Naganna’s epic struggle with 'Kurukshetra'

The director recounts his long journey with the making of the most expensive production in the history of Kannada cinema

“It is just waiting for results after writing the final examination,” smiles Naganna, who spent almost three years honing Kurukshetra, claimed to be the most expensive production in the history of Kannada cinema.

The countdown has begun for the release of this much-awaited, multi-lingual film. Kurukshetra is Naganna’s 20th film; his first directorial venture was Samrat starring Vishnuvardhan in 1994. Incidentally, this is actor Darshan’s 50th film.

However, Naganna doesn’t claim credit for this historic venture, attributing it to the producer Munirathna. “This mythological film is the result of creative minds coming together. It is a film the Kannada film industry will be proud of, it will show the world that Karnataka can compete with neighbouring film industries as well as Bollywood.”

This 3D movie has a star cast that includes the late Ambarish, and Nikhil Kumaraswamy.

The 175-minute film has the Kurukshetra war between Pandavas and Kauravas as its pivotal point.

An epic undertaking
  • The Kannada and Telugu versions of Kurukshetra will hit the screens on August 9. The Tamil and Malayalam versions will be released two weeks later. A Hindi version is scheduled for release in the first week of September.
  • It will be shown in over 3,000 screens across the country in the next one month.
  • It has earned ₹20 crore even before its release through audio and TV rights. A Bollywood company bought the satellite rights of the Hindi version for ₹9.50 crore.
  • Talks are on with a Chinese company to dub the film in Chinese. If all goes well, it will also be dubbed in English for a global audience.
  • Producer Munirathna has decided to preserve Ambarish’s Bhishma costume. He plans to erect an idol of Ambarish in the costume.

Impressed by Naganna’s historical Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna (2012), a biopic on Chennamma, the queen of Kittur, producer Muniratna chose him to direct Kurukshetra. “He believed in my ability to narrate this great mythological story after watching my historical and social dramas,” says Naganna.

What made him accept this challenge? “Much like producer Munirathna, I too was was influenced by plays on Kurukshetra which would run from sunset to sunrise. I narrate the Mahabharata through the eyes of Duryodhana, a role essayed by Challenging Star Darshan. This film is sure to transport the audience to a different time altogether,” says Naganna.

He isn’t worried about the length of the movie. “When people can watch Avengers for three hours, why not experience an epic for the same duration?” he asks.

“When my father produced Bangarada Manushyain in 1972, it took about 20 reels. Even the duration of Sangolli Rayanna was three hours. Kurukshetra is not just a film; it is a celebration and deserves the length of this kind.”

The film was shot over 200 days on mammoth sets erected in Ramoji Rao Studio in Hyderabad. “Making the film in two versions (2D and 3D formats) was quite challenging with every artiste having to face the camera twice. We had over 3,000 artistes participating in war scenes. At one point, I lost count of whom I was interacting with,” says Naganna.

He is grateful to all the technicians and artistes who worked for almost three years without complaining. “A lot of research went into the making of Kurukshetra, especially in areas of make-up, costume, sets, and handling of equipment,” he says.

The plan was to release the film much before the Lok Sabha polls, but there was an inordinate delay. “We roped in the services of major studios in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kochi for work on the graphics,” he adds.

Naganna says he is indebted to G K Bharai who wrote the script, Jayanan Vincent for camera work and V Harikrishna for the music. He is all praise for women artistes, who essayed various characters, including Sneha who plays Draupadi, Meghana Raj who is Bhanumathi, Haripriya and Aditi Arya who are Maaye and Uttara, Bharati Vishnuvardhan as Kunti and Pavithra Lokesh as Subhadra, the wife of Arjuna. “Without these women this dream would not have been realised,” he smiles.

Naganna appreciates Ambareesh’s contribution to the film, despite the latter’s failing health. “Kurukshetra was his last film and he insisted the producer dub his portion even before the completion of production, perhaps sensing his end was near. He would sit patiently for nearly 90 minutes during make-up. It was difficult to get him to eat during lunch breaks, ” recalls Naganna.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 8:12:17 AM |

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