25 Years of OM - Shivarajkumar reveals plans to come together with Upendra for a new film
As the Upendra-directorial, starring Shivarajkumar, marks its 25th anniversary, we speak to the duo, who take us on a trip down the memory lane
“There might be many successful films, but not every film reaches cult status. Om is one such film,” says Shivarajkumar who played the titular role in actor Upendra’s third directorial. The film, which was released on May 19, 1995, celebrates its silver jubilee today. Calling Om a rare film that can be loved for generations, Upendra believes this kind of magic seldom happens.
One of the most cherished films in Kannada cinema and across India, Om holds a Limca record for getting re-released more than 550 times. It was also released 30 times in Bengaluru’s Kapali theatre. The film, produced by Parvathamma Rajkumar under Poornima Enterprises, was based on a story written by director Upendra, who also wrote the screenplay. With chartbusting music by Hamsalekha and cinematography by BC Gowri Shankar, Om was made with a 70 lakh budget. Interestingly, this gangster film featured real-life gangsters — Bekkina Kannu Rajendra, Tanveer, Korangu Krishna, and Jedaralli Krishnappa — playing pivotal roles.
As fans of Shivanna and Uppi are planning special celebrations amid the lockdown period, we caught up with the actor and director in a telephonic interview where they spoke about the special landmark film. "This will be a film that will be spoken even after 10 years, and this was possible because of Upendra, who at that time, was futuristic in his filmmaking," says Shivanna, also thanking his father (Dr Rajkumar), mother (Parvathamma Rajkumar), Vardanna, music director Hamsalekha, cinematographer Gowri Shankar, Upendra, and the entire team for making Om possible.
"Chanting of Om mantra is a very positive feeling, and when it became the film's title, it brought in all the good vibes. It was a title that Upendra got Appaji to write it in kumkum," recalls Shivanna, who also makes a special mention about the two songs, which were sung by Dr Rajkumar. "Brahmananda Omkara and Oo Gulabiye are memorable to date," he says.
Shivanna reminisces how during those times, films under their home banner were usually family-oriented or comedy films and Om was of a different shade and unique. "Om was a film that made the entire country turn towards Sandalwood at that time. Everybody chanted Om, despite the film not being dubbed in any language. That's the greatest thing about the film," says Shivanna, adding, "It was a film that was out on television almost 21 years after its release, which set another example about how some films are in demand."
Responding to queries about future collaborations between him and Upendra, Shivanna says, "Upendra and I have plans to come together for a film. I will be meeting him after 10 days, and let us hope we come up with a script that can be another cult classic.”
Upendra is stunned and grateful that Om is still the talk of the town. "I would say everything about Om is God's grace. I recall a few lines mentioned by Dr. Rajkumar: 'Finding a cinema's success is like a Chidambara rahasya (deep secrets).' When an actor of that stature has said so, we can't dig more deeply into it," he says.
Upendra also recalls a discussion about Om that took place four years before it actually took off. "That was when I narrated it to Annavaru (Dr Rajkumar). He became the inspiration, and people like Vardanna, producer Parvathamma Rajkumar, actor Shivarajkumar, Hamsalekha, and Gowri Shankar coming together paved way for the film to reach great heights.”
On bringing real-life gangsters to play important roles, Upendra says it wasn't initially in the plan. "I wanted to spread a message to people to give up on rowdyism, and I thought it is best to be told from their voices. That's when I approached a few gangsters. Accordingly, I did a few changes in the script, and we shot the scenes with real-life gangsters," explains Upendra.
Though a lot about Om has been spoken by Upendra on many occasions, his conversations are never complete without a mention of Vardanna. He also makes a special mention about Shivanna. "As a director, I have my fixation about how a scene should be shot, and Shivanna was very encouraging,” says Upendra, also explaining how he managed to find a balance between violence and peace in Om. "The fragrance of love against a rowdyism backdrop was the highlight of Om," he says.
Ask Uppi, if the audience can hope for another Om from the two. "Let's hope. Not everything happens overnight. It is time, situation, people, and atmosphere, which should come together to make it happen, and this happens only some times," says Upendra, who mentions that if not for the lockdown period, he would have celebrated the success of Om with all his and Shivanna fans. "Hope we come out of the crisis, I am looking forward to watching Om once again along with Shivanna," he says.