Harish Shankar: Jigarthanda is my favourite film, Valmiki will not veer too far from the original
The director talks about what lead to the making of his Friday release, starring Varun Tej, Atharvaa and Pooja Hegde
After Duvvada Jagannadham (DJ), it has taken exactly two years for director Harish Shankar to arrive with his next film, Valmiki, a remake of the acclaimed Tamil gangster drama Jigarthanda. He says that the film was never planned as he wasn’t desperate to direct a remake. “After DJ, I wanted to go ahead with an urban love story on the lines of Fidaa and Tholi Prema with Varun Tej, and pitched the script of Dagudumuthalu. But he was looking to break his lover boy image and was keen to do a mass entertainer in my signature style. He worked hard for two months and has gone for a complete makeover to get Gaddalakonda Ganesh’s look right. I can vouch for you that he will mesmerise the audience with his performance,” begins Harish.
The director recalls watching Jigarthanda five years ago and says he discussed the possibilities of remaking it in Telugu with producer Dil Raju. “When I was working on my next film’s script, Karthik Subburaj's Petta released and it was then I watched his Jigarthanda again. Jigarthanda was my favourite film and I believe there was some magic in this story and thought it would work well in Telugu too. I felt Varun Tej will bring a fresh perspective for the negative role played by Bobby Simha in the original and that’s how Valmiki began,” he says.
Harish says he stuck to the original and didn’t make significant changes in the content. “I didn’t want to change the script written by Karthik (Subbaraj) as I thought it was brilliant. However, I have adapted the story to suit our local sensibilities keeping Varun’s image in mind. I have also created a substantial role for Pooja Hegde, and her presence will take the film to a different level. If you recall, Jigarthanda was released in Telugu with the same name, but not many people watched it. So, we took a calculative step, acquired the remake rights and made Valmiki,” says Harish.
Revealing how Atharvaa came on board, Harish explains, “After zeroing in on Varun, I wanted to cast an actor who doesn’t carry any baggage in Telugu to reprise Siddharth’s part. Then, Atharvaa’s name flashed in my mind and he too got excited to work in Telugu.”
About the film, he explains, “Valmiki is the lengthiest film of my career. It’s a content-driven film with my style of entertainment and little action. We have remixed Velluvachi Godaramma from Devatha (1982) and the song comes at an appropriate situation and goes in line with the narrative.”
He shoots down ongoing reports of a rift with the producers of Valmiki and shares, “We are not at loggerheads. I have been friends with Gopi Achanta and Ram Achanta from Namo Venkatesa (2010) days. They had no qualms spending a lot of money on Valmiki, but I wanted to complete the film on a limited budget. Without understanding the whole point, some people have blown the issue out of proportion.”
Rumours were swirling about Harish Shankar reuniting with his Gabbar Singh actor Pawan Kalyan for a commercial entertainer, and the director avers, “ I am waiting to direct him again and wish it would come true one day. I request everyone to pray to god on my behalf.”