Anil Kumar: Transforming comedian Chikkanna into a hero was a delicate process

Director Anil Kumar discusses the intricacies of transforming a comedian into a full-fledged leading actor, ahead of the release of his upcoming film, Upadhyaksha
Anil Kumar: Transforming comedian Chikkanna into a hero was a delicate process

 Chikkanna, celebrated for his comedic flair in over 250 films, is making a bold leap as a leading man with Upadhyaksha, presenting a dual challenge for both himself and director Anil Kumar. Scheduled for release on January 26, the film revolves around the protagonist’s pursuit to become the village chieftain, setting the stage for a clash with Shivarudre Gowda, performed by P Ravi Shankar. As the story unfolds, Upadhyaksha finds himself entangled in a relationship with Shivarudre Gowda’s daughter, Anjali, adding layers of tension and conflict. The highlight of the film happens to be Chikkanna portraying an all-new avatar.
In a candid conversation with director Anil Kumar ahead of the film’s release, he talks about the intricate challenges involved in transforming a comedian into a leading actor. Anil Kumar reflects, “Having observed Chikkanna’s work and having him as part of my previous film, Rambo 2, where he played alongside Sharan, the lead actor, I was familiar with his versatility. Moreover, he also shared screen space with Sharan in Adhyaksha. And with Upadhyaksha serving as its sequel, it was a seamless transition to shift the focus to Chikkanna’s character in the upcoming film. While the audience has witnessed Chikkanna alongside a leading role, this characterisation required a balance to avoid a sudden and jarring tonal shift. Transitioning him into a hero demanded letting go of certain traits while preserving the essence of the old Chikkanna. It was a delicate process, but the workshop played a pivotal role in moulding him into the character.”
Anil Kumar reveals that Chikkanna underwent a physical transformation to convincingly play the role of a protagonist. He explains, “Although, in my perception, Chikkanna didn’t require it, he embodied the essence of a hero. The story demanded a certain transformation in his physicality and demeanour. While Chikkanna is not a novice to the silver screen, in order to look at him through the lens of a protagonist, I needed to approach him like a debut actor.”
With the story penned by Chandramohan, Upadhyaksha is produced by Smitha Umapathy under DN Cinemas banner. According to Anilkumar, the success of Adhyaksha further raised the expectations for Upadhyaksha. “It has been accepted well with the first set of audiences, which are mostly family viewers. We received positive feedback at a recently held private screening. Now we have to wait for the audience’s response,” he says.
Expressing his perspective on comedians transitioning into leading roles, a trend spanning two decades in Kannada cinema, Anil Kumar remarks, “Cinema as a platform has given rise to abundant opportunities. We have witnessed heroes evolving into directors, producers taking on directorial roles, and many such things. For a comedian, already armed with an audience, the challenge lies in elevating their character when stepping into the lead role, without compromising their strengths—qualities that made them likeable in the first place. When one comedian ascends to a hero’s role, it paves the way for multiple talents aspiring to excel in other roles.”
As for the story of Upadhyaksha, Anil Kumar assures that it is a joyous entertainer, which brings back most of the cast members from Adhyaksha. Apart from the addition of Sadhu Kokila and a cameo appearance by Sharan, the cast also includes Kari Subbu, and Veena Sundar. The film also introduces Malaika Vasupal in the lead role. Upadhyaksha has music composed by Arjun Janya, cinematography

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