Watch | Raj B Shetty interview: ‘Toby’ taught me how scary it is to make a big-budget film

Watch | How do you write a great scene? | A Raj B. Shetty masterclass
| Video Credit: Ravichandran N and Nalme Nachiyar

Ahead of his Kannada film ‘Toby,’ Raj B Shetty opens up on the comparisons with his previous film ‘Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana’, the importance of collaborating with writers, and making his first big-scale film

August 16, 2023 04:55 pm | Updated August 17, 2023 12:11 pm IST

Actor-director Raj B Shetty, who is known for releasing his films without much pre-release hype, has been very outspoken about Toby. On every platform, Raj hasn’t missed a chance to say that Toby is made to prove those who judged him as “just one type of filmmaker” wrong.

After helming Ondu Motteya Katheand Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana, Raj has given the director’s hat to his long-time associate Basil Alchalakkal in Toby. Written by Raj, based on writer T K Dayanand’s story, the action-drama hits the screens on August 25.

Excerpts from an interview:

When you made ‘GGVV’, you were still a first-time filmmaker but now, Raj B Shetty is a brand of sorts. We understand your sensibilities. So, will ‘Toby’ have the Raj B Shetty touch to it, or has it been made with the mainstream idea of a ‘mass’ film?

Mainstream ‘mass’ is something that I don’t want to do. If you are talking about dialogues of the hero getting whistles and claps, then no, that’s not what I have done. For me, ‘mass’ is a very different thing. When I saw Upendra’s films like A, Upendra, or Om, it was a different experience for me, and I danced to it. In the entirety of A, there are no fight sequences; it broke the conventional style of making a ‘masala’ film. Even Upendra did that. As a filmmaker, my goal is to present my content differently. I believe that audiences are like me, and so I serve them content that I personally want to watch.

‘Toby’ is based on T K Dayanand’s story. You have written the script but your long-time associate Basil has directed it. Does that mean you weren’t the captain of the ship in ‘Toby’?

I do think I was the captain of the ship. Toby was the film I was most attached to. The director (Basil) was from my team, and I wanted him to make this film because the project was huge in scale and I wanted a helping hand. My process of filmmaking is a little laid back. Right from casting to scheduling to auditioning, I do everything; I even write the dialogues. I don’t come from a film school. I am a filmmaker who doesn’t know about filmmaking. I strategise my methods which have so far worked for me.

Raj B Shetty in ‘Toby’

Raj B Shetty in ‘Toby’ | Photo Credit: Lighter Buddha Films/YouTube

With Toby, I didn’t want to take this approach because if I’d taken on any more responsibility, I would have collapsed. That’s the reason I wanted this film to be taken care of by Basil. But the vision of the film is still mine. I decided how the film should look and be.

You are a writer yourself, but how do you show interest in someone else’s story? In Kannada, directors hardly collaborate with writers or work on others’ stories...

Any creation should come from a very selfless place. Only then can the art become as beautiful as it can be. When you hear a story, you must be curious about it. You should activate your child-like innocence. There is no place for ego. I wanted to know who this Toby was, how does he live, what is his life, and so on. I liked the character he (Dayanand) had created — he seemed very real to me — and that’s when my imagination started to flow.

So how does one maintain harmony with the story writer? How much can a filmmaker alter the original subject?

Before tampering with the material, I would ask him (Dayanand) questions. I would ask him how original he wanted this character to be. I saw some potential in Toby, which he may not have seen. If he says no to my suggestions, then I can’t imagine the character and play with it. But if he believes in the writer in me, his character will grow. That’s how a filmmaker must collaborate with a writer.

Raj B Shetty in ‘Toby’

Raj B Shetty in ‘Toby’ | Photo Credit: Lighter Buddha Films/YouTube

Post the release of the film’s trailer, there have been comparisons between your character Shiva from ‘GGVV’ and Toby...

Shiva is a mystery. If you stay with him for two hours, you might think you know him, but you actually don’t. Toby is much simpler than Shiva. Shiva doesn’t speak except when he is fighting with his friends during cricket matches. He doesn’t have casual conversations. You will mostly see him sitting silently in a corner.

But Toby will be around you. He wants to speak and be expressive. Shiva is a violent man. Even if he doesn’t know how to kill, Shiva ensures he ends up killing. Toby is much more calculative when it comes to violence. But he isn’t violent until he is pushed to the limit.

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What are the takeaways from making a big-scale film like this?

Toby taught us how scary it is to make a big film. It taught us how it can change you as a human being. The process can make you mad. Things aren’t in your control always. That said, I think this is the reason we live; to make films that we don’t know how to.

Look, our first film Ondu Motteya Kathe was made with a budget of Rs 30 lakh. For us, it was a big amount. We hadn’t seen Rs 30 lakh in our lives! We didn’t know if we could achieve something with that amount. In this film, we hadn’t seen such big sets before. We wondered if it was really our sets and how we would shoot in them. But I believe in one basic rule of cinema: One must always take one scene at a time.

ALSO READ:‘Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare’: The making of a quirky Kannada film

So, what next for the writer-director Raj B Shetty?

There is an idea that has disturbed me for many days, but it could be challenging to execute it. I might still write it. As a producer, I want to do two films under our banner. One is a comedy film with a newcomer and the other will be a romantic film, again with a newcomer. I want to write and produce them.

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