Debutant director M Bharath Raj is among those who got to make the most of the lockdown. Talking about his first directorial venture, Hero, he recalls a comment made by a well-wisher that if it weren’t for the Covid-19 pandemic, this film wouldn’t have happened.
“These words made me realise that without Covid or the lockdown, this project wouldn’t have taken off at all. The idea of making this film came while we were asked to spend time at home,” says Bharath, ahead of his film’s release on March 5.
The action-comedy adventure also allowed him to direct Rishab Shetty in the role of a hairstylist in the movie, which also stars Ganavi Laxman as the heroine, along with Pramod Shetty and Manju of Ugramm fame.
“The film was triggered out of frustration among our group. It was a time when fear lurked in us about entertainment and its future, and whether theatres will re-open, and if they did, whether the audience will get back to watching films on the big screen. We wondered if OTT is the future, and whether we should all adopt that format. All these and more were part of our daily discussions, and we decided that irrespective of the platform — theatre, OTT, or even YouTube — we will show our film to the audience, and that’s how Hero began,” recounts Bharath.
According to the first-time director, the film that began with an impromptu script about a situation that takes place in one day.
“We had to come up with a story in line with the Covid restrictions in place at that time, like the presence of a limited crew. We were brainstorming a script involving two characters and one location. We had even planned and discussed a short film,” says Bharath, adding that more than the size of the project, what mattered was the content, and how it can engage the audience.
“We had half the script ready when we began the shooting, and the second half was done while we were on the sets. That’s when a couple of more actors were added,” he says.
Ask him about the challenges of directing a film when you have a well-known director and actor like Rishab Shetty playing the lead role, and he replies, “When I narrated the story, and how it can be executed, the team was convinced and gave me the signal to wield the megaphone. I wanted Laughing Buddha, starring Pramod Shetty, to be my directorial debut, but Hero happened.”
He adds that he did discuss the issue with Rishab before taking up the directorial responsibilities. “Before entering the sets, I had a discussion with Rishab, and I told him that if I am the director, I like to take the entire responsibility. Rishab made sure that I executed the project without any interference from anybody in the crew. All of them stood as support,” says Bharath.
The director makes special mention of cinematographer Arvind Kashyap and stunt master Vikram Mor, from whom he got to learn a lot. Hero has been made under the banner of RishabShetty Films, and has music composed by Ajaneesh B Loknath. The film’s title was decided during the first cut. “Ashoka Vana was one of the titles chosen, and it was my favourite one too, but it could not be finalised,” says Bharath.
“While watching the film at the edit desk, I revisited the whole incident, and whatever the character goes through. That’s when I felt that he is a Hero. Secondly, our characters don’t have particular names, and we would address them as hero, heroine, villain. This also became one of the reasons to title the film Hero. However, Rishab’s concern was that the symbolic title would be very strong on him, and then we balanced it with George Bernard Shaw’s line - ‘You cannot be a hero without being a coward’. An incident can turn a normal person into a hero, and the title sums up the basic line of our story,” he adds.