Sudeep: Kannada industry is growing, respected, and finally getting its due
The actor discusses at length about his upcoming film, Vikrant Rona, his ambitions, the Kannada film industry, and more...
Even after 26 years of being in the movies, Sudeep still has the fire burning in him and enjoys every moment of his career. With Vikrant Rona gearing up for release, the pan-Indian star strongly believes every film of his should have enough reasons for the audience to come to the theatres. “My exams have been written, and it is time for them to give me the marks,” says Sudeep in this chat with Cinema Express where the actor discusses at length about his upcoming film, Vikrant Rona, his ambitions, the Kannada film industry, and more...
You have invested four years into Vikrant Rona. Do you see it as a gamble or confidence?
How does it matter whether a film has taken four years or one year? It is the quality that matters.
Films, where you played a father, have been successful. Is there some connection there?
Maybe. Maybe not. If you start connecting dots, everything looks cosmic. We like to connect things and give them a name, and I treat them the way it comes. I love such roles where there is value for emotions and relationships, and it seems to be working for me.
There is very little that we know of Vikrant Rona. What are the surprises you have in place?
It all boils down to what the script is. What if the film is a solo act? What if one guy is playing different personalities? Connecting with Vikrant Rona is similar to the audience’s connection with a film like Eega, which was mainly about me and a fly. All I can say is there is no lead actress alongside me. I play a layered character called Vikrant Rona. I have a daughter in the film. This movie is all about content, and we have stuck to it.
Ra Ra Rakkamma song has been trending, and so has the Vikrant Rona trailer. Do numbers excite you anymore?
It is proof that people have loved the song and the trailers, and it is a reflection of the reach. In fact, Japanese people have done reels on Rakkamma. This is more exciting than numbers, which can be fake. What actually excites me is honesty, and I can genuinely feel the positivity around the film. The audience’s direct responses, and on social media speaks louder than numbers.
Did Vikrant Rona’s genre help in making the decision to go 3D?
The 2D version of the world we created for Vikrant Rona wasn’t doing justice to our vision. So we went with 3D, and of course, the budget skyrocketed, but I felt it was the best decision for a fantasy action film like this.
Vikrant Rona faced a lot of setbacks. How did you move past all of it?
Jack Manju (producer) never let us know of his financial burden despite having a tough time. However, we were all on the same page about where we stood in the overall scheme of things and worked towards a common vision. We kept revisiting our edits and were always excited to get back to the sets again. The delay was not during the shooting but during the post-production. Delays happened in the process of CG, and making it in 3D.
You are working with a considerably new team, especially on the technical front.
Art director Shivakumar is somebody I brought into the industry with Manikya. He is the first hero of Vikrant Rona. William David’s lighting and visual sense elevated Vikrant Rona, which was brought to life with Ajaneesh Loknath’s beautiful music. There are a lot of heroes in the film, and probably, Nirup and I come last on that list. They have done a fabulous job. It was a lovely experience to understand their perspectives and see their enthusiasm and energy.
How do you select a script? What are the boxes they have to check?
While my perspectives have changed over the years, I still believe in the importance of connecting with the audience, and trusting the content. Cinema is no more just picking and doing a film on a whim. We have to think about whether the story appeals to people across the world. Whenever such a script comes my way, I jump on the opportunity. For now, I am doing a film with Venkat Prabhu. I’m also in discussion with director Surendra Reddy for a project. There is my Vikrant Rona director Anup Bhandari’s Billa Ranga Basha, and my boy, Nanda (Nanda Kishore)’s project, which is quite new and interesting. This apart, I am in touch with a few other filmmakers. I am someone who goes with the flow.
As a senior in Sandalwood, how do you see the newly rejuvenated reception to the industry?
It’s growing. It is being respected, and finally getting its due. Even with films like KGF doing the rounds, there are some OTT content that is making quite the mark. It has been a collaborative effort. It is time that the present generation make the best use of this and take the industry, and themselves, to the next level.
When you go to other industries, do they understand your stardom? Are you actually comfortable taking a few steps down in the roles you do in other languages?
Unlike other industries, I don’t think my own industry initially respected and acknowledged it. It took a long time for my industry to give me that kind of respect. I got respect from some big names in the industry because they understood the nuance of cinema. But yeah, I have no regrets. I’m both a cinema person and a commoner. I believe respect should be for me as a person, and not as a star. That being said, I have no reservations against playing roles that are not the lead, as long as they have a strong character arc. In fact, without the reasons being on point, I won’t even accept a lead role.
With industries opening up, will you make your dream script in Kannada or any other language? What is the kind of script you have in mind?
Our thinking has a language, and I think only in Kannada. So whatever I do, the core will come from Karnataka. I am going to tell a story from here. I will not change it just because markets have opened up. This is where I start, and even if it gets a fair and wide reach, this will surely remain. I might migrate as an actor, but as a storyteller, it will begin from here.
Prithviraj recently said that big stars of each industry should take the first step in taking their movies everywhere. Does he see Kannada cinema making inroads into such a system?
We are already there. Prithviraj is a fabulous technician and I admire him a lot, especially for his knowledge. I enjoyed his film, Lucifer. Also, I am in awe of the way the Malayalam industry has established itself in the OTT space. It is time everybody, especially big filmmakers, from every industry, who have the potential to carry the weight, release their films in multiple languages.
In that case, how do you evaluate the reach of your film and devise the release strategy?
We have to understand whether a script has the potential to cross borders. Just because markets have opened, and Vikrant Rona is travelling across the world, I don’t think every film should be thought of from that angle. We will fall short and run out of ideas. Not every story needs to be told to the entire world. In fact, just tell your story, and the world will decide if they should see it or not.
Just like your presence in other industries, do you see a time when big stars of other industries play similar roles in Kannada?
It is an individual decision. By the end of the day, we do need actors, and if they come, it is wonderful, and if they don’t, even then it isn’t a problem. Of course, we don’t have big names from the present generation of Indian stars doing a role here. But it should not be looked at as a bad thing. Going to other languages is also our decision. Let’s not make it look like a compulsion for anyone.