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I like morally ambiguous characters: Hemanth M Rao

The release of ‘Sapta Sagaradaache Ello’ is around the corner. Its director tells Pranati A S why the love story did not take the pan-India route.
Last Updated : 25 August 2023, 23:39 IST

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Hemanth M Rao, who impressed the Kannada film audience with ‘Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu’, is back with a love story. In a tete-a-tete with Showtime, he talks about his choice of stories, his chemistry with Rakshit Shetty, and his Bollywood stint.

Excerpts:

The line ‘Sapta Sagaradaache Ello’ is part of a popular poem. Is there a story behind making it the title of the film?

My co-writer Gundu Shetty suggested the title and it fit the idea and the soul of the film. It resonates with the core idea of the film.

How was it to work with Rakshit Shetty again?

My last film with Rakshit, ‘Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu’, was quite rewarding. He has an incredible sense of cinema. It’s always great to collaborate with someone like that. He has grown exponentially as a star, but he’s the same person I knew when I worked on ‘Godhi Banna…’. 

What were some of the challenges you faced while shooting the film?

Side A is set in 2010 and Side B is set in 2020. We shot Side A first and unfortunately it was during Covid. To recreate 2010 in a Covid world was challenging, as everybody was wearing a mask. It’s just a matter of 10 years but the change in landscape was humongous. It was challenging to shoot, especially in public spaces. 

Your depiction of love in both ‘Godhi Banna…’ and ‘Kavaludhaari’, were small portions of the larger story. Why did you choose to work on a love story for your third film?

I go with what moves me and what I get emotionally invested in. I don’t like repeating my stories. It’s easy to become a one-trick pony — you succeed in a particular genre and go on imitating it. There begins your demise of evolving into a better filmmaker. I chose a love story as I want to tell all kinds of stories. 

‘Andhadun’ was a crime comedy, and ‘Kavaludhari’ a crime thriller. There were elements of crime in ‘Godhi Banna…’, and ‘Sapta Sagaradaache...’ seems to have some dark shades too. Does the crime genre excite you?

Crime, unfairness, and injustice are in and around us. I like morally ambiguous characters. I don’t like black and white characters. I see myself making films without any crime. But for now, I like setting stories that are mirror images of real life.

Characters in your films are complex. How do you characterise them?

People are generally complex. I like writing characters where I get to know them as actual people. I do a lot of character research. Simple things like how a character sits, what does the character like to eat, a lot of these things change and determine the look and feel of the character.

What do you do when you have a writers’ block?

I struggled for 10 years. Every time I met Gandhinagar producers to narrate stories to them, I’ve been rejected and constantly told my stories are not good enough or commercial enough. During that phase, I developed a knack for writing. If I want to write, I can sit anywhere and write. I don’t experience writer’s block, it’s just that I’m lazy. 

You have worked in Bollywood. How is the industry different?

I knew Sriram from a long time and we wanted to develop something together. I had a few ideas and I connected with him because I was getting frustrated with the Kannada film industry. Sriram was encouraging. I didn’t really work in Bollywood but I saw a vast difference in how structured and organised they are. They value talent — any industry other than our own does — and especially how writers and technicians are treated. They have the luxury to do this. Here we end up wearing three hats and work on limited budgets. 

When most films are going pan India, why have you chosen to keep ‘Saptha Sagaradaache…’ limited to the Kannada audience?

Pan-Indian films have to be structured, which a few films have managed to crack as they set out to be that way. But a lot of films that I see — it’s like throwing 10 stones and hoping one of them hits. The film should develop its own identity and travel to different languages based on how it does in Kannada.

What made you decide to make it in two parts?

It wasn’t always two parts. We had shot only five days when the pandemic’s second wave hit. We had a long break and kept developing the story. That’s when it occurred to me that this could be made in two parts, like a saga. We are releasing both the parts within a short gap,  as  it requires to be watched in a short window.

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Published 25 August 2023, 23:39 IST

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