I failed second PUC so that I could enter films: P Vasu

Director of hit films talks about his craze for the big screen and his association with the Rajkumar family

Shivarajkumar and Rachita Ram pair up in ‘Ayushman Bhava’, slated for release later this month.

I was only four or five years old when I decided that I wanted to enter the film industry, either as a hero or a director.My father Peethambaran Nair was a well-known makeup artist in the early 1970s. He was the personal make-up artist of M G R in Tamil and N T Rama Rao in Telugu. Thanks to my dad’s profession, almost all the top actors from the South Indian film industries used to visit to our home to get makeup done. I have interacted with them all from a very young age.

P Vasu

Craze for cinema 

As the years wore on, my love for cinema grew deeper and stronger. I was good at sports and there’s really no category in which I haven’t won any medal. My father was keen that I write my civil services. But I was keen on cinema and becoming an IPS officer was the last thing on my mind. My father, however, insisted. I deliberately failed my second pre-university exam, just so that my father wouldn’t force me to attempt the civil services. But he asked me to make a second attempt, I refused to do so, saying that I was terribly upset about not having cleared the first one. I discontinued my studies and began working towards entering the film industry. My father tried to dissuade me by saying that it wasn’t easy to make a mark in the film industry. He also mentioned that there was no guarantee of a regular income. All this didn’t matter to me. I didn’t budge. I got a portfolio made, and without my father’s help, discreetly began looking for an opening in the film industry.

After many attempts, I returned disappointed. My father learnt that I had been approaching many directors. He then took me to director C V Sridhar. I joined him as an assistant director in 1978. After gaining some experience, I directed my first film, ‘Panneer Pushpangal’ at the age of 23. There was no looking back since.

Bond with Dr Rajkumar 

I was fortunate enough to work with almost all the top actors from the Tamil, Telugu and Kannada industries. After a good run in Tamil and Telugu, I wrote the script of ‘Ratha Sapthami.’ I later directed ‘Guri’ with Dr Rajkumar in the lead role. I wrote the script of this film but never intended to direct it. The Rajkumar family liked the way I narrated the script and wanted me to direct it.

I still remember that I had come to the city in the early 80s with the script along with lyricist Uday Shankar. We were to meet Dr Rajkumar in a hotel in the heart of the city.
It was no five-star space but it was a humbling experience to see a superstar like Rajkumar walk into an ordinary place. He didn’t seem to have any hangups. I was taken aback by his humility. I also met Parvathamma Rajkumar, who was another extraordinary human being. This was my first meeting with the Rajkumar clan.

I have also worked with Vishnuvardhan in films like ‘Kathanayaka’, ‘Jayasimha’, ‘Daada’ and ‘Apthamitra’. My projects with Ravichandran and Upendra did well.

I got to know Dr Rajkumar and the members of his family a little closer, including Shivarajkumar, during the Sabrimala pilgrimage. There were about 50 or more members from the film fraternity who would regularly go on this pilgrimage.

I knew Shivarajkumar as a child and have watched him grow into a fine actor. We have been in touch for over three decades but we never got down to working on a film together till ‘Shivalinga’ came by in 2016. That was our first project. Shivarajkumar’s commitment and dedication to his craft was unfazed during the shoot. There were many risky scenes but Shivarajkumar said that he would attempt them without a stunt double. He got the toughest shot right in the first take itself.

About ‘Ayushman Bhava’ 

I am collaborating with Shivarajkumar once again in ‘Ayushman Bhava’ after one-and-a-half years. 
The film is ready and will release in the second week of November. I found that he still has the same energy that he had in his first film.

 He is called Krishna in the film and all the characters have Krishna against their names. It is a family entertainer that has everything from action, romance, sentiment to horror. 

Shivarajkumar has tackled his character and the emotions that come with it really well. Only an actor of his calibre can handle a complicated character like Krishna.

The subtlety, maturity and strength of his character are evident throughout the film. ‘Ayushman Bhava’ also looks at how the disintegration of joint families has upset the basic social fabric of society. I grew up in a joint family that had at least 40 members at any point. Portions of the film are also inspired by my upbringing and experience of having grown up in a joint family.

It’s not just a father and mother who can inspire and influence a child, but an aunt, uncle, grandparents or even cousins can bring out the best in us. This is something that we miss today. 

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