Following his destiny

candid talk

Following his destiny

When I met Suresh Heblikar at his non-starry, airy Jayanagar residence, our conversation stretched to nearly two hours, for the veteran actor, director and writer was in a nostalgic mood. His recently released movie, Mana Manthana, has again got the Suresh Heblikar imprint, where he has dealt with the current-day stressors of the youth, the parental pressure on them, and other similar problems.

Love for movies

We start at the beginning of his journey. “In Dharwad, when I was doing my MA Economics at the Karnataka University, a visiting French language professor, who was conducting a workshop on French films, told me, ‘You should be doing films’. I was surprised at his suggestion, for I had acted in only one play, The Little Prince, till then,” exclaims Heblikar. But, films are exactly what Suresh Heblikar has been doing since 1975.

He tells me that in the early 1970s,  he started working in an agricultural  bank, and later on became a partner in an industry with his brother-in-law in Bengaluru. He later founded a group of theatre-loving people and called it ‘Aseema’.

“Me and my friends would borrow a film-shooting camera for Rs 30 per day, shoot short, silent movies, and screen them at various college auditoriums, and also at the World Cultural Institute in Basavanagudi. Film director MBS Prasad, after watching one such short movie, offered me the role of the hero (who’s a playboy) in the movie Kankana in 1975. My role of a playboy kept me on the edge, and I used to be awake most of the nights. It was tough, but was fun too,” reminisces the director. Soon movies like Aparichita (1978) and Aalemane (1981) followed.

“Antaraala was my first full-fledged directorial product. Later on, I directed Aaganthuka after doing some research on psychotherapy. The heroine was shown regaining her voice after the shock-therapy scene, thus providing an educative angle to the subject of psychotherapy,” he says.

Heblikar, in a way, was destined to make movies on the dilemmas and aberrations of the mind. “I got introduced to Dr Ashok Pai, a leading psychiatrist from Shivamogga. Dr Pai, who had seen the movie Aaganthuka, was of the opinion that I should direct Kadina Benki, based on the Kannada novel written by Na D’Souza. The novel, in turn, is based on the true life case history of a married man’s psycho-sexual disorder. In real life, the man had got counselled and treated by Dr Pai,” explains Heblikar. Thus followed a productive intellectual partnership of Heblikar and Dr Pai, which gave us movies like Aagatha, Prathama Usha Kirana and now, Mana Manthana.

Mirroring society’s problems

Talking about Mana Manthana, Heblikar says, “Dr Pai would always tell me that our society is going through a phase of intense competition, and problematic human behaviour, leading to depression, drug addiction, and in unfortunate circumstances, suicide. Through Mana Manthana, I have intended to convey to the youth that suicide is not the solution to life’s problems. The movie also deals with the theme of ‘countertransference’, which is a therapist’s emotional entanglement with a client. It is a professional hazard faced by mental health experts.”

Heblikar, who is as much into environmental preservation as he is into educative entertainment, has won the ‘International Osiris Award’ (instituted by the United Nations) for his short English movie, Shepherds On The Move. “Through this movie, I attempted to explain how man, animals and nature can live in harmony,” says Heblikar, who is also the founder of the Eco-Watch NGO.

If friend and colleague Nagathihalli Chandrashekar calls him a ‘dreamer’, Heblikar’s nephew, actor Srikanth, calls him an ‘encyclopaedia’. From being the suave, romantic, curly-haired hero wooing the heroine with the immortal song ‘Nammura Mandaara Hoove’ in Aalemane to being the architect of subdued, relevant films, Heblikar has come a long way.  

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