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Krish, the lover of legends

Director Krish with Balakrishna  

Sankranti weekend is over and director Krish is beaming. “This has been my best Sankranti. After many months, I’m getting to eat home-cooked food,” he says. He’s lost count of days ever since he began working on Gautamiputra Satakarni (GPSK), which involved more than 1500 unit members. “That number doesn’t include junior artistes,” he laughs.

Some films have scale and some have engrossing stories. A few manage a combination of both. Films of a large scale that are box office winners become brands. During the making of GPSK, Krish and team didn’t have the time to think in that direction. Now that the film is garnering appreciation, Krish reveals that a graphic novel on Gautamiputra Satakarni is on cards, “Cinematographer Gnanashekar, concept artist Manikandan and I are working on it.” Merchandise such as key chains and coffee mugs will follow.

Looking at Krish’s filmography, it’s evident that he’s intent on making films with worthwhile content. History, arts and culture seem to be a soft spot. Krish owes it to the foundation laid by his grandfather, Jagarlamudi Ramanayya. “He was a police officer. He introduced me to books, from Amar Chitra Katha to Chandamama and as I grew up, other books. He’d take us to Amaravati, which as a child I felt was an exciting place to learn about history and culture. I don’t know when I began to be fascinated with history, but I’ve always liked to listen to and narrate stories,” says Krish.

Period setting

GPSK comes after Kanche, another film in a period setting. “In both these films, I narrated lesser known stories,” says Krish. His earlier film, Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum blended in myth and folk theatre into its narrative. “When you become a storyteller, you read. As you read, you realise how many stories are there to be told,” reasons Krish.

Before he became a filmmaker with Gamyam, Krish did what many youngsters from Telugu homes do — go to the US for higher studies. While studying Pharmacy and Computer Science in the US, he was associated with a cultural association. “Be it Deepavali or Holi or Republic Day, we’d host programmes and I’d be on stage. In films it’s often friends who know when a character falls in love. My friends — Shyam, Siddharth and Rajeev — felt I should try filmmaking. Rajeev and I took a leap of faith and returned to India,” he recalls.

With resources pooled in by his friends and father, Krish directed Gamyam. “My fear was that if Gamyam failed, I’d have to go back and do a job in the US. As the film progressed, I gained confidence and felt I’d be here for a longer time to narrate stories,” he says.

Krish’s idea of cinema is strong content that can also rake in revenue. “It’s all about numbers now,” he says, talking of GPSK. Numbers matter and he’s aware of it. “Had I made this film with a lesser known actor, it wouldn’t have been the same. People would have lauded it and moved on. Because it’s Balakrishna’s 100th, it’s become much bigger,” he concedes.

Try prodding him, but even hypothetically he won’t entertain the idea of how this film would have been with a different actor. “Every story strives for an actor and this one demanded Balakrishna. Yes, we have dialogues that suit his star persona. There’s also his trademark thigh-slapping sequence during the war, but it’s the story that stands tall,” he affirms.

He and writer Sai Madhav Burra had the script ready, with the dialogues and chalked out a clear plan of where to shoot each segment, before they approached Balakrishna. “He was on the verge of announcing another film as his 100th. I took a chance. On phone, when I told him I want to make a film on Satakarni, he said he’s aware of the historical character and asked me to come over,” he shares.

With the actor on board, the team divided the film into modules and had extensive storyboards. When one team was shooting in Morocco, the art director along with a few others would return to India to build the ship set. When one team shot at the ship, another group would head to Maheshwar to do the ground work and another team would prepare for the portions in Georgia. “When you have limited time, you learn to use your resources and team. We had to meet Sankranti deadline, much ahead of other summer biggies like Baahubali,” says Krish.

Next, Krish reveals he will be directing Venkatesh’s 75th film. “I’m becoming a landmark director,” he guffaws.

Director Krish

Director Krish  

Historically speaking...

* Krish likes films that offer “90 per cent entertainment and 10 per cent enlightenment.” The entertainment, he says, can come in the form of a grand visual or an emotional moment. “We strive for those moments,” he says.

* GPSK, he says, is history dramatised to make for a memorable cinematic experience. Post the film’s release, there have been a few accusations that the story narrated is inaccurate.

* “When we began researching, we found several versions of Satakarni story. A few books and documents contradicted themselves. My intention was not to make a documentary but an engaging story. I took liberties. For instance, we don’t know what Satakarni would have said before he honoured his mother and whether the yagam was instrumental in earning him the title of ‘Gautamiputra’. That’s our cinematic version,” he says.

* As for theories that Satakarni wasn’t even a Telugu king, Krish says, “I went by books, including writings of Gautami Balasri, acharya Nagarjuna and kavi samrat Viswanatha Satyanarayana. There’s a Yajna Sri Satakarni vigraham at Amaravati. If someone believes Satakarni isn’t Telugu, they are welcome to their theory. Gandhi was not just a man, he was a phenomenon, which Richard Attenborough was conscious of when he made Gandhi. I wanted to bring to life a phenomenon called GPSK. The ruler’s idea of ending repeated wars was to unify the land and make it one large kingdom. He was ready to stake everything to do that, which I found fascinating to narrate.” Within this framework, Krish and Sai Madhav Burra wove in commonly-told childhood stories of ant and lion, ‘edu chepalu katha’ and so on.

* Did Demetrius live before Satakarni? “History mentions more than one Demetrius,” says Krish.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 6:21:47 AM |

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