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James director recalls his last days with Puneeth Rajkumar- Cinema express

James director recalls his last days with Puneeth Rajkumar

Chethan Kumar, who is still at a loss of words, opens up about the Power Star’s commitment towards James, which will be the last commercial flick of the late actor

Published: 01st November 2021
Chethan Kumar with Puneeth

James will be Puneeth Rajkumar’s last commercial flick, which is directed by Chethan Kumar. The makers have completed the shoot of the film except for a song and an action sequence. In a chat with CE, Chethan says he has decided to let go of them.

“I don’t know whether to consider myself lucky that I managed to get an opportunity to direct the Powerstar or feel miserable that James will be his career’s last film. Leaving aside the film, Appu being no more is itself a huge loss to me, and will carry this pain to the grave,” says Chethan.

Sharing a few pictures with Puneeth Rajkumar Kumar from the sets of the film, the director recalls his last interaction with the departed. “We last shot a dance sequence between October 13 and 16. Dance master Shekar choreographed this particular track. Puneeth was so committed and didn’t mind working during Dasara. Even though he is a fantastic dancer, he still did rehearsals for four days,” explains Chethan.

Pictures from the sets of James

He adds, “I last directed him for a lyrical video at his house lawn with the green mat. We had plans to resume the last schedule on November 8, and he was growing his beard for the song. He had asked to meet me on Friday afternoon to discuss the final leg of the shoot. Unfortunately, things turned out this way.”

Chethan says that even though he has been travelling with Puneeth for only two-and-a-half years for James, he knew the star for over six years. “My association with Appu sir goes back to my debut, Bahaddhur, for which he gave the voice-over. He was also the guest and did the honours for my second film Bharjari. I would often discuss my career with him, and he always had time for me despite being busy,” says Chethan.

The director also says that he has never seen Appu losing his temper on the sets. “He was an enthusiastic actor. Not a single day, he looked or said he was tired. Exercising was his routine; something he followed from a very young age. It was nothing but fate. It was a script by God. He decides the beginning and the end,” he signs off. Puneeth Rajkumar has completed a 90-minute documentary film, titled Gandhada Gudi, with wildlife photographer and filmmaker Amogha Varsha. An announcement of this project, which was supposed to be made today, has been pushed. The actor has also played a cameo in Lucky Man and has danced along with Prabhudheva in Nagendra Prasad’s directorial.

Puneeth Rajkumar had green-lit around seven projects which included films with directors Pawan Kumar, Jacob Verghese, Santhosh Ananddram, Dinakar Thoogudeepa, S Krishna among others. CE  also spoke to Prithvi  director Jacob and Dinakar, who share their thoughts about Puneeth.

Puneeth called me four times the previous day: Jacob Verghese

“I’m yet to come to terms”, says Jacob. “I was at my office at Lavelle Road when I got a call that he is unwell. I immediately rushed to the hospital, and I was shell shocked to see him in that state,” says Jacob, who did feel strange when Puneeth called him 4 times the previous day. “I felt these frequent calls were very unusual from him, and each time we spoke, he was excited about the project. We were discussing when to commence shooting and wanted to meet me after Deepavali, and he wanted to chalk a plan.”

Jacob says that though he has worked with many artists in his career, his association with Puneeth for 12 years was always special. “He was comfortable in his own space, and never felt threatened. He never made me feel like I’m interacting with a star. Whether I was making a film with him or not, I enjoyed connecting with him. Now, I have lost a great friend, and nobody can replace his position,” says Jacob, who is planning to go out of the city for a few days. “Every half a kilometer, I see an obit poster of Puneeth with a smiling face. A fact that I am still not able to digest, and I have decided to give some time for myself, and this trip might help me to come to terms,” he adds.

Puneeth had so much confidence in me: Dinakar Thoogudeepa

While we were planning a project, God had other plans for Puneeth, says Dinakar Thoogudeepa. “He was a gem of a person, and losing him is very shocking. I had called him during the week, and he wanted to meet me after Deepavali. We had a set work planned, which needed a minimum of 3 months of work. I was supposed to meet him to discuss this along with the film’s title and casting. I was waiting to meet him but didn’t expect this news.”

Dinakar had worked on this project for one-and-a-half years and says that Puneeth’s demise is the biggest loss to the industry. “I was close to Shivanna, as I knew him since I was an assistant director. When this project came through, I started interacting with Puneeth also, which helped me build a good rapport. He had huge confidence in me, and he would often say, ‘You will nail it.’ He said that I was technically strong. It did boost my confidence.”

Dinakar says that he was one of the fittest actors and what happened is unacceptable.

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