No pressure, no diamonds.
Ahead of the high-voltage release of KGF-2, actor Yash seems to agree with philosopher Thomas Carlyle on how pressure can be a tool to push the envelope. Yash knows a thing or two about breaking boundaries and barriers: from the dust bowl of Kolar goldfields, the young and suave Kannada actor, along with director Prashanth Neel, has dug up a goldmine of sorts by making KGF: Chapter 1, a pan-India blockbuster.
As Malayalam actor Prithviraj put succinctly, “If Bahubali taught us (small industries) to dream, then KGF has taught us to believe in that dream.”
The ripple the 2018 project created still has its echo in Indian cinema, with the film achieving a cult status following its OTT release, especially outside Karnataka.
Four years later, the hype — and expectations — have hit the roof and the makers are getting ready for its release on April 14. Trade analysts expect the film to be one of the highest opening-day grossers in Indian cinema, post-pandemic era.
Here we sit down with Yash and Neel for an exclusive one-to-one conversation.
What is your state of mind? Pressure?
“For me, expectations are always a pleasure and not pressure. When people are eagerly waiting to watch your film, it’s a great feeling. I was happy with the validation we got from the people outside Kannada. Now that the first part was a hit, the expectation is huge for the sequel and that’s quite natural. Even during the release of the first part, expectations were huge in Kannada. Now, the rest of the country too expects something big from us. On the other hand, only because of the expectations, there were no restrictions while shooting for the sequel. Budget constraints are common for any film but thanks to the expansion of the market, there was no compromise. At this juncture, I should also mention the generosity of my producer Vijay for believing in our vision six years ago,” says Yash, with a twinkle in his eyes.
The confidence Yash exudes is hard to miss, even during our conversation.
However, Neel seems to see the whole pre-release scenario through a different prism.
“Thankfully, while making the sequel, I did not feel any pressure. But having made the film now, I could feel the expectations everywhere I go. Nothing is in my hands now. Yes, there is pressure, but we have given our best and made a film hoping to satisfy everyone,” says Neel.
The idea behind the sequel, and taking it outside Karnataka
Interestingly, unlike Baahubali, Prashanth and Yash did not even shoot one scene of the second part before the release of the first part of KGF. So how did it pan out?
Says Prashanth, “In a way, it helped us justify our vision. Initially, I wanted to release the film only as a single chapter but things changed in the middle. My original plan itself was to approach Sanjay, Raveena, and Rao Ramesh. We covered the faces of the important characters in Chapter 1 only to accommodate these great talents in the sequel. I’m very glad that it happened that way.”
Who initiated the idea of releasing the first part in multiple languages?
Yash answers: “While shooting the film, I loved the way Prashanth executed the scenes. The collective work of the technicians and the standard they set on the spot gave me a spark that this film has the potential to work outside Karnataka.”
Neel says he was not sure about the plan, but he is happy that it paid rich dividends.
“I wasn’t sure whether non-Kannada speaking audiences would like the film because it’s meant for Kannada audiences and fans of Yash. But they loved the character Rocky and instantly connected with him,” says Neel.
Prashanth and Yash accept the fact that only a “minor percentage” of people watched the first part in theatres.
“Maybe 10 per cent of the audiences who now want to watch KGF: Chapter 2 would’ve watched Chapter 1 in theatres. Most watched the film on Amazon Prime and satellite channels but still, they loved the film and generated tremendous expectations for the sequel. We are confident that the sequel will be effective because most of them will watch it on the big screen,” adds Neel.
“I think most people were not even aware of the release then because of multiple factors. This time with the OTT boom and social media explosion, many things have changed in the last four years. As I said earlier, the first also had a huge expectation but mostly in Karnataka. Now, the degree of expectation remains the same but the entire country is now expecting our film,” chuckles Yash.
Interestingly, unlike Baahubali, Prashanth and Yash did not even shoot one scene of the second part before the release of the first part of KGF.
Prashanth says: “In a way, it helped us justify our vision. Initially, I wanted to release the film only as a single chapter but things changed in the middle. My original plan itself was to approach Sanjay, Raveena, and Rao Ramesh. We covered the faces of the important characters in Chapter 1 only to accommodate these great talents in the sequel. I’m very glad that it happened that way.”
Yash’s own punchlines
Earlier, Prashanth said that 90 per cent of Yash’s punchlines were written by the actor himself.
“Though we had proper writers, we felt that it would be better if we fix Yash’s lines on the spot after finalising the mood of the scene on the sets,” he says.
“I always work closely with my directors. I’m aware of every minute thing of my films so, there is no harm in contributing a few ideas here and there,” says the actor.
Worried about the delay?
Not exactly, says Prashanth.
“The first part also took more time because Yash had two projects to complete. The delay in the second part was mostly due to external factors like the pandemic and Sanjay Dutt sir’s unexpected health condition. But the way sir (Sanjay Dutt) recuperated and worked for our film deserves a standing ovation. The maximum time I take for my scripts is six months but the external factors keep delaying my films. The delay has helped us to complete the film to perfection, especially dubbing and visual effects.”
More dialogues for Yash this time
In Chapter 1, Yash had minimal dialogues but the sequel seems to be packed with punchlines. “Rocky had many punchlines before he enters KGF but after that, he was subtle for his mission. But the sequel has scope for him to be more explosive and vocal,” says the actor.
On the fantasy world that’s KGF, Prashanth says: “I wanted to deliver a mass entertainer with scenes that elevate the heroic image of my protagonist but it’s impossible in today’s world, hence set my world 30-40 years ago. Also, while I was shooting for my debut film Ugramm in KGF, the ambience gave me a lot of new ideas.”
Vijay’s Beast too, in the hunt. Worried about a box-office clash?
“As a movie buff, I always watch multiple releases on weekends. As I mentioned earlier, cinema is not an election; everyone can win here. People have put their heart and soul into these two big projects, so I wish both of our films do well at the box office,” says Yash.
Fans of Vijay also want Prashanth to work with their matinee idol. “Well, Vijay sir is a legend, so he only should take a call. So far, all my actors have liked my work and taken the call to work with me. As a director, my job is to satisfy their fan following and make the right script with the right emotion. If Vijay sir calls me, why not?”
More chapters from KGF?
So can we expect more chapters? “Well, in films you can even bring the dead alive. If people fall in love with Chapter 2, there is a possibility to continue this franchise forever,” says Prashanth.
What next, Yash? “It’s very obvious that my upcoming films would release in several languages. When people show you so much love, it’s difficult to ignore. The process is on.”
Well, no pressure, no diamonds.