Rakesh Kadri: Actors matter, but ultimately, the film and its connection with the audience counts

Rakesh Kadri talks at length about his Kannada debut, Happy Birthday to Me, which is slated for an OTT release this week
Happy Birthday to Me-Rakesh Kadri
Rakesh Kadri (L), Happy Birthday to Me stars Sidhaartha Maadhyamika and Siddu Moolimani

Rakesh Kadri, who started his directorial career in Tulu cinema with the short film Market, found his first blockbuster success with the Tulu feature film, Girgit, which he directed along with Roopesh Shetty. The director has now forayed into Kannada cinema with Happy Birthday to Me, which is set to release on various streaming platforms on June 28. Discussing his upcoming venture, Rakesh said, "It is a quirky black comedy, bursting with humour and eccentricity, written and directed by me, and produced by Shoolin Films. It revolves around flatmates played by Sidhaartha Maadhyamika and Siddu Moolimani. Sidhaartha, playing the birthday boy, finds his celebration plans turned upside down when a female guest, portrayed by Chaithra Achar, mysteriously dies in their apartment. Now, they must devise various schemes to remove her body without getting caught, forming the gist of my film."

Reflecting on choosing OTT for his Kannada debut, Kadri explains, "During the lockdown, we developed this story, and one of the producers of Girgit decided to adapt Happy Birthday to Me into Kannada on a minimal budget. OTT platforms were thriving during the pandemic, so we tailored the film for this format. However, later, when we approached the major OTT platforms, they weren't keen on taking Kannada films and preferred first theatrical releases, which was demotivating. So we opted for non-exclusive OTT platforms to showcase our work effectively," he says.

Speaking about audience reception and promotion strategies when it comes to OTT releases, Kadri notes, "Promotion remains crucial: the more you invest, the wider your potential reach. Only after the release will we gauge audience interest. Although the trailer received positive reviews, it remains to be seen whether the film will reach a larger audience."

Apparently the director was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, and he adapted its concept of a dead body into a unique narrative. "While Rope inspired me years ago, I crafted a distinct story around the idea only when I decided to make a film for OTT," he remarks.

With an interesting set of actors and a fresh storytelling approach, Kadri remains curious about how Happy Birthday to Me will connect with viewers. "Actors matter, but ultimately, it's the film and its connection with the audience that counts," he signs off.

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