Inside Rakshit's mind

Inside Rakshit's mind

Avane Srimannarayana, described as a fantasy adventure comedy, is out in five languages. Its scriptwriter and hero reveals how the ambitious project took shape

Three years - that’s how long Rakshit Shetty has been gone from the scene. He doesn’t seem too perturbed though. He’s been "teasing" the audience on his birthday these past two years with small glimpses of his next film ‘Avane Srimannarayana’ and the reminder ‘Coming very Soon’. 

But the curtains are finally up. In an interview with Showtime, the man who juggles the many hats of writer, actor, director and producer, talks about ASN, the years of work that went into making it pan-India ready and his love for filmmaking.

Now that ASN is released, what is your current state of mind? 

I have been working on this project for the last three years now and I think we have given our best in every field of filmmaking and I'm very happy with the final product. I'm very confident that people will also like the film. 

How much did you have to modify the original script of ASN to make it more commercially viable? 

While writing the script itself we tried to balance the commercial aspect with the kind of film we wanted to make. Because there was almost a year and a half of extensive work in terms of script, we were quite clear when we went on floors. 

How was Rakshit Shetty and the Seven Odds formed?

I think Seven Odds was something that I always wanted to start. Right from my short film days, I wanted to encourage writers because I knew that they are the most important aspect of filmmaking. Unless you have a good foundation, you can't erect a good building, right? And when you discuss in a group, you come up with better ideas, you get many more perspectives and the chances of going wrong are less. So Seven Odds was something we started during Kirik Party (KP). Although I had the initial version of the script, I wanted to improve it. And when seven people came together to discuss it, more humour came up. We have a great team now and we are looking forward to writing many more scripts. 

What was the most challenging part of writing ASN as a team?

The only drawback when it comes to a team is sometimes when you have clarity, you don't want to go forward unless everyone in the team is satisfied with what you have written. So, sometimes I took time to convince them and sometimes they wanted to convince me and that took a couple of days. So there have been a few delays and that was our biggest challenge. 

You said KGF inspired you to release ASN in five languages. Do you think your story is as universal in theme as KGF? 

Obviously, ASN is not as mass as KGF but we included a lot of elements in the film which can appeal to all sets of viewers, which is what gave us the confidence to release it in five languages. And that was always the plan, even when we started writing the script or even before KGF’s release was announced. But when KGF worked, it gave us a big boost that if the film is good, then people will definitely watch it.

You cut the trailers to your films yourself. What process do you follow? 

Every time I cut the trailer, I follow a different path. For example, with UK, I had the beginning 20 seconds in my mind and I cut it. Then I asked Ajju (Ajaneesh Loknath) to compose music for that portion. He did that and then gave some extra music, based on which I continued to cut the trailer. So it was a lot of to and fro. For UK and KP, our background score had not started. So whatever score we used for the trailer, we also used that for the film. But for ASN, our score was ready. So I asked Ajju to make a three-minute piece of music with five or six themes and then I started cutting my trailer. I took almost a month. I was quite slow - UK and KP trailers were cut in 10 days. I did a lot of versions, I edited and deleted it multiple times. And then finally, what was in my mind came as one picture on the editing table.  

Why do you choose to do it yourself?

I love cutting trailers, firstly. I've always enjoyed the whole process. In ASN, I wanted the whole detective theme to come across as well which is why I cut it myself. It's the first product that comes out and that's how people get to know what a film is about. And that's a challenge I like to take.

The audience for your films is a mix of entertainment-seekers and avid film-buffs. Is that a base you are consciously trying to nurture?

No, I'm just doing films I love to do. Sometimes, I write so that I get to play different characters that I know will be fun for an actor. I don't do it to attract more audience to the theatres. I like to make a film that I would want to be a part of. 

Do you ever fear that you may overindulge while writing your own character? 

That is why I don't direct all the films that I write. I give it to someone else so I can concentrate as an actor. It's not just the director’s opinion, I take the opinion of the cinematographer and the other writers too. 

In the audience’s mind, there seems to be a Rakshit Shetty brand of cinema. Your take? 

I have never strived for that for sure. I don't know if it's a brand also. But if it is, then I'm happy because I always wanted to be different from the rest of the filmmakers. I want to be identified with my content. Someday if I can achieve a state where as soon as you watch a film, you know it’s Rakshit’s content, that would be nice. 

What do you enjoy doing more? Writing, acting or direction?

The phase of research before the writing part is the best of all. And as the visuals start forming inside your mind, and you listen to the music which you think suits your film… that initial stage of forming the whole structure is the most interesting part.

You received much acclaim with Ulidavaru Kandanthe (UK). But you haven’t directed more after that...

I came here to be an actor, never a writer or a director. But, writing and direction became my passion once I started exploring that field. Some films take time because you also learn while filmmaking. As long as I'm enjoying the whole process, I am not into the number games. 

What has been your biggest learning so far?

UK was my innocence. When I made it, I didn't know what people expected from me... it just came from within. UK was my experience as a kid growing up in Udupi. Whereas KP was my need. I wanted a big hit. And that was the only intention when I was writing it. And I knew that there's a huge audience out there who’ll love and relate to this film. ASN was definitely a huge learning curve. If there was any fault in writing in UK or KP, I wanted to correct it here. So for the first time, I went through a lot of writing books and we adopted all that into the ASN script.

You have connections across the South Indian film industries. Where do you think KFI stands in comparison? 

Telugu and Tamil industries have been exploring outside their markets for a while. Kannada has started only now. The problem was there weren’t many writers coming up with fresh, pan-India scripts here, at least from the 90s to 2010. But lately, a new generation of filmmakers is coming up. For example, Lucia, Ondu Motteya Kathe and Thithi. And with KGF being dubbed into other languages, we have started exploring more. So the future is bright for sure. 

If you could recreate one classic, which one would that be?

I would want to show a different version of Shanti Kranthi in a completely different style someday. It's a beautiful film and I loved it as a kid. I love children, and they have made use of a whole gang of children in the film. All that is fantastic. 

You’ve confessed to having a ‘Book of Dreams’. What does it hold for the next five years?

I can't reveal that now. But there are a few dreams which have already come true, like ASN. I wanted to do a Kannada film that I could take pan-India. And this I had written even before making UK. So, there are few things which have already come true and a few more things which will come true eventually.

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