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Raj B Shetty: I'm not keen on doing pan-India films- Cinema express

Raj B Shetty: I'm not keen on doing pan-India films

The multi-hyphenate Raj B Shetty opens up about how his choice of films is entwined with life experiences ahead of the release of 777 Charlie

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Published: 02nd June 2022
Raj B Shetty

Post the KGF-storm, cinephiles across the country are looking forward to more such big-scale, mammoth projects from the Kannada film industry. However, the Kannada new wave cinema was first noticed for its modestly made content-rich films that had distinctly rooted tales and innovative storytelling.

The outlook of Kannada cinema changed at the turn of the last decade, and one of the flagbearers of that movement was Raj B Shetty. His directorial debut, Ondu Motteya Kathe (OMK), in which he also played the lead, was a rarely told story of a bald man and his tryst with love. Raj, however, believes that the so-called new wave started even before he made his debut and all he had to do was utilise it well. "As far as I remember, it was Pawan Kumar who started it with Lucia (2013), and then came Rakshit Shetty with Ulidavaru Kandanthe (2014). They made the ground fertile for people like me. We simply had to construct our cinema on the foundation they laid."

Raj will be next seen in a cameo in the Rakshit Shetty-starrer 777 Charlie. The two had previously collaborated for Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana (GGVV), Raj's sophomore directorial. Rakshit had presented it under his banner, Paramvah Pictures. While GGVV had Raj as a terrifying gangster, he plays a light-hearted role in 777 Charlie. When asked if it's a deliberate decision to be diverse, Raj says, "I pick characters that offer scope to explore something new. I want to explore till I fail. If I fail, I can learn from that. If I succeed, I might leave it and look for other new things."

Elaborating more on the character, Raj adds, "I usually play subtle roles, but here, I had a larger-than-life character of a veterinary doctor. I was initially a bit reluctant, but director Kiranraj felt the role could be justified only by someone who loves pets. I adore dogs. I have 8 of them."

777 Charlie has been in the making for nearly five years, and interestingly, Raj has been a part of it right from its nascent stages. "During the initial scripting, Kiranraj wanted some help with the dialogues, and that's how I came on board. But even when I was writing the dialogues, I didn't know the doctor's role would eventually come to me."

Raj calls himself a reluctant actor who loves writing and direction more. When asked where his inspiration for the vivid characters of his world comes from, Raj has the most Raj answer ever. "Life. I can only do cinema that questions and inspires me. When I don't have answers to my real-life problems, I always go to art or cinema and try to find them. So I see cinema as an extension of my life." But wouldn't it be tedious to think of films all the time? "I don't look for stories. I just live," quips Raj. 

Even amidst the 'pan-India' wave, Raj is aware of his strength in rooted stories, and he wishes to continue doing the same regardless of the scale of the projects. "I prefer to take smaller risks. I don't want to do a movie for Rs 10-15 crores. Instead, I would do a film on a comparatively lesser budget and explore new themes. I just want my producer to gain at least what they have invested. Right now, I'm not in the zone to cast a big star and make a big movie. In that sense, I'm not keen on doing pan-India films."

Both of Raj B Shetty's previous directorial ventures, OMK and GGVV, were successful. But his definition of success is not in terms of the box-office collections. "The biggest success in cinema is being able to tell something the way you intended it to. For example, if I'm passionate about a particular story and I'm forced to cast a commercially viable star, the box-office success of the film won't matter to me if my voice isn't the loudest."

Raj is currently in detoxification mode from the adulation that came GGVV's way. "Success is toxic. It can sway you away. Never should your past work guide the way you think in the future. Then the whole thing is corrupted." Incidentally, Raj is thinking of scrapping a script that he has been toying around with for a few years. "The idea germinated a few years back, but I'm not the same person anymore. I've evolved but the script hasn't. So I'm thinking of dropping it and starting afresh. This is the advantage of being a writer. I'm in that lazy zone now waiting for inspiration so that I can take the pen and start writing."

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