Kannada star Upendra is really good with having conversations in Tamil. Given his proficiency in the language and the fact that he has starred in many Telugu films and a Tamil film ( Sathyam in 2008), it makes you wonder why he hasn’t jumped on the pan-India bandwagon. The veteran actor wants to answer that in style with his upcoming film Kabzaa that’s slated to release this Friday. Connecting on a call right in the middle of his promotional tours for his upcoming pan-Indian film, the actor talks about his role, getting inspired by youngsters and even takes a small walk down memory lane. Excerpts:
What about Kabzaa intrigued you the most?
There isn’t one particular factor that makes a film pan-Indian, I believe. Everything from the content, the making and the stars together do the trick and as far as Kabzaa is concerned, it was the making that got me hooked to it. I was flabbergasted by the sets they made for this film and the use of lighting in it. It’s also a period drama that starts in 1947 and travels for a few years, covering the political scenarios in post-independent India.
Right at the ideation stage, they showed me storyboards and references of how they wanted to go about it . A good period film should be like a dream, it should transport you to the past. Kabzaa will do that.
You’ve earlier worked with its director Chandru on the historical action drama, Brahma (2014) as well as a romantic drama I Love You (2019)...
Working on two varied genres gave me the confidence to work with Chandru on another film, this time at a huge scale, made on a budget of 100+ crore. Both the previous films did well and I owe it to his knowledge of what he wants to convey with his films. He’s also smart and knows what works and knows how to pull in the crowd to the theatres. He’s also good with the publicity part of it as well.
The trailer shows your character going through quite a lot of changes over the time period the film is set in.
My character’s arc starts right from his childhood till his transformation as a don. It also features his marriage and becoming a father. He works in the armed forces and during a visit to his home town, he witnesses something he shouldn’t and that takes him on a journey he wasn’t prepared for.
Are pan-Indian big-budget films the way forward for big stars ?
I feel so, yes. The changes in the film industry are leading towards two directions - one is to do pan-Indian films or do rooted, content-oriented films with extraordinary content and good publicity. Earlier, it was difficult because films were tagged as regional content. But now, the boundaries have disappeared we are in a space to do big-budget films. So naturally, every big star wants to do such films which end up getting tagged as pan-Indian.
Given the market and the expectations a star’s film creates, is it possible for someone like you to take up smaller, content-oriented subjects?
Of course, because, at the end of the day, it comes down to content irrespective of whether the budget is 100 or 200 crore. A film like Kabzaa, which is set in a period backdrop that requires ample sets, demands a big budget. Some films, like Kantara, work well because of their rooted village backdrop, good content and extraordinary performances. These two types of films have been the cornerstones of our film industries.
Kabzaa film’s treatment seems very similar to KGF. Was it done given how it proved to work or was it just an inspiration?
When Shiva (1990) came out in Telugu and my film Om (1995) was released, youngsters followed the trend, similar to how the new crop of filmmakers in Tamil wanted to do films inspired by the works of Mani Ratnam sir and Shankar sir. Similarly, Chandru too has been inspired by KGF which he also honestly accepts. Probably the making and the pan-India concept might be similar but the content is very different.
When I’m an actor, I just stick to acting. It’s when I direct do I get to do my own ideas. The new generation and their style of photography and making are things we should adapt to. There’s nothing wrong with that. If our junior does something good, it’s our responsibility to appreciate them. We enjoy that youngsters are following our films and similarly, with an open heart, we should also take what’s good from them.
Speaking about the director in you, you’re known for your out-of-box ideas. Does that bring in a sense of pressure when you start a new project, like for your upcoming directorial venture UI?
I really like to be in that zone. That inspires me and challenges me to do something new and different. As far as UI is concerned, it’s a film I’m really excited to work on. The making and content will be different from what I’ve done before.
Kabzaa is scheduled to be released on 17 March 2023 in Kannada, along with the dubbed versions of Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam