With the remake of the orginal Tamil film Abhiyum Naanum produced by Praksh Raj himself and directed by Radhamohan with Trisha, Prakash Raj, Aishwarya and Ganesh Venkatraman in the lead as Nannu Nanna Kanansu Kannada film National-award winning actor Prakash Raj makes his directorial debut. The film releases on May 14.
The movie also marks the return of Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal fame actress Sithara back to acting and it is her first kannada movie. She plays the heroine, Kanasu’s mother.
While PrakashRaj plays the role of the father, Amoolya essays the role of his daughter.
Excerpts of the interview with Prakash Raj
Why the delay in taking up direction?
It is never late to do anything in life. Nannu Nanna Kanasu has been the most fulfilling experience for me. As an actor, you just add colours to a painting, but here I am creating a painting! In fact sometimes from this side, acting looks stupid.
Did the actor in you make stepping into the shoes of a director easy?
This story is like a letter to my daughters. I didn’t make this film to promote the actor in me. My urge to direct pushed me to do the film. My power as an actor was just a tool!
Having said that, being an actor myself, I could understand my cast better as a director. It helped me make them comfortable and handle their questions with ease. This film also gave me an opportunity to understand the entire process of documentation better. I am known as a sensitive actor and thought I understood my directors well, but this film had surprises!
You decided to debut as a Kannada director given that you are from Karnataka, but have you ever felt that you have not got your due in this industry?
See, when I started out, the Kannada industry was also trying to figure itself out. Industry is not here to cater to the dreams and aspirations of individuals. I am proud to be a Kannadiga.
What do you think of the present status of the Kannada industry?
It is still young and is trying to find its foothold. I am very optimistic given the young talent it is producing. It’ll grow, it’s not like any individual can come to its rescue. Every form has its way of fighting it out. Like it’s said, “The planet doesn’t need saving — it’s us who needs saving!”
How did you get into films?
Cinema just happened. At the time I started out, cinema was not considered a profession. Today there are many avenues to exhibit your talent like advertisements, radio channels, and television. But back then, it was like a house with no doors and windows and we had to search for doors.
But then struggle and hunger are individual problems. You ultimately get your identity from the passion and intensity you have within you.
Did your theatre background help in your film career and would you want to get back to doing plays?
Theatre, literature, family, friends and television have definitely helped me perceive things better. But right now, I am celebrating cinema and am amazed by its magic. Please don’t tell me to go back and improve theatre! Who am I to do that?
Who and what influenced you as an actor?
It could be film makers, books or simply films. You never know where and how you are influenced. Mine is a simple logic When the cuckoo bird sings don’t look at it, just listen to it!
What do awards mean to you?
They are the recognition you get for the good work you have done in a particular year. Next year you have to come out and prove yourself again. Awards are benchmarks; they are perks you get for good work. They are not crowns but milestones that show you the amount of distance you have covered. Awards are happy moments on which you linger on for a few moments and then move on.
Which performance of yours has satisfied you the most?
At times performances are about what you give, at others they are about what people take out of you. I guess it’s the totality of things. It could be a blink of an eye, the way a shot is kept or the music there are a lot of things that work in unison to make a performance look good.
Kanchivaram, for instance was a mind blowing experience. It was a film for which I unlearnt things that I had learnt. My performance there still surprises me. I guess it just happened.
As an actor you have chosen to do mostly stereotypical character roles, but as a film maker you have gone in for sensitive off beat scripts
It’s not a conscious thing. It’s just that as a film maker, someone dancing or fighting off scores of people is just not something I can comprehend. But as an actor if you ask me to do it I will
You have been compared to Kamal Hassan by certain sections. Your comments?
But our height, eating habits, colour everything is different! Probably these people feel we share the same kind of passion for cinema. But why should there be another Kamal Hassan, Vishnuvardhan or a Rajkumar? They are unique actors
A ban from working in the Telugu industry and then news about your divorce do controversies bother you?
It so happens that my surname is controversy! People throw stones only at trees that give fruit, why will they bother otherwise, right?
What are your current projects?
I have finished shooting for Sadashiva Shenoy’s Prarthane. I have always wanted to work with people from different fields and it was good working with Shenoy who is a critic. I have read his articles and liked them.
Next there is Dhool and Hoo in Kannada. I am also acting in a Tamil and Telugu hijack drama. They are called Payanam and Gaganam. The Telugu version stars Nagarjuna. A Rs 3 crore set has been put up for the film. It is a recreation of Tirupathi airport.
What about Hindi films?
My last release was Salman Khan starrer Wanted and all I’ll say is I’m definitely ‘wanted’ in Hindi industry too.
What do you do when you have free time on hand?
I read books and I am a big sports buff, so basically you’ll find me ‘sporting’ life.
What do aspiring actors need to have?
Common sense! A good height and a genuine smile sure help, but ultimately it’s the person that becomes important and not the form.
Interview with Sitara
You’re back after an 11-year gap. Why such a long break?
It was not intentional. It’s just that I was getting stereotypical roles and I didn’t want to accept them. I have always been choosy when it comes to my roles. It is not every day that you get performance oriented roles and for me, it’s never been about the number game. You can go ahead and keep signing films, but I came here to do good films.
I returned to Malayalam cinema only last year with Bharya Onnu Makkal Moonu. It was based on a true story and the person on whom my character was based is still alive. I played a mother of three children in the film
What made you sign Nannu Nanna Kanasu?
I watched the original, Abhiyum Naanum and was impressed with the way the character offered to me had shaped up. Also I did the film for Prakash Raj who is such a good actor. With this film, I realised that he is a very good technician and director as well.
Both Prakash and I debuted in the Tamil industry with K Balchander’s films and I see traces of his school in Prakash. Balachander will be very happy with his direction.
Accepting Nannu Nanna Kanasu was a very good decision. I enjoyed everything about this film; very rarely do you get to work in such films.
Do you have any memorable moments from the film?
I play Prakash’s wife and Amoolya’s mother in the film. A scene where Prakash and I have a discussion just before the marriage of our daughter somehow moved me. Also there were a few touching father-daughter scenes that reminded me of my father.
What are your other projects?
I have a couple of Telugu films lined up. There is one opposite Srihari. My Gudu Gudu Gunjam with Dr Rajendra Prasad is set for release. It is an out and out comic family entertainer. I am doing Charitram with Raj Kiran in Tamil. There are two more offers in Tamil and I am expected to start work in June.
What about your television projects?
I was a judge on the show Best Actor. That’s where I realized talent can come from anywhere. Vanitaratnam, a Malayalam show held for housewives also amazed me. There are so many talented women out there. I have also acted in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam soaps.
Did you always want to become an actress?
Films happened by accident. I never planned to become an actress but it’s been 25 years since I came to the industry. I started acting when I was still in school but I took this profession seriously only after doing Balachander’s Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal.
Have you given a thought to direction?
Direction is a very tough job, and moreover there is a lot for me to learn about acting itself.
You have worked with top actors from Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada industries. How have your experiences been?
I debuted opposite Mammootty and Mohanlal in Malayalam and have acted with Rajnikanth in Padayappa. They never treated me like a newcomer. They are very humble. In Kannada I have acted with Ambareesh, Vishnuvardhan, Devraj and Shashikumar.
People liked my pairing with Vishnuvardhan in Halundatavaru. My role in the film was a difficult one and I didn’t know the language. Also the dialogues were lengthy. But he was very patient and co-operative. He was a superstar but never made me uncomfortable. Vishnuvardhan was a great actor.
Who are your favourite film personalities?
They are Al Pacino, Richard Gere, Julia Roberts and Anthony Hopkins. I loved Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. I am a fan of Clint Eastwood too.
Which is your dream role?
I wish to play the kind of roles Meryl Streep essays. Also I am a voracious reader and would definitely be keen to act in films based on novels. I would love to be a part of films that are on the lines of The Notebook and Message in a Bottle (Nicholas Sparks’ novels). I am yet to do a role that has completely satisfied the actor in me.
What is your word of advice for aspiring actors?
Commitment, hard work and dedication are the catch words.