Social activist-cum-journalist Agni Shridhar, who has earlier written scripts and screenplay for hit movies like Aa Dinagalu, Slum Bala and Kallara Santhe, is now turning an independent director with a challenge to do an original after the row of the Telugu movie Magadheera. His directorial debut venture Thamassu stars Hat-trick hero Shivaraj Kumar and popular Malayalam actress Padmapriya in leads.
Agni Shridhar, who is well-known for bringing controversial subjects on screen and his sharp satiric tone, has completed all the works of Thamassu and is ready to release it on June 11. Now he is gearing up to promote the film. On the eve of its release, I visited the debutant director"s residence to interview him on Sunday. He seemed quite calm and totally relieved. He spoke to oneindia about Thamassu, his upcoming movies and future of the film industry for nearly two hours. Here are the excerpts of Agni Shridhar interview.
Sir, you have come a long way as a writer-cum-social activist, script and screenplay writer and now a director. What were the challenges you faced when you chose a different sphere of life every time?
Right from my childhood days, I was much more interested in expressing my own self and writing is the best way to do it. So I took up writing.. And basically every kind of artist such as painter, singer and dancer will have basic knowledge about other genres of art. He won"t find much problem while switching over to other genre. Moreover, I"m well versed with the film industry for the past 30 years. So I didn"t face any challenge while passing through all these different spheres of life.
Your directorial debut venture Thamassu is finally ready for release. How was your experience as a director on the sets? Did you face any problem?
It was really wonderful experience on sets of the Thamassu. I didn"t have problem there because right from the light-boy, everyone wanted to impress me by contributing something extraordinary to the film and get patted by me. Before I tell them something, everyone used to be prepared for the shots. So it was really exciting.
You have worked with Kannada superstar Shivanna and talented Malayalam actress Padmapriya and Tamil senior actor Nassir for your directorial debut venture. How was your association with them on the sets?
Right from beginning, I"m very close to Rajkumar"s family. Moreover Parvathamma Rajkumar is very affectionate towards me and she treats me like her brother. I know Shivaraj Kumar since he was a kid. So I had a good association with him on the set. And Padmapriya has come from a very cultured family and is highly qualified. Her father was a military officer and he wanted her to become an IAS office. She was even closely associated with TN Sheshan. She is talented actress, who has acted with national level fame Mohanlal and Mammootty. She was very active on the sets. Tamil actor Nassir is also another talented actor. He was also quite cooperative on the sets.
What is the movie Thamassu all about? Is it about rowdyism?
Thamassu means the darkness inside the human heart. In Sanskrit, it is called Tamsik personality. There are two main characters i.e. protagonist and antagonist both are engaged in evil activity. The protagonist opens his eyes and tries to reform himself, when he comes to know that there is also a right path to tread in life, while the antagonist continues as a terrorist. It is not at all a movie about rowdyism and it"s a decent movie.
How is Shivanna-Padmapriya's onscreen chemistry in Thamassu?
As I said, both of them are matured actors and they have done their best in the movie Thamassu. Shivanna is playing a police officer while Padmapriya appears as a human right activist. Their onscreen chemistry has come out very well. There is an ideological clash between the hero and heroine and this kind of clash used to be there between Rajkumar and Lakshmi. They have done a wonderful job in this clash segment, which will be a highlight of the film.
What would you like to comment upon the work of art director Shashidhar Adapa and Sundarnath Suvarna's camera work in Thamassu?
Shashidhar Adapa is a master in art direction. He has worked under well-known directors of India and has many progressive thoughts about the art direction. There is no doubt about his work. Sundarnath Suverna is also an excellent cinematographer. He has association several literary-artists and he has learned deep insight of the different feelings from them. He is an expert in selection of shooting locations. He has work experience in both commercial and artistic films. He has done a wonderful job in the film.
What would you like to comment on your daughter Ramya's lyrics and music of Sandeep Chowta? What is the response from listeners? How is the audio sale going on?
My daughter Ramya has penned a few lyrics for the film. I had warned all the technicians as not to be merciful upon her as she is my daughter. I had suggested them to take strict work from her. So she has done well. I really like her work as a lyricist. And Sandeep Chowta"s father DK Chowta, who was a social activist, is close friend of mine. I know that Sandeep is also a popular musician in both Bollywood and South Indian film industry. He is very talented musician. He has given excellent composition of songs and background score. However, the listener"s response is very well and audio sale is also doing well.
Agni Shirdhar's movie means audiences will expect that there must be a social message. What is the message in the film Thamassu for viewers?
Yes! Definitely, Thamassu has a good message for the audience. Love and affection can also bloom in the path of violence.
When is the movie releasing? And how many theatres is it released in?
The movie was slated to release on 4th June, but the Censor board delayed the release of the film. The song Maaro Maaro Allah Allah… and a dialogue – “Allah is a Saithan and Ram is a Saithan and we don"t want them" are being cut. Censor Board is yet to give its green signal for it. However, its release has been postponed to June 11 and it will be screened in 58 theatres.
Thamassu is ready for release, but it has not got expected amount of promotion so far. What is your take on promotion of the movie?
I feel promotion is a must thing these days. A film should be promoted up to a certain extent and it should not go beyond the limit. If it crosses the limit, it will have negative effect about the film. For example, Tamil and Telugu filmmakers will have to much of publicity of their movies. They reveal all the details of the film on the TV interview and they won"t leave a single thing for the curiosity of the audience. Then the movie will land up in trouble. As for the promotion of Thamassu, we"re starting it this week. Shivanna is very much excited about publicity of the film.
There are different means of promotion and online media is also one among them. Promotion on internet is getting greater importance these days. Most of the audiences are browsing information about movies on net. What do you think about it?
Yes! It"s true. Bollywood and Hollywood filmmakers are already busy promoting their movies on internet. But Kannada film industry has not grown to that extent. It will take time to reach that level.
How much time do you spend on browsing internet? Do you have accounts in the social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Orkut?
I"m not much used to internet and I don"t have accounts in any of these social networking sites. I"m busy with reading books and magazines. But my assistants, Ramya, Sumana and Harshika have their accounts and are posting the promos of the movie on these sites.
There are several issues happening around the state. Why Kannada film industry is only after remakes and rowdyism movies? Why movies are not made on social issues that create awareness among the youths? Is it because of lack of script writers?
It"s really sad that most of the filmmakers fall prey to this trend of remakes and rowdyism movies. But these producers and directors have suffered a lot. Most of them have already stopped doing such movies. And I hope this trend is disappearing now. As for script writers, Kannada film industry has a few good writers like Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar, Yogaraj Bhat, R Chandru, Soori etc. They are really coming out with good movies, but the audiences are encouraging such talented directors.
You are always against remake movies. Do you think that remakes are main reason for the failure of the industry?
As you said, I"m totally against remakes. In 2009, there were a large number of remakes most of which were flops at the Box Office. Both remakes and dubbing movies are dangerous and lack nativity. But I don"t think that remakes are the reason for the failure of the industry because there are several remakes, which are super hits. Vishnuvardhan"s Yajamana and Aptharakshaka are the best examples for it. That"s why he was confident of remakes and acted in several remakes.
What according to you are the reasons for the failure of the Sandalwood?
It"s very difficult to analyse the reason for the failure of the industry. And I don"t want comment on this issue.
You have started an organisation called Kannada Sene, but it will be in news only when there is some issue about Kannada language. What are the intentions of this organisation?
It"s a cultural organisation. I started it immediately after I returned from the jail. But the media contemplated that it would be a communal organisation like Shiva Sena in Maharashtra. This made me put certain limitations on the activities of the organisation. Its main motto is works to save culture and tradition of Kannada language. That"s why whenever there is some injustice against Kannada language and culture we protest against it.
Besides that, you are also running a weekly magazine called 'Agni' both in Kannada as well as English. How do you balance the works of filmmaking, running magazine and with social activities besides keeping yourself in good health?
Recently, I"ve given up the works of magazines and I write articles once in a while. I've several assistants and I assign all other works to them. In fact, I will be very free these days. I"m not doing anything great that is done by most of the great personalities these days. As for health, I do work outs for one hour every day.
What are your upcoming movies?
I"m going to do one more movie with Shivaraj Kumar. I"ve plans to do the Aa Dinagalu part 2 and 3 in future. I"m also considering doing a historical movie on Tippu Sultan. In fact, I'm desperate to do this movie because all other historical characters in Karnataka are depicted onscreen, but nobody has dared to do movie on Tippu ever in Kannada film industry just because of he tried to convert several Hindus to Muslims.