What was it like when you decided to enter the industry as an actor?
When I started out, I didn’t even dream about becoming a writer or director. When I came to Bengaluru for auditions, I was given lengthy dialogues because Yograj Bhat’s films were the trend then. I’m a visual learner, and studying dialogues was not my strong point. I failed every audition I attended. I’d almost given up. Then, I decided to make short films. That’s how I started writing. Around that time, I met Aravind Kaushik. He was auditioning for Nam Area Li Ond Dina (Rakshit’s debut film). I failed it, but he helped me learn the dialogues. I used to act like Bollywood heroes, with subtlety and ease. But he guided me saying that, here, we need to be a little over the top. On my first day on the set (February 4, 2010), I noticed Aravind wearing the same costume as mine. When I asked him, he told me he was there to replace me if I failed! Thankfully, I was able to pull it off! Later, we did Tuglak together. Following that, I read for SAOLS.
Looking back, how would you describe your journey?
Thirteen years later, it just feels like I have completed phase one and am ready to enter the next phase. With Charlie and SSE, I feel like I have completed a milestone. I remember tweeting once: “Realize the passion, come full circle, be a child again, and look at creating an ideal world for cinema. Become a Cinema!”. I think I have reached the stage where I can make films and reach people all over the world. Post-SOLS, I did Ulidavarau Kandante. The film tanked at the box office. I was intrigued as to why it had failed because I felt it had all the commercial elements. I had to continue working with other directors to understand how to draw crowds to theatres. I signed Vastu Prakara with Yograj Bhat, who has the habit of changing dialogues at the last minute. Every day, I used to go home stressed. That film was also an average hit. But by then, I had realised that even if I didn’t make it as an actor, I could still be a writer-director. The period between 2010 and 2014 was a learning curve. Even though I have done many films after Ulidavaru Kandante, the film remains very special for me because it was what I wanted as a writer and a director. In these 10 years, I have learned what people want, what I want, and how to blend those desires with audiences’ expectations.
What is in the pipeline for phase two?
The next 10 years will be more about my expression through cinema. Ulidavaru Kandante was my expression of life. I want to write and direct more films that express my true self and my thinking as a filmmaker. As an actor, I want to explore everything. As a writer-director, I want to delve more into mythology. I want to combine ancient science, spirituality, and modern science. As a producer, I want to produce films for directors like Hemanth Rao and Kiran Raj, who write stories from their experiences. Some day in the future, I might retire as an actor, but never as a writer or a director. The industry has also come a long way in the past decade. OTT platforms have changed things drastically. Cinema has become global.
What sets your team – the RRR trio (Rakshit Shetty, Rishab Shetty and Raj B Shetty) apart?
We are all passionate about art. We don’t take cinema for granted. Our aim will always be to learn. If we do justice to the art, then, money will automatically follow. I think that’s what sets us apart. We are extremely serious about cinema. We try to bring something new to every film. Most people think there is a formula for making a hit movie. But I don’t believe in that. We made a Kirik Party without all that, and it still worked.