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Tharun Bhascker: Any crime viewed from a distance is a comedy- Cinema express

Tharun Bhascker: Any crime viewed from a distance is a comedy  

The writer, director and occasional actor talks about his upcoming film Keedaa Cola, his fondness for crime comedies, his approach to writing and more

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Published: 01st November 2023

After notably capturing the zeitgeist of Telugu youth with his features, Pelli Choopulu (2016) and Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi (2018), Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam is returning to the screens after a hiatus of five years with Keedaa Cola. Though the director has not been entirely out of sight — he has dabbled in acting, writing and hosting a TV show over the last few years —  the excitement around his new film is palpable for more reasons than one. Keedaa Cola is a crime comedy, a genre he calls his favourite. He is also producing the film with his friends K Vivek Sudhanshu, Saikrishna Gadwal, Srinivas Kaushik Nanduri, Sripad Nandiraj & Upendra Varma under his home banner VG Sainma, who has earlier produced his short films. Keedaa Cola is also the brainchild of Quick Fox, a writer's room he set up in the pandemic, after years of writing on his own.

Real life quirks meet cinematic conventions

Speaking about the inception of his film, Tharun says, “During Covid, I was coming across stories of people earning money in all kinds of strange ways. I once went out and did not find the cover for a manhole. Turns out, it was sold to a recycling shop. Then a friend told me that you can sue a company for millions if you find an insect in your cola can. In the discussions that followed, where we explored possibilities of what could happen in such a situation, we saw crime meet comedy. As a matter of fact, any crime seen from a distance becomes comedy.”

Citing Soodhu Kavvum (2013), Jigarthanda (2014) and Money Money (1994) as inspirations, the director also adds, “Despite starting out with a romantic comedy like Pelli Choopulu, doing a crime comedy is a dream come true. Be it the legal nuances in the story or the neo-noir look of it all, a lot of attention to detail and cinematic liberty went hand-in-hand whilst creating the world of Keedaa Cola.”

Casting and character design

Eschewing the traditional hero-heroine set up for an ensemble of multiple men (and an inflatable life-sized woman doll), Tharun had stories to tell about the characters, at both the writing and casting stages. Speaking about Jeevan, who plays a politician in the film, Tharun says, “One day, Jeevan came to work wearing a small chain. The next time, he wore a bigger chain. Then came jewellery thick enough to cover his neck. When I asked him why, he spoke about how a local corporator put his pictures up on a plexi after looking at him wearing gold chains. I found it funny enough to incorporate it in that character as well as the film at large because it says something about the world we live in. Everybody wants to look bigger and better than the next person. This is far from healthy. My story also sprung from the angst I had about the competition-crazy, materialistic society we live in.”

Brahmanandam, who plays the role of a grandfather, was inspired by Tharun’s own grandfather, who lives in Chennai. “I remember he made my cousin and me try alcohol for the first time when we were teenagers. We were so shocked, going, ‘How could our grandfather give us alcohol’ but also so pleased, thinking, ‘It is so cool to have a grandfather who made us try booze’. That quirkiness paved the way for Brahmanandam’s character in the film.”  The director himself plays the role of a gangster named Naidu, who is recently released from prison, “Most of our characters were cast through the audition process. Keeping the budget of the film in mind, this time, we did make a few decisions based on marketability. To bring Roadies-fame Raghu Ram to our film was one such decision. You will see a little bit of me in all the characters. And maybe there is a little bit more of me in Naidu’s character, for obvious reasons.”

A shift in attitudes

Tharun talks in length about how he has evolved as a person and a filmmaker. When enquired about the not-so-charitable reviews he got for Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi, the director replies, “I am used to getting underestimated. Roju breakfast ki nenu thinedhi thakkuvu anchanale (I eat people’s brickbats for breakfast every day). It is a part and parcel of my life, I have overgrown the need to prove myself to others. I don’t even care when my relatives ask why I don’t live in my own house. All said and done, my heart is in the right place. As a filmmaker, I genuinely want to make people laugh. The arrogance and intellectual superiority I had when I made Pelli Choopulu is no longer there. I no longer possess the brash attitude of a young film school graduate who thinks he is better than others because he knows Akira Kurasowa. I don’t care for such stuff at this point, I used to. I want everybody, from an auto driver to my AD to laugh and enjoy my films. I also find myself feeling more responsible towards what I put in my films and how that will influence people later on. But you cannot be socially responsible in your films for the sake of it. It needs to ring true and emerge organically from the story you are writing.”

The release ahead


Tharun has recently returned from Mumbai, where the film’s DI work is happening. The film has also been trimmed down, from two hours twenty minutes to a crisp 120 minutes final cut, a decision he has taken keeping in mind the pacy runtime of crime comedies of yore. “I can see my film, the efforts of all my departments coming together and I am confident we have done something great.” Settling the nagging doubts of the film’s actual protagonist to rest, Tharun says, “I see the confusion around. Chaitanya (Rao) is prominently displayed on the poster because the story —  which has three worlds linked by a single conflict — starts from him. But he is not the protagonist. And neither am I, contrary to perceptions that suggest otherwise because I am acting in my own film. But we are excited to see who the audience might consider as a protagonist. My writers and I have made our bets and written down our guesses, our guesses of who the audience will zero in on as the main character after watching the film. We will open those chits once the opinions bubble up post-release.”

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