'There was a time when I got paid Rs 500 for a script'

'There was a time when I got paid Rs 500 for a script'

Raj B Shetty talks about how he became an actor and why he wishes to concentrate on direction

I was always drawn to cinema but didn’t have anybody to guide me or give me an idea about how the film industry works. Keen on taking the plunge, I learnt every aspect of
filmmaking acting, directing and scriptwriting on my own. The knowledge of all these helped me look at things in a wholesome manner. I would spend a lot of time just writing scripts, hoping that someday they would get made into movies. Once, I had written five scripts and got Rs 500 for one of them. I went without money for a few years, but I didn’t feel the pinch of it because I was so immersed in my work. If I hadn’t struggled, I wouldn’t have learnt as much as I did. The tough phase helped me get better at my craft. 

Don’t want to be typecast

People asked me how I managed to make both ends meet. I would tell them that I didn’t have time to think about anything else except writing. The only time I felt disappointed was after I completed writing the script for five Tulu films. I felt that my urge to tell stories was overpowering. That’s when I decided to direct a short film. I already had the equipment in place and some of my technician friends were ready to come on board. This is how ‘Ondu Motteya Kathe’ happened in 2017. I wrote the script and acted in it too. ONK Janardhan, my character in the film, was a peculiar guy. He was very insecure about himself and was scared to interact with people. I was offered similar roles after the film released. I refused them because they were too similar and I yearned to try something different. I later acted in ‘Ammachi Yemba Nenapu’ and a few other films.

My character in ‘Maya Bazaar 2016’, releasing on February 28, is the opposite of ONK. He is confident and will do anything to survive. He is from a lower-middle-class family but he fears nobody. He is a thoroughly entertaining and engaging character. I can’t reveal much but he has some mannerisms and peculiarities that will remain with the audience for a while. 

I have always made it a point to choose scripts that appeal to the audience. Success is not always about individual growth. I believe actors become successful only if the audience loves their films. More than commercial cinema, I have always been drawn towards parallel cinema. I don’t complain if my films don’t do well because that’s the path that I’ve chosen. I respect the audience verdict. They don’t get into the technicalities but only judge a film based on whether it is good or bad. I also feel that directors must take it in their stride when films don’t do well.

When people pay money for a film, it is the duty of filmmakers to deliver honest work.They must be sincere to their craft. I don’t approve of filmmakers justifying bad writing and letting it pass. We shouldn’t underestimate the intelligence of the audience.I have a couple of films ready for release, but I wish to concentrate on direction soon. There are a few scripts, written by me that are waiting to be made into films. I would like to explore every side of filmmaking because that’s where my interest really lies.

(As told to Nina C George)