinematographer Krishna captures it with hitherto unseen angles from the top, for a change. "I wanted my characters on top. It was a lot of physical labour but worth it in the end. We used a camera with a 20mm lens fixed to a robot called Jimmy Gyp. It worked wonders. I have to thank my entire crew for co-operating."Ganesh's casual dialogue delivery is endearing but it's the heroine Sanjana who surprises. Why did Yograj select a girl who could not speak the language especially when she did not play just a glamour puss? " We'd not have got rains after July. No Kannada heroine had dates for over a year. I did book a girl but she ditched us for a film with a star. I had watched Kokki. Sanjana was a little plump but she lost weight and worked very hard. I have no regrets."In a business where backstabbing is blatant and people are waiting to trample upon others on the way up, Yograj is glad that the entire industry has warmed up to the film. Positive word of mouth is bringing in the crowds but the director hopes that the two sceptical girls on the bus have watched the film and changed their attitude towards Kannada cinema.