Having worked with all the top actors in the Tamil industry such as Rajinikanth, Sarath Kumar, Kamal Haasan, Sivaji Ganesan, Suriya, Ajith Kumar and Madhavan, and Chiranjeevi and Nagarjuna in Telugu, director and actor K S Ravi Kumar is an unapologetic supporter of commercial cinema. “That’s where the money is,” he says with a smile.
After all, he has directed about 40 films, mostly in Tamil and a few in Telugu, and knows that money only comes in when the commercial elements are matched with a strong script and good artistes.
The ace director is now making his Sandalwood debut with Kotigobba 2, which has Sudeep playing the lead.
A bilingual, being made in Tamil as Mudinja Ivan Pudi, the movie needs Sudeep in both the languages, says Ravi Kumar. “We had been given a few ideas from writer T Sivakumar and Sudeep liked this particular one, and he developed it,” says the director.
“Sudeep is a big hero in Kannada, but in Tamil he is seen more as a villain. He is a good performer so we thought Kotigobba 2 could capitalise on both these images.”
Kotigobba, starring Vishnuvardhan, was a remake of Baashha and Ravi Kumar insists that his film has no connection with it.
“Unlike Vishnuvardhan’s film that was a gangster movie, this is an entertainer to be watched by people of all ages. The film has got a U certificate,” he says.
Ravi Kumar talks of how he balances commercial compulsions with creative freedom. “For example, films with Rajinikanth’s style were made differently,” says Ravi who directed Rajinikanth in Muthu, Padaiyappa and Lingaa. “The star was known for a particular style even before I started working with him. So, I couldn’t carry my style into his films. Instead, I went with his image and blended my script around that, though I did the selection of subjects. The combination was a hit.”
But he does not agree that the core strength of commercial films is the hero. Again citing an example of Rajinikanth’s film, he says, “Without the character Neelambari played by Ramya Krishnan, Padayappa wouldn’t have made the same impact. Commercial entertainers also need other character roles. There are solo heroine subjects which have become big hits in Telugu and Tamil. Take the example of director K Balachander’s films. Many of them were heroine-centric. Though his films were known for their artistic sense, they turned out to be commercial hits because of various other elements such as the songs and dance.”
The director took nearly 25 years to enter the Kannada movie industry and the reason, he says, is financial. “In general, cinema industry is a business and filmmakers tend to move to places where there is more money. Telugu and Tamil are big industres and doing a film there gives us good returns. In fact the Tamil industry was smaller than Telugu but it has expanded after they entered the overseas market and opening up for satellite rights,” he says.
“However, Sandalwood is not the same anymore. The market has grown and it is growing even bigger... I am getting the same payment as I get in the Tamil industry,” he reveals with a chuckle.
But he points out that Kannada industry has the potential to grow more if dubbing is allowed. “We should also dub Kannada films for other markets. That way the market will expand. It also helps in making bilingual and trilingual projects and will also create a big platform for technicians,” he says.