'If not for the lockdown, Hero would not have happened'
...says debutant director M Bharath Raj, whose film, Hero, starring Rishab Shetty, Ganavi Laxman, and Pramod Shetty, is set to hit the screens on March 5
Debutant director M Bharath Raj is one of those filmmakers who managed to make the most of the lockdown. Talking about his first directorial venture, Hero, Bharath recalls a comment made by a well-wisher that if it weren’t for the Covid-19 pandemic, this film wouldn’t have happened. “These words made me realise that without Covid or the lockdown, this project wouldn’t have taken off at all. The idea of making this film came while we were asked to spend time at home,” says Bharath, ahead of his film’s release this Friday (March 5).
The action-comedy adventure stars Rishab Shetty in the role of a hairstylist, and also features Ganavi Laxman as the heroine, along with Pramod Shetty and Manju of Ugramm fame.
“The film was actually inspired by frustration. It was a time when fear lurked among my circle about the future of entertainment — whether theatres would re-open, and if they did, whether the audience would get back to watching films on the big screen. We wondered if OTT was the future, and if we would all have to adapt to that format. All these and more were part of our daily discussions, and we decided that irrespective of the platform — theatre, OTT, or even YouTube — we would show our film to the audience, and that’s how Hero began,” recounts Bharath.
According to the first-time director, the film began with an impromptu script about a situation that takes place in one day. “We had to come up with a story in line with the Covid restrictions in place at that time, like the availability of only a limited crew. We were brainstorming a script involving two characters and one location. We had even planned and discussed a short film,” says Bharath, adding that more than the size of the project, what mattered was the content, and how it would engage the audience. “We had half the script ready when we began shooting, and the second half was done while we were on the sets. That’s when a couple more actors were added.”
Bharath wanted Laughing Buddha, starring Pramod Shetty, to be his directorial debut. “But Hero happened. When I narrated the story, and how it can be executed, the team was convinced and gave me the go-ahead to wield the megaphone,” he says.
Ask him about the challenges of directing a film when you have a well-known director and actor like Rishab Shetty playing the lead role, and the debutant replies, “Before entering the sets, I had a discussion with Rishab, and I told him that if I am the director, I like to take the entire responsibility. Rishab (who is also producing the film) made sure that I executed the project without any interference from anybody in the crew.”
Bharath adds that working with technicians like cinematographer Arvind Kashyap and stunt choreographer Vikram Mor helped him learn a lot.
The film’s title, he reveals, was decided during the first cut. “Ashoka Vana was one of the titles chosen, and it was my favourite one too, but it could not be finalised,” says Bharath. “While watching the film at the edit desk, I revisited the whole incident, and whatever the character goes through. That’s when I felt that he is a hero. Secondly, our characters don’t have particular names, and we address them as hero, heroine, and villain. This also became one of the reasons to title the film Hero.”
However, Rishab Shetty had some concerns about using such a title. “We convinced him by pointing out George Bernard Shaw’s line - ‘You cannot be a hero without being a coward’. A single incident can turn a normal person into a hero, and the title sums up the basic line of our story,” Bharath adds.
With music by Ajaneesh B Loknath, Hero is made under the banner of Rishab Shetty films.