Darshan: My films which are labelled mass, have underlying layers

...says Challenging Star Darshan as he talks at length about Kaatera,  its portrayal of real-life incidents involving farmers and collaborating with Tharun Kishore Sudhir
Darshan: My films which are labelled mass, have underlying layers
Darshan: My films which are labelled mass, have underlying layers

Kannada cinema fans are in for major celebrations this year’s end as Darshan’s Kaatera is gearing up to shatter box office records with massive advanced bookings. Box office triumphs have been a regular occurrence in the actor’s career. Darshan, widely known as the man of the masses, has subtly emerged as the voice of the ‘unspoken, unsung, and unhonoured,’ highlighting overlooked social issues within the public sphere through his entertainers. His previous films like Yajamana and Kranti focussed on the oil mafia and educational issues, respectively standing as a testament to his social consciousness. His upcoming venture, Kaatera, centered around farmers, sees director Thaun Kishore Sudhir presenting Darshan in a unique role, veering away from the typical commercial formulas.

“Even though Roberrt was a commercial film, it carried an underlying story about becoming a father to an unrelated child. The narrative of Kaatera was something Tharun Sudhir conceived during the lockdown. For me, it all hinges on the directors I collaborate with and the stories they bring to the table. As an actor, I aim to do justice to the role. I don’t like drawing a line between ‘Mass’ and ‘Class.’ I believe it’s all about entertainment. While my films are categorised as ‘mass,’ I still sense an underlying substance in each of them. My films are more than just mass entertainers,” he asserts.

Interestingly, Darshan got the title Kaatera, and he’s delighted to share that ‘Kaaterama,’ after whom the title is named, is a revered deity in their family.    The actor calls director Tharun’s debut film Chowka, (which featured him in a key role) ‘content-rich yet entertaining’.

It’s worth noting that in some of Darshan’s recent films, including Kaatera he is representing the neglected public, shedding light on their social issues. In Kaatera, he highlights the plight of farmers, emphasising it’s as a nationwide concern.

“The film is based on a real-life incident and underlines the 1974 land reform act enacted during Devaraj Urs’s tenure as Minister, supported by the then Prime Minister. It stipulated that those who cultivate the land will rightfully own it. It’s uncommon for a mass hero to delve into such real-life narratives. As the face of the film, even the lines spoken by him carry significant weight,” Darshan explains. “In such cases, I conduct my fact checks and have in-depth discussions with the director.”

 His aged appearance in the film has particularly kindled the curiosity among the audience,” Usually, in every film of mine, there’s a grand introduction song. But in Kaatera, I get a different introduction, something unprecedented in my 55-film-old career,” he shares. Though the entire crew has lauded his performance post the test screenings, Darshan remains tight-lipped, about it. “Let the audience anticipate whatever they want. But I can say with confidence that they’re in for a surprise.”

During our interaction, I brought up the first poster of the movie, depicting a large group of sheep and a dog up front, with a powerful line, ‘Those in the past pave the way forward.’ When I questioned his reaction to the animal-centric poster, he explained, “It symbolised the beginning of our storytelling. That line and poster represent the leader and the supporters behind me, while the sheep depict the farmers.”

About working with director Tharun Kishore Sudhir multiple times, he says, “I consider him as a brother, whom I know over the past 30 years. Professionally, when it comes to making Kaatera, he took on the responsibility of convincing me, the producer Rockline Venkatesh, and the audience about the story. I believe in Tharun Sudhir, and he hasn’t let my faith in him down. Every time he approaches me, I give a green signal in just one sitting.” says Darshan as he gives credit to the technicians and particularly highlights dialogue writer Maasthi. “This story represents our land and culture, blending well to a commercial formula. I even met someone to learn the slang of the region. Tharun spearheaded all this and he made it happen.”

Kaatera features yesteryear actors like Vinod Alva, Kumar Govind, and Padma Vasanthi instilling golden memories of  Kannada cinema. Interestingly, actors Shruthi, Vaijanath Biradar, and Rohith PV among others are also part of the cast.

“An actor doesn’t retire until they’re in the grave. Even during inactive phases, those who consider themselves artists never truly retire. Working with these actors was a fantastic experience. There were times when I wanted to fit into Biradar’s character; I envied how he portrayed it. Everyone has their own space in Kaatera,” shares Darshan.

Speaking of debutante Aradhana, he highlights her preparation and determination for the role, following the footsteps of her mother Malashree. “She’s all set to establish herself as a good actor. She’s well-trained and ready to have a long run in cinema,” he says.

When speaking about Kaatera’s focus on farmers, Darshan emphasises his commitment to making it a pure Kannada cinema, despite the subject’s universal nature. “Each region’s farmers have unique cultures and even vary in their attire. It’s best to represent them in their language, rooted in their land’s culture. Similar land issues surface in Bihar, but narrating this story there demands authenticity for that land and its farmers. Real-life incidents, especially a subject like this, are best conveyed in the native language,” shares Darshan.

Expressing his deep opinion about Pan-India films, the superstar states, “Creating films in multiple languages demands ample time and patience, which I don’t have. My aim is to contribute two Kannada films per year to our industry,” he concludes.

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