Realism on screen

Hemanth Rao

Director Hemanth M Rao earned a thumbs up from audiences and critics alike for his 2016-film Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu. Two years later, this young film-maker is ready with his next movie, Kavalu Daari, a noir investigative drama.

Hemanth sounds visibly excited about Kavalu Daari starring Anant Nag, Achyuth Kumar, Rishi among others. “I grew up watching a lot of thrillers. It’s my favourite genre. But I wanted to explore the human angle in crime stories, mainly the journey of police officers. Their jobs are thankless. No matter what they do, they are always abused. This film is a tribute to the people in uniform. It’s an old-school thriller but with human stories in a whodunnit sort of way,” he says.

Hemanth’s movies are always backed by extensive research. He explains, “Films should be a reflection of reality, and reality should be a reflection of films. For Kavalu Daari, I interviewed many police officers from high-ranking officials to constables, spent time with them for almost four-and-a-half months to get all the details right.”

On the work front

How was it directing Anant Nag the second time around? Hemanth is all praise for the senior actor. “It’s an absolute pleasure directing him. After working with him in Godhi Banna…, I assumed there would be a sense of familiarity with him this time around, but it was the same ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling again. He has a certain enigmatic presence, an aura of genius around him. And he’s very good at what he does. He’s such an intelligent actor that sometimes he reduces his impact to lift the scene for other actor. He doesn’t underperform, but he realises in which scene who has to shine and look at it in the overall context of the film,” he says.

Anant Nag sounds like your muse, I point out. “To a great degree, yes,” admits Hemanth. There are certain things you need to know about this young director. He’s extremely passionate about cinema; he doesn’t want to take his audience for granted, or insult their intellect; he doesn’t want to glorify an actor just for the sake of it; he’s only interested in storytelling, not the medium per se.

This passion for cinema took Hemanth to the doorstep of noted director Girish Kasaravalli at the beginning of his career. “He’s an amazing film-maker who’s true to the grammar of cinema. I believe that to excel in anything, you need to learn the technicalities first. So, when I wanted to start out in films, I literally went and knocked on his doors. Thankfully, he took me in,” Hemanth says.

Hemanth likes to believe that every story becomes interesting only when there’s human conflict in it. And his experience proved him right. He narrates the dark times in his life when he had lost all hope of becoming a film-maker.

Striving to make it big

“I was in the industry for 13 years before Godhi Banna... happened. For five of those years, I was looking for a break. One year before Godhi Banna... happened, I was supposed to do a film called Love Churumuri. It was a fun film, but not the kind I ever saw myself making. But since the opportunity came my way, I put my heart and soul into it. But, just before the day of filming, the producer backed out due to the unavailability of funds. That triggered something in me. Here I was, playing the game like everyone else, trying to fit in, but it backfired. I was a film-maker with no films to show,” recalls Hemanth.

But that exact incident spurred Hemanth to chart his own course. “I became crazy and stubborn. I was determined to make at least one film according to my wish. Thankfully, I found Pushkara (Mallikarjunaiah, producer of Godhi Banna...) and things worked out,” beams Hemanth.

For a film-maker who’s only one film old, Hemanth sounds pretty confident about his next film. “The pressure I feel is internal. I am not trying to please anybody, only myself. I am just following my heart,” he states.

In many ways, Hemanth represents what Kannada cinema needs today. He’s young, he’s fresh, his stories are unconventional, and his vision is free from all the stereotypical shackles. What more could we, as an audience, ask for?

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Realism on screen

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