Filmmaker Prashanth Neel first came to the limelight with Ugramm in 2014. A man of few words, who rarely makes public appearances and prefers to let his work do the talking, the director now finds himself in the spotlight with KGF. As he gets ready to present the story of Rocky (Yash), coming from the streets of Mumbai to conquer the Kolar Gold Fields, Prashanth speaks to us about the making of the film.
Writer first, director second
When Prashanth started writing KGF, he looked at the script only as a writer, and not a director. “When you think like a director, you become practical and start thinking of budget constraints. Right there, one stops dreaming big,” he says, admitting that there were times he wondered if he could pull-off a project as large as KGF. “As I was penning the story, I thought this is something that would be appropriate 10 years into the career,” he adds.
Prashanth’s doubts were put to rest when he met producer Vijay Kiragandur, with whom he discussed the story. “Initially, I had narrated a family subject to Vijay, which was actually for another actor. He happened to ask me if I had any raw script in my basket and I mentioned KGF. At the same time, I also pointed out that it was not feasible because the subject required a huge budget. But the moment he heard one of the scenes, he asked me narrate the story,” says the director, going on to explain how Yash came into the picture. “I knew little about Yash; he had come to watch the celebrity show of Ugramm, and appreciated the film. Previously, I had watched his film, Googly, and I knew he had a natural talent. So when Vijay asked me whom I’d cast in the film, I immediately said that Yash would fit the role. All this happened when I was not even contemplating making the film.” But the producer took it seriously and called Yash, who was able to give dates, after which everything fell in place, he adds.
Re-living the 70s
The director says he was influenced by the 70s, and wanted to make the film set in that period because he grew up watching Amitabh Bachchan’s films. “I was very inspired by the action movies made during that time, including Westerns such as The Good Bad and the Ugly and For a Few Dollars More. Coincidentally, I read somewhere that gold prices were at their highest during the late 70s, a record that hasn’t been broken till date. I started digging deeper into the subject, and that’s how KGF shaped up.”
A story told in two parts
While he is hesitant to reveal too much about the plot, Prashanth says, “Even though there is a lot of gold and greed, we haven’t stressed on it.” He adds that when he turned from writer to director, nothing much changed with regards to the scope of the project. “As a director, I had to make some changes considering the budget, and of course, we had to include some commercial aspects. But I have been honest to what I have written. KGF: Chapter 1 is about a situation. The two parts put together is a life story. The second part will cost four times more than the first.”
Universal tale of power,greed and ambition
He promises that KGF will be a powerful story. “Everything that Rocky does, and the path he takes, is pre-designed. I want to talk about power, and what it does. Everybody who is powerful, has a history. Nobody wakes up one day at 40 and decides to become powerful. It comes from childhood,” says the director who believes KGF is a universal subject. “One person’s greed and ambition is more universal than the problems of a particular community.”
Prashanth says there were no expectations when he made Ugramm. “We never thought it would go past the morning show. Nobody even knew me then. So with my first film, the journey was very important, but the destination not so much. But things are different now. However, once I got the perfect team of producer, actors, and technicians I knew nothing could go wrong with KGF.”
20 technicians were an integral part of KGF
In the technical department, the filmmaker’s core team consisted of 20 people - 10 from the directorial department, 5 from the art department and 5 camera technicians. “They were an integral part of the shoot. Also, in addition to the main actors — Yash, Srindihi Shetty, Achyuth Kumar, Vasishta Simha — KGF had at least 500-600 junior artistes, who were like a floating population. On an average otherwise, we had 200 people on the sets on any given day,” says Prashanth, who chose artistes from Mysuru, Bengaluru, Kadapa, and Tirupathi.
An actor’s director
As a director, Prashanth felt his first duty on set was to motivate every actor. “I don’t yell at them or get mad at them. Actors’ moods are very important to me. I want to see them happy on the sets,” he says.
Takeaway from KGF: Chapter 1
Prashant believes that it is not about what story is, but rather how you tell it. “Once you are seated and watching the film, you have to be lost in that world. So everything from music to the visuals has
to set the right mood. I want the audience to travel with the character.”
About the director
Since the age of 17, Prashanth knew he wanted to get into films. “Unless you are born in a filmy family, there’s a bias against cinema as a profession. And coming from an orthodox family, my mother wasn’t keen that I take it up. So I did not even tell my family about my plan, lest they discourage me. When I decided to take the plunge, they had only one thing to say: ‘If it doesn’t work out, don’t be disappointed.’ Thankfully, it has so far.”