Pailwaan is a film made on a subject that we don’t see often. Where and how did you become part of this journey?
Krishna: I had this idea for a very long time. I found the right moment to pitch it to him. There was a gist of the story in my mind. We both wanted to something different so when I told him the genre of the film, he agreed and it happened.
Kichcha Sudeepa (KS): I always try to do something different every time. But sometimes you are right and sometimes you are not. But I think it is all about the excitement of doing something new. Even the previous film that we did together was different. It was about the field of medicine. Now making a film on medicine could be boring and we are not making a documentary so how do we commercialise it? So he brought in the elements of the army, para-commando forces, the brotherly sentiment, an investigative angle to make it exciting for us.
Now even in this film, getting the physique right was exciting, it was a huge task for me. We have bigger and better bodies in cinema and I had to get that in a year and half’s time. When I started I was 89 kgs and not really in shape. So to come to this stage was big achievement for me. Now if you ask me, four years from now I will do something else. If I have to do a character where I have to put on weight, I will put on weight. In my previous film Villain, the director wanted the character I was playing to have a paunch. We tried to get a prosthetic one, it didn’t work out so I ate and put on the weight. Coming to this film, Krishna had the content to support the sport. There was also scope for emotion.
Tell us about why you cast Suniel Shetty in the film.
Krishna: It is content once again. It is a powerful character role that supports the hero. We wanted someone who could be authoritative. So I was looking for a big South Indian star. That is when Sudeepa sir suggested ‘Look at anna (Suniel Shetty). How fabulous he is looking!’ I asked him if he would do it since he has not done any South Indian films. Should we take the chance? He said that he would talk. So he spoke to him. Then anna asked him to send me for a narration, which I did. He had a few queries- like in the diction and pronunciation part. But once that was sorted, it all happened smoothly.
KS: We had Sarath Kumarji from South in mind. And this was even before we thought about anna until I saw his pictures. See there is always this doubt whether he would or wouldn’t do this film. Before that let me tell you why we thought about these two people. Sarathji from the South and anna from the North have maintained themselves so well even at this age. And when they will come on screen the audience will be fully convinced that they look like wrestlers. We didn’t want to take them just because they are big stars or have a saleability factor or have fan-following. It just so happens that certain things are written for some people.
Did you always plan to release the film in five languages?
KS: A beautiful film like Makkhi laid the foundation. And then Baahubali happened for which SS Rajamouli sir went to every extent. He understands the business, market penetration. Before Baahubali he was known as the Makkhi director in this part (West) of the country, but he is a huge name in the South Indian film industry. He went all out for that film and the risk that they took at that time is nothing compared to what we are trying to achieve. And because of that at least we can dare to think out of the box. But then again, thinking pan India is an effort logistically also. It takes a lot of money for even having such a thought. If I have to come to Mumbai, it is an additional `10 to 15 crores for publicity. You cannot just simply decide and go pan India. Today a name like Zee Studios is associated with us because they saw the potential in the script. They are giving the film a wide release. I don’t think Krishna as a first time producer would have ever imagined that the film would get such exposure. There are so many people who work hard work and still don’t get their due. So he is indeed lucky.
Krishna: What he said is 100 per cent correct. Adding to that it is the content that made it possible to release Pailwaan in five languages. And with the cast we had that variety already; anna was there, Aakanksha Singh was there, Sushant Singh was there. The boxing choreographer is from Hollywood. The stunt choreographer is from Andhra Pradesh. The editor is from Tamil Nadu. It is the content that made it go everywhere. And then Sudeepa sir is known everywhere.
Sudeepa, you have dubbed for the film in all languages. Why was it important for you to do that?
KS: Except Malayalam, I dubbed in all languages. And it is important because I believe that in dubbing, we perform for the second time. If dubbing was not a big thing then no animated film would have made an impact. Animation films make an impact when the voices behind the characters are well-modulated. The 100 per cent that you give on the set, you can lift it by another 25 to 40 per cent with dubbing.
Sudeepa you have been someone who has not shied from working in any language or genre. You are working in Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. You are playing the villain in Dabangg 3. What is it that keeps you going?
KS: Cinema excites me more than stardom. Stardom is very fickle. It is there with you today and it is there with somebody else tomorrow. You cannot possess that relationship. But if you can hold on to cinema, you are sorted. I had this vision maybe 10-12 years back that we should knock on other doors. Even if you are sticking around in Karnataka, you cannot master it. You cannot say that you are the king of a particular state. So this is the phase of my life now but it will change. My journey started because of cinema not because of stardom. I will always be close to cinema. There are lead roles that are coming to me and then there are roles in films like Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy and Dabangg that are coming to me too. Sometimes stardom, sometimes scripts, sometimes the legends we are working with… these decide the films I do. I will not do films which have no meaning other than logistics and money. We all work for money, but there should be something extra that comes with it. Every film we make it is a relationship. We spend eight to nine months together. It is a family. There will be fights, emotions but at the end of the day, we are working towards the same intention. Today I am happy that I have taken the decisions that I have.
Krishna, how difficult was it shooting with the two superstars?
Krishna: Both of them were easy to work with, there were no hassles.
KS: (Cuts in). I have been difficult to work with. I have lost my temper. I won’t say difficult during a shot or in the frame, that I will never do. But I had very bad mood swings. I had to make several changes with food and lifestyle. Shooting the boxing scenes was very stressful. I never thought that it would be so stressful.
When your actor goes through such trying times, as a director how do you handle it?
Krishna: It is a new experience for the actor as well. What he undergoes physically, we cannot predict. We plan to do a particular portion in these many days, but when such things happen we have to give the actor the space so that the film does not suffer later. And when he is putting in so much effort for the film, we have to understand him. It is a very small thing. You give him the space, take a break. Just wait. When you want it right, you need to have the patience and understanding.
Being from Box Office India, I have to ask you this. How important are numbers to you?
KS: Numbers are important. Without money what is there? Without this film touching certain benchmarks how will he achieve what he set out to do? I don’t believe in being the number one film or any such thing. But when you have travelled so far and are releasing it in five languages, you want the returns. It is like when you have cooked a wonderful meal and there is no one to eat it. Cinema is like that. It is not just about the money invested but also the time.
And finally, what do you want the audience to take back from the film?
Krishna: The film has got a beautiful emotion, which everyone will connect to. And if that happens then it is great. And of course, everybody will be entertained.
KS: This film will inspire. All my friends and the people in Karnataka who know me, know that I never enter the gym. I never exercise. I am into sports, but never the gym. There was a time when I thought that actors should have a gym at home. I have had the best equipment but didn’t use it even once in three years. Krishna sends me pictures every day of people who say that there were inspired by me and the way I look in the film.
Suniel anna always says that somehow that we have to promote fitness awareness. Even Salman (Khan) sir was telling me the same thing. So my notion is that if I am inspiring people in a small way through this film, I am happy.