Nanda Kishore on directing Mohanlal in ‘Vrushabha,’ and moving on from the ‘Pogaru’ controversy

Kannada filmmaker Nanda Kishore admits that arrogance led to his downfall, and sees the pan-Indian film ‘Vrushabha’ as an opportunity to rise again in the industry

July 25, 2023 04:52 pm | Updated 04:52 pm IST

Mohanlal and director Nanda Kishore

Mohanlal and director Nanda Kishore | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The shoot of Mohanlal’s Vrushabha began in Mysuru recently, and director Nanda Kishore tells us that he is working like a fresher. The maker of eight Kannada films, including four hits, has no qualms admitting that he sees this pan-Indian film as his acid test.

After the controversial run of his ambitious project Pogaru, and the debacle of his previous film Raana, not many would have imagined Nanda Kishore to helm a big-budget project involving a superstar. You sense a mix of nervousness and excitement as he opens up on his mssive responsibility.

“People had written me off post my films’ failures. I shut out the noise, stopped being seen in public events, and moved to Mumbai. I worked on a story for eight months. One of my friends, Shyam, helped me get in touch with AVS Studios, and the film got rolling,” he recollects. Vrushabha, a straight Telugu-Malayalam project to be dubbed in several languages, is a fantasy-action drama based on the dynamics of a father-son relationship. Veteran producer Ekta Kapoor will co-produce the film along with Connekt Media.

The film also stars Roshan Meka, Shanaya Kapoor, Ramya Krishna, Simran, Ravi Shankar, Sarathkumar and Garuda Ram. Devi Sri Prasad is the music composer while Santhosh Thundiyil is the cinematographer.

Nanda Kishore says his protagonist needed the stature of an actor like Mohanlal. “Mohanlal is someone who acts with his eyes. He was interested immediately reading the script. I want to remain sincere to his enormous talent,” he says. 

“Growing up, I loved listening to stories of famous kings and the Chandamama tales. I love to offer enough room for actors to perform in emotional stories mounted on a huge scale, like the Baahubali films and RRRI am craving for my people to appreciate my vision like they did for someone like SS Rajamouli or Prashanth Neel,” he offers. 

Nanda Kishore is upset with how people’s perception of him has changed post Pogaru (2021)The first big Kannada movie to hit the screens post the the pandemic outbreak, Pogaru fell into a huge controversy. It was criticized “for hurting the Brahmin sentiments,” and the makers had to cut 14 scenes owing to the row.

Dhruva Sarja and Rashmika Mandanna in ‘Pogaru’

Dhruva Sarja and Rashmika Mandanna in ‘Pogaru’ | Photo Credit: Anand Audio/YouTube

Pogaru released to 50 percent occupancy thanks to the pandemic. The film was made with Rs 30 crore, but due to the pandemic-induced delay, the interest on the loan kept rising and finally amounted to Rs 20 crore. So having shelled out Rs 50 crore, the film made a marginal recovery by collecting Rs 60 crore at the box office,” he explains. “The film’s performance was decent though it didn’t reach our expectations,” he adds.

Apart from the controversy, people weren’t impressed with the protagonist’s (Dhruva Sarjahyper-masculine character and his over-the-top dialogue delivery. Pogaru was also slammed for demeaning women, especially the heroine’s character, essayed by Rashmika Mandanna.

Nanda Kishore implies that it was a film that didn’t go as per his plans. “The film began as a story about a boy unable to accept his mother’s remarriage. But I don’t want to comment more about the film as it’s a finished chapter. It would be wrong to point the finger at others,” he says.

Pogaru was followed by the box office dud Raana (2022). He was suddenly being called “a remake director”, leaving Nanda Kishore emotionally and financially broken. He debuted with the comedy-drama Victory, starring Sharan. His next three films — Adyaksha, Ranna and Mukunda Murari — are remakes-turned-box office hits. The director has made peace with himself that he is never going to be appreciated for a remake, but he expects “respect from people for recreating originals with flair”.

“Remaking a hit film needs precision because you are retelling a well-accepted story. A remake of a Pawan Kalyan film (Attarintiki Daredi) wasn’t an easy task considering his huge fan following. However, Ranna was a proper family entertainer,” he reasons.

Nanda Kishore presents a remake with technical richness and packages it well with enjoyable comic elements and chartbuster songs, as we witnessed in Adyaksha, a remake of the 2013 Tamil film Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam. But he has failed to churn out a noteworthy original apart from aVictory. He blames himself for his fall from the top.

“I had become overconfident and arrogant. Once you reach a high point, you tend to lose focus by behaving like that,” says Nanda Kishore, who adds that he doesn’t have any friends in the industry to fall back on. But he need not look outside his home to shed his complacency and fight the industry’s cutthroat competition. His brother, Tharun Sudhir, is filming the highly-anticipated Kateera starring Darshan after giving blockbusters  Chowka and Roberrt. “It’s a challenge when your brother is also a filmmaker. I don’t deny competition between us, but it’s healthy,” he adds.

In the past, Nanda Kishore had overcome suicidal thoughts before kickstarting his film journey as an assistant director to superstar Sudeep’s films. Vrushabha has given a purpose to his career again. Fans might sympathise with his journey but they wouldn’t settle for an ordinary result this time.

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