NAGESH KUKUNOOR – THE ORIGNIAL RETURNS WITH LAKSHMI
Posted by Vivek on December 15, 2013 | No Comments
Nagesh Kukunoor may not always get the credit for it, but he, of all before and after, represents the true Independent Filmmaking spirit in India. His first film, Hyderabad Blues, was made at a shoe string budget in true Indie spirit. I mean when you spend Rs 2-3 crores that is not really Indie filmmaking, but what we saw in HB was Indie at its best. Not only did HB did super business in the box office, but Nagesh continued with that trend, treading his own path, with classics such as Bollywood Calling, Teen Deewarein, Iqbal and Dor amongst others. So this time we see Nagesh back in his original avatar, that of following his heart and making a film which he wanted to make, as opposed to being swayed by the market. But ironically the market did follow suit and he was able to get some very able and solid co producers, cause this time the heart was talking and when the heart talks people listen. The film gets ready to open at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, in Jan 2014. Here we talk to the director, who also makes a stunning acting return, in Lakshmi:
When did the moment come when it dawned that the story of Lakshmi, was the one that you would tell to the world?
I have supported a NGO for a while, which deals with sexual exploitation and prevention of trafficking. During the course of my regular interactions with them I was having a conversation when this young girl, in a matter of fact tone, started speaking about an incident when a victim had taken the perpetuators to court and actually got their activities stopped. The predators were very powerful and the victim, who had taken them to court, had set a precedent for many more such court verdicts and ironically she had done all this, purely as a victim and purely as someone who wanted to get out of the trafficking prostitution ring, as opposed to someone who was going to change the world, but the impact had been huge and far reaching. At that minute it struck me that this was the story I wanted to tell.
Is this an issue only in India?
Actually no, my research has proved that trafficking has a global impact and can actually happen in any part of the world, developed or developing.
I have had the luxury of seeing the film, it is very powerful, yet in that Nagesh style, also flows seamlessly, is not in your face dark and as you follow the protagonists story, she comes across as this very regular person, as opposed to either a preachy role model or a self pitying victim..?
But that is the power that drew me to this story and the character. No where, neither in the film, nor in the real world scenarios, on which this film is based on, is the character a larger than life crusader. In fact it is her simplicity and matter of fact demeanor, even while she is facing her darkest battle and fighting some of the most powerful people, that is the true strength of the film and the performances. Also from an audience perspective it is not a typical slow film. The pace bends with the character and draws the audience to her ride.
Given that your last few films have had a lukewarm response, why choose a topic which appears more from the heart than the head?
In a typical year, I want to do two films, one for the heart and one for the head. Luckily for Lakshmi, the for the heart variety, I found good and able co producers in Satish Kaushik and PEN films and of course I put a lot of my own money into the film too, as one of the producer. Also till now, in India, we have done focus group screenings in college campuses as opposed to doing the traditional PR route and the response has been quite overwhelming.
When does the world get to see this outstanding piece of work?
The World Premiere of Lakshmi, will happen at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, in California, US. There are three screenings allocated to the film, and the dates and timing are:
Jan 4th at 7:30 pm, at the Camelot theater
Jan 6th at 10:00 am , at the Annenberg theater
Jan 12th at 7:30 pm, at the Camelot theater
We are planning an All India release in the Mid Jan time frame and then slowly take it to the rest of the world. With Lakshmi, I am returning to the festival world, where I last was seen, during DOR, so in a way it is like going back to my roots and I absolutely enjoy the interactions with the audiences there. I will be present in Palm Springs, for the screenings.
Nagesh Kukunoor the actor as Chinna, even your worst critics will sit up and notice that performance, where has Nagesh the actor been, all these years?
Not many know, but when I was transitioning from Corporate America to Films, acting was something I was very drawn to and ended up being a part of many auditions in the US, for American films. Then post Hyderabad Blues, I was offered many roles as a Lead, but back then, I was not aware or rather not willing to put my directing on hold for acting and I thought it might come to that. But yes, post Chinna, I would be open to acting offers too, without it anyway affecting my directing. For this character the challenge I had was to make someone the antagonist, but not make him the dark, typical Bollywood bad person. So he had to have a mean streak, yet also be a regular guy and yet also show shreds of inherent stupidity, which makes him all the more dangerous. Plus I wanted the accent to be absolutely right, so with all these and given my experience growing up in Hyderabad, I decided to throw myself in the fray. One feedback I am constantly getting on Chinna, is how the audiences find the character so despicable and have a sense of fear and hatred towards him, even post the screening, so I would guess I have done my job well. Also not since Teen Dewarein, have I got such a well etched role.
Although there, in Teen Deewarein, you had the support of 4 very solid co actors in Naseer, Jackie, Gulshan and Juhi, here you fly solo, albeit aided somewhat by Satish, but by and large solo?
Sure, and that makes it that much more difficult to enact.