Harish Shankar Movies

'Valmiki' is not a frame-to-frame adaptation of 'Jigarthanda', says director Harish Shankar

Harish Kumar  

Director and creative all-rounder Harish Shankar has an innate ability to handle diverse subjects. His debut 2006 film Shock fetched him good reviews but didn’t pass muster at the box office. When he started dealing with A-list heroes and mass subjects, he came to be known as a bankable director (after delivering hits like Gabbar Singh and DJ).

Harish’s new film Valmiki, scheduled to release on September 20, is a remake of the Tamil film Jigarthanda (2014). He also plans to make a contemporary Mouna Ragam sometime soon, and has titled it Dagudumuthalu (not to be confused with the 1960s Telugu film of the same name).

‘An example of change’

We caught up with the director after the post production of Valmiki, and he states that the film is a balance of aesthetics and commercial elements. Talking about the title, he explains, “I could see a great transformation in the character of an ordinary person who turned into a Maharishi and is known as Valmiki. The title sums up the evolution of the lead character called Gattalakonda Ganesh (essayed by Varun Tej). Valmiki is an example of maarpu (change). When spiritual teachers like Garikapati Narasimha Rao bring references of films in their lectures, why shouldn’t we make use of this powerful medium of celluloid? My friend recently told me that when he asked his child who was Valmiki, the answer was ‘Varun Tej’. He had to educate his child, thanks to the title.”

Harish’s earlier film Gabbar Singh, the remake of Dabangg, was made fairly soon after the original’s release, but Valmiki releases five years after Jigarthanda. Doesn’t the subject run the risk of being outdated? The director reminds us of the success of Dabangg and its far wider reach than Jigarthanda. When Gabbar Singh was announced, innumerable fans of Pawan Kalyan watched Dabangg more than once. Also, Harish Shankar got to impose ‘Matalu Maarpulu Darsakatvam’ on the screen as credits to highlight the adaptation.

Working still from ‘Valmiki’

Working still from ‘Valmiki’  

Those who observe Harish’s films will vouch that he doesn’t do frame-to-frame remakes and introduces his brand of entertainment. He elaborates, “In Jigarthanda, Bobby Simha was a character artiste and here Varun Tej is the hero. We took the rights and made changes, and you’ll see a new film. The film within the film is the hero here. Atharvaa is an aspiring director and since this is his Telugu début, he doesn’t carry any baggage and looks his part as a struggling guy.”

The story is about an aspiring director being offered a chance by a producer to make a film on the condition that the film should be a violent gangster story. As the search for a hero and a real gangster begins, things take a bizarre turn.

Earlier, Harish had approached Varun with his script of Dagudumuthalu but the latter wasn’t inclined as he had already done love stories like Fidaa and Tholi Prema. He was looking for a change in image. Dagudumuthalu is the director’s pet project and he says quite philosophically, “we don’t choose cinema, it chooses us.” Though time has passed by, he says Jigarthanda evoked the same emotions when he watched it after years. In Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, the Joker became famous and at least five others enacted the character again. There is no expiry date for drama, Harish stresses.

While Jigarthanda had only one heroine, an extra role has been created for the Telugu version and Pooja Hegde was roped in. Harish shares, “Most people said Pooja’s glamour was one of the reasons for DJ’s success; the writer in me was hurt. This time I gave her a role of substance. Mirnalini Ravi plays Atharvaa’s love interest. There is very little action and more entertainment.”

Tell him that the audience loves his witty one-liners and he is not amused. He avers that he writes a lot of sentimental portions but since laughter is always loud, the sentimental and mushy stuff is relegated to the background. He cites examples of dialogues in his films Gabbar Singh, Mirapakay and Ramayya Vastavayya that went unnoticed while a few one-liners grabbed attention.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 9:40:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/harish-shankar-valmiki-jigarthanda/article29398913.ece

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