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‘I tried to keep my ego out of the equation’

Starstruck It was intimidating to work with Ananth Nag, says Hemanth Rao

Starstruck It was intimidating to work with Ananth Nag, says Hemanth Rao  

Engineer-turned filmmaker Hemanth Rao talks about making his mark as a debutant director in the Kannada film industry with the soon-to-release 'Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu'

“Anything that requires you to follow your heart is a difficult thing to do,” says Hemanth Rao as we begin our conversation. About to make his debut as a director in the Kannada film industry with the soon-to-release Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu, Hemanth, an engineer turned filmmaker, decided that he would give his debut everything that he has. “I decided to treat it like it is my last film,” he says candidly. And his motivation gathered strength when actors such as Ananth Nag, Achyuth Kumar, Rakshit Shetty and Shruti Hariharan said an immediate yes as soon as they read the script that Hemanth had penned.

Reports suggest that the film is ‘different.’ The subject and the first-look of the film have generated a lot of curiosity.

In this interview, Hemanth talks about how his film came to be, his experience so far in the industry as a debutant and working with veterans such as Ananth Nag. Excerpts:

How did your tryst with filmmaking happen?

I was always interested in writing and films, for me, seemed like a natural progression. I assisted Girish Kasaravalli on Gulabi Talkies. Thereafter, I worked under Jacob Verghese on three projects. The fact that they are so down to earth certainly made it possible for me to approach them.

And how did the concept for the debut film emerge?

As a kid, I used to watch the missing reports on television news. The following day, I used to wonder what happened to those who had gone missing the previous day - were they found? When I started meeting people who have had people go missing in their family, I realized that, for the family, the lack of closure about the person who has gone away is the most important aspect. While this was one thread of the story, the other important element is the relationship between a father and a son, something that I have always been fascinated with.

What was it like to work with Ananth Nag?

It was intimidating to work with a veteran like Ananth Sir, especially after seeing his body of work. Filmmaking is a very collaborative effort, and you need people to buy into your vision and add value to it. I got really lucky that way because the script somehow did that for my entire cast and they were able to relate to it on many levels.

I tried to keep my ego out of the equation. While working with established actors, you have to earn their trust on a daily basis. Ananth Sir, for instance, will not do something until he is convinced of it. If it warrants a conversation, he will be open for discussion. I was nervous about talking to him but I was sure about what I was saying to him.

Were you compelled to accommodate a comedy track or an item number?

I don’t know what category to put my film into. But, to make ‘this kind’ of film, you need someone to financially back you and say I’ve invested in your vision and I’ll stick by that. My producer has supported me in that respect. He has put his trust and thankfully none of those commercial elements needed to be forcefully added.

Are such producers rare?

It is tremendously rare .Out of 100 producers, 99.9 per cent of them will look to safeguard their investments and they will go by what they hear from people about what works and what does not.

Who are these people that suggest these things?

These voices don’t take a particular form but these opinions are so pervasive that they start affecting a filmmaker when he or she starts scripting a film. It becomes sort of ingrained that there are certain things you need to add for a film to work.

There are five to six releases each week. So, is it difficult to secure a release in the market?

As a collective unit and as a fledgling industry that is trying to open its markets and get more people to the theatres, we are not united as an industry. We also face severe competition from other language films- the highest any State in India, faces. There is a lack of co-ordination within the industry and in the larger scheme of things, this affects films because some films tend to get lost in the process and sometimes even certain good films end up being the casualties. We don’t have that many theatres and the one with more money gets the theatre. What is most disappointing is the fact there is no discussion on this subject.

How important is film school training to be a filmmaker?

I did not go to a film school. Pavan Kumar didn’t. Rakshit didn’t. Film schools aren’t a pre-requisite to making good cinema. It is immaterial where you get your knowledge or your understanding of the craft from. What is important is that learning happens- either in a film school or on the job.

What do you think about the portrayal of women in Kannada cinema?

It is sad. I don’t think people who write about women understand women or have been with them. Anybody who has been in love wouldn’t be saying any of the things these films say about women and love.

As a filmmaker, I’m also repulsed by this. And I feel that the portrayal of women in our films is a reflection of what society is. It is an unhealthy trend. These opinions do not add an ounce of positivity to men or women. It is not helpful to society.

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Printable version | Jul 13, 2020 11:46:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/debutant-director-hemanth-rao-on-his-upcoming-film/article8483547.ece

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