Prateek Prajosh: Chilli Chicken aims to break racial discrimination against Northeast people

Prateek Prajosh, who after working as a creative producer in Bollywood, is keen to direct his first film in Kannada. He believes that the South Indian industry is better in its approach to storytelling, which is rare in Mumbai
Prateek Prajosh: Chilli Chicken aims to break racial discrimination against Northeast people

Chilli Chicken is a cherished dish among non-vegetarians, and it’s also the title of director Prateek Prajosh’s upcoming film. However, according to him, and in the context of the story, the title holds two meanings: one is the popular Indo-Chinese dish, and the other is a racial slur used to address people from the Northeast. For a long time, they have been called names similar to this. “The title is meant to entice the audience to the theatres, but also to make them reflect,” explains the director, ahead of the film’s release on June 21.

Prateek, who pursued a B.Com and an MBA, with his father’s roots in Bengaluru, admits he’s a self-taught filmmaker who has experimented with documentaries in different languages—Hindi, Malayalam, and Tamil. As a creative producer in Bollywood, he worked on notable films like Andhadhun, Padmaavat, Manto, Rangoon, and the Gujarati film Dhh, as well as projects in Malayalam and Tamil, before plunging into his first directorial.

“It was important for my first directorial venture to be in Kannada, as I was raised here and am familiar with the place and its people,” he adds. The film Chilli Chicken, based on a real incident, was inspired by a story shared by music director Siddhanth Sundar about an incident at his friend’s restaurant in Frazer Town in 2015. The memory stayed with him, especially as discrimination faced by people from the Northeast people increased during the pandemic. This was one of the many reasons to bring this story to light,” explains Prateek.

“I collaborated with writer KAS from Chennai to construct the story. The journey from pen to paper took four years, but the idea has been with me for the last ten years,” he says.

Prateek calls Chilli Chicken an effort put together by a pan-India crew to make a Kannada film produced under the Metanoia Studios Production “We have Deep Bhimjyani from Gujarat who partnered as producer, along with Sudha Nambiar, DOP Shrish Tomar from Uttar Pradesh, screenplay writer KAS, sound designer Sachin from Chennai, music director Siddhanth Sundar from Bengaluru who is originally Telugu, and finally me, from Kerala, settled in Bengaluru.”

Describing Chilli Chicken as a social dramedy, Prateek notes, “The film, being a mirror to the audience, shows how people in metro cities mistreat people who are part of our country. It is a moment to reflect. One important aspect of Chilli Chicken is showing that even though these people come from far away, they make an extra effort to integrate into the culture and language, especially in the food and beverage industries. Many people carry prejudices about them. We aim to shed light on this to make the film as realistic as possible.”

On how closely the film sticks to the incident, Prateek says, “If I made it too close, it would become a documentary. We took a thread from the real event but conducted our own research and observations over a long period. We have tried to tell the story in a sensitive way while adding our cinematic touch.”

Reflecting on his Bollywood experience, Prateek says, “My exposure to Bollywood has not given me much. Everyone aspires to work here as it seems larger than life. But it is the regional cinema, be it Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu or Kannada industries which take more chances in storytelling. They introduce bold stories and voices, which is rare in Mumbai. At one point, I had to make that jump because this is where the real stories are created. Films like KGF and Kantara have paved the way. While my first venture might not be as big as those films, I hope it will be appreciated for its interesting story.”

Prateek chose Shrunga for the lead role after seeing his performance in Mansore’s 19 20 21. “When I saw his acting, I knew he had to be the face of Chilli Chicken. He was our first choice.” The film also stars Rini, Nithyashri, and several Northeast actors like Bijou Thangjam, Tomthin Thokchom, Victor Thoudam, and Hirock Sonowal.

Looking ahead, Prateek wants to experiment with different forms of filmmaking. “Although the story is simple, the way we narrate it has to be interesting. We are catering to a rapidly evolving audience, which presents unique challenges. I want to make more films in Kannada, despite discouraging remarks made about the industry going through a rough phase. This is temporary. We need to see the bigger picture and push the envelope a little bit,” he signs off on an optimistic note.

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