From the bottom of his heart

Straight from the success of 'Bell Bottom', actor Rishab Shetty is in no hurry to switch roles to don the director's hat, writes A VARSHA RAO

Rishab Shetty

I never expect any film to be successful,” says Rishab Shetty straight forwardly. Surprising words from a director whose latest film, Bell Bottom, has managed to cement his image as an actor in the minds of the audience. The delightful comedy thriller has gotten strong word-of-mouth popularity, so much so that the makers have now decided to make a sequel for the same.

But coming back to his initial statement, how is it that he doesn’t have any expectations for a film? “When you face challenges left, right and centre way early in your career, you reach a stage where nothing affects you anymore. That’s the case with me, too. I came to the field of cinema to be an actor, okay na? But I never really got as many opportunities as I would have liked. In my ambition to become a hero, I lost out on many assistant directorial opportunities. So, my career went like this,” he says making a downward curve with his arm.

However, Rishab Shetty’s curve today, after almost seven years since his debut in 2012, is definitely on an upward tick with movies such as Ricky, Kirik Party, Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shaale and Bell Bottom in his repertoire. “My only intention was to work in cinema and what the audience will make out of what I present to them, okay na?” he chuckles.

Unfazed

The kick-starting troubles in his career forced Rishab to be detached from everything that came his way, no matter how good or bad they were. Which is why when Bell Bottom had a slow pick-up on the day of its release, he wasn’t worried. It was just another thing he could brush off and move on. “Unfortunately, on the day of our premiere, the Pulwama attack happened and people were in no mood to watch a movie. Can you believe we only earned Rs 800-1,300 from some theatres on Friday? If there’s no opening for a film, how can you expect it to do well? Thankfully, the movie picked up pace later on and we recovered the money the producer had put in. Now, it’s all good,” beams Rishab.

Rishab is not new to the camera as an actor. He’s done Ulidavaru Kandanthe, Ricky, Lucia, Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shaale... and more. But Bell Bottom is where Rishab Shetty the actor is at the front and centre of the story. “I chose to do Bell Bottom only because of how similar I am to my character in the film, Detective Diwakar. After watching me in Ulidavaru, people assumed I am a very serious guy in real life. But those who know me will tell you what a thaleharte I am! And just like Diwakar, I am also heavily influenced by cinema and have grown up watching Rajkumar’s films. Whenever my mom used to talk to me, I used to imitate Annavaru and exclaim, “Oho, haagenu, haa!” says Rishab, perfectly imitating the iconic star.

For a director to switch sides and be in front of the camera must be quite easy, I comment. “Yes, it is, but I switch off the director in me once I start acting. I might suggest something sometimes, but that’s all,” says Rishab who also feels he can switch between the two roles effortlessly. 

While he’s basking in the success of Bell Bottom, Rishab is also working on this next big project, an anthology, Katha Sangama, dedicated to the legendary Kannada director Puttanna Kanagal. “The original Katha Sangama by Puttanna Kanagal had him directing three short stories from three different writers. But this Katha Sangama will have seven stories, seven directors, seven DOPs and seven musicians along with an entirely different cast for every story. This is a totally experimental idea, but we have managed to pique the interest of the audience. We are breaking all the rules of commercial cinema with this film,” explains Rishab.

Originality

Speaking of commercial cinema, how does this young director differentiate between art and commercial cinema? “If it gets an award, it’s art cinema, if it’s a blockbuster, it’s a commercial cinema,” he says with a chuckle.

When I remind him of the unstated rule of every cinema demanding commercial elements in order to be a hit, Rishab delves deeper into the philosophy of films. “The very idea that every film should have commercial elements is damaging Kannada cinema. A separate comedy track, a song with no connection to the storyline, a senseless action sequence... all such elements don’t really do anything for a film. The only thing that matters is original content. People will always love original and fresh content, okay na?” explains Rishab. 

Just like his peers, Rishab also feels that there’s no formula for a hit film. “If there is, it should never be discovered; where’s the fun in that? I think it’s only a matter of what works and what doesn’t. What I have observed is that people love realistic portrayals. People lead very hectic and stressful lifestyles today, they don’t want to sit and watch some rodhane (tear-jerker) in the theatre, which is why films like Bell Bottom are liked. The audience relates to goofy and silly characters,” he explains.

Currently, Rishab is in no mood to switch off the actor in him as he’s prepping for Nathuram, a film highlighting Gandhian values, after which there’s another untitled project. Only after these will he don the director’s hat again, he reveals.

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From the bottom of his heart

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