Director Anand Raj: We can’t blame the audience when we don’t provide them with quality content

The director opens up about the importance of exploring content-driven cinema and rare genres, why we shouldn’t rely solely on masala flicks and expect audiences to flock to theatres, his sophomore directorial Chef Chidambara, and more
Director Anand Raj: We can’t blame the audience when we don’t provide them with quality content

Anand Raj, a devoted follower of Upendra’s filmmaking style, is carving a niche in the Kannada film industry with his unconventional storytelling and unique subjects. With Raaghu, he already showcased his ability to handle a story that required a solo performance by Vijay Raghavendra. Not only did he earn praise for the filmmaking but also for the film’s music composed by Ritwik Muralidhar. Now, with Chef Chidambara, his second venture which is set to hit theatres on June 14, he is exploring a rare genre again. The film, produced by Roopa DN under the Damthi Pictures banner, brings Aniruddha Jatkar back after a long hiatus, along with Nidhi Subbaiah and Rachel David.

According to Anand Raj, exploring dark comedy in Kannada cinema is indeed a rarity, but it’s a genre that has shown promise elsewhere, as seen in the success of films like Andhadhun. “When we talk about content from other languages, Malayalam cinema is just at the top of their game. And when we fail to deliver good content, we can’t blame our audience. When we are not providing them with quality content, they cannot be blamed. Of course, OTT platforms have made cinema easier to access, but it’s still important to draw audiences to theaters. At the same time, we can’t make masala films and expect people to flock to the theaters.”

Anand Raj also speaks from the producer’s point of view. “As filmmakers, we should also consider the budget and the producer’s perspective. Cinema is my passion, but for the producer, it’s a business. So as a director, you should be aware of your script and budget, and cast actors accordingly. When a film can be made for just over 2 crores, you can’t set a budget of 10 crores just because you have an investor,” says the director, adding, “Even when I collaborated with my producer, she gave me a free hand with the investment and was comfortable with my requirements. But I made sure to maintain my limit. I was clear with the producers about the actors, and their pulling power, and worked accordingly. That’s what I believe a director should focus on,” he explains.

Sharing briefly about Chef Chidambara, Anand Raj mentions that the film portrays violence and death in a comedic light, pushing boundaries and offering audiences something fresh and unexpected. “Chidambara, a chef, faces a bizarre situation when a visitor dies in his apartment. Corrupt Inspector Indrajith demands money to settle the matter or threatens arrest. The next day, the body disappears, leaving Chidambara in a quandary. How he deals with this mystery over the course of three days forms the crux of this dark comedy thriller.”

Regarding the casting of Aniruddha, who is making a comeback to the silver screen with this film, Anand Raj explains, “Actor Aniruddha chose me to direct him in Chef Chidambara. For over six months, he had been contemplating a return to cinema and had met many directors, but no story struck him. Coincidentally, I met Aniruddha with another director who was planning to pitch a story but he didn’t like it. I just had a one-liner of Chef Chidambara and he connected with it instantly green lighting the project. Although he hadn’t seen my debut film, Raaghu, he knew it was an experiment and that was entertaining. Though it didn’t do well commercially, it personally earned me a good reputation, and the industry recognised me, and so did actor Aniruddha. He gave his heart and soul to this project.”

The film stars two female leads, Nidhi Subbaiah and Rachel David, and according to Anand Raj, the latter’s role wasn’t initially written. “I had pitched a friend character, alongside the lead. However, Aniruddha suggested that there was a need for a heroine in the film. So, we decided to convert it into a girlfriend’s character, and that’s how Rachel David came into the picture.”

The director, who collaborated with technicians from Raaghu, has Ritwik Muralidhar scoring the music and background score, and Uday Leela as cinematographer.

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