KGF director Prashanth Neel: I made a pan-India film by accident

Ahead of the release of the Yash-starrer, KGF: Chapter 2, Prashanth discusses what it took to bring to life, once again, the world of Rocky Bhai
Prashanth Neel
Prashanth Neel

A man of few words, Prashanth Neel is a big believer in letting his work do the talking. Amid sky-high hype and expectation, his follow-up to the massively popular KGF, is now almost upon us. The director, who has been involved with the KGF universe for almost close to a decade now, speaks of the all-consuming pressure and what we can expect from KGF: Chapter 2.

Excerpts from the conversation with Prashanth Neel:

How are you dealing with all the pressure?

Really, the only pressure we allowed ourselves to feel was about delivering a convincing story. If the two parts of KGF can be considered to be our two children, then I think it’s fair to say that the best of our resources has gone into the second child (KGF: Chapter 2). The success of the first chapter enabled us to push the envelope further. For those who enjoyed the first film, Chapter 2 will feel bigger, better. People will come with pre-conceived notions, and we have every intention to surpass their imagination.

Following the blockbuster success of the first film in which characters like Adheera and Ramika Sen get mentioned, did you opt for big names like Sanjay Dutt and Raveena Tandon—or was this always the plan?

KGF: Chapter 1 was planned as a Kannada film, and we really didn't think too much about the outcome during its making. However, I was clear that Adheera needed to be played by Sanjay Dutt. Also, I wanted a popular Hindi actor to play Ramika Sen, and we went with Raveena Tandon. I had no second choices for both. The same was the case with Rao Ramesh, whom we approached for the CBI Director character. I was keen about having these actors onboard.

In speaking of the KGF films, you often express gratitude to your technical team. How was the collaboration this time around?

My technicians are the best in the world, and I have taken a lot of inputs from each department. Be it the lighting (DoP Bhuvan Gowda), or the sets (art director Shivakumar), or the music (Ravi Basrur), each department comes together to conceptualise and visualise a scene. And then, there’s my editor, Ujwal, who makes sense of it all. I also need to mention stunt-directors Anbariv, who listened to the whole script before choreographing the fights. Also, costumes by Yogi G Raj, Sanya Sardhaiya, and Ashwin Mawle are an integral part of the film's presentation. Last but not the least, there is the charismatic presence of Yash… he came up with a lot of inputs too. I have a solid team, including Dr Suri… people who tell me whether I'm doing the right thing.

There was some criticism that KGF was more style than substance...

This is the first time I'm hearing such criticism. To date, people tell me about the screenplay, the hero's screen presence, the background music, the cinematography, and the editing. Having said that, I guess it's a fair criticism. I'm a different director though, and I have a different way of presenting my vision. I won’t change my style just because somebody criticises it. It does seem to be working, no? The day it stops working, I can consider changing it.

I see every movie as a fantasy. My films must convince you of their world and it needs to be a new, different world. If some feel that it is over the top or too fancy, then, I have been successful. If they don't think that, that’s the real problem.

Senior actor Anant Nag walking out of KGF: Chapter 2 got a few headlines as well...

Anant Nag had a personal reason to leave from the project, and we respect his reasons. I would like him to comment on this matter before I share my thoughts. I'm thankful to Prakash Raj sir for coming in during a difficult time. I cannot tell you now how we have brought his character into the film, but the transition will be beautiful. Prakash will make you forget about the awkwardness.

Having made two films in the last five years, is it fair to say that you value quality over quantity?

I don't consider the last two years as part of that journey. If everything had gone as per plan, KGF: Chapter 2 would have been released in October 2020. I would have moved on to my next, which also would have been released by now. I don't necessarily believe that quality supercedes quantity, even though, yes, quality is a must. That’s why I wouldn’t start shooting if I didn’t have the conviction.

Do you believe that you are now at a stage where you can get anyone to work with you for a budget of your choice?

I think we got the budget right for KGF: Chapter 1. Chapter 2 then became an easier decision. Vijay Kiragandur is a great producer, and I say this specifically because he backed my vision for Chapter 1. As for the casting, no big actor or star will sign up for a role just for the reputation of a director. The script needs to be compelling.  

With sequels, there’s always the possibility of failure. What was your motivation to proceed with a bigger project for the second film?

The sequel has not been made just for money. If that’s the approach, then, yes, there’s the possibility that it might tarnish the image and reputation earned by the first film. We proceeded with the sequel because we believe that the story is right.

When you have stars on board, the budget stops being a problem. Yash’s presence made sure that the budget for KGF: Chapter 1 was not an issue. With Chapter 2, the story decided the budget. We didn't alter a single scene because we got more money… Even with this film, we have firmly been in control.

KGF is being touted as a pioneer when it comes to the new wave of pan-Indian cinema…

I don't think I'm the right person to talk about the pan-Indian trend because I did KGF without any intentions of making it into such a film. I made a pan-India film by accident, not by design.

Director SS Rajamouli’s RRR was held up to the standards of Baahubali and this led to some criticism. Do you think that your upcoming films like Salaar will be subjected to KGF comparisons?

Yes, that will happen, and I see it as a compliment when people compare your present film with your previous work. The expectations are bound to be high. I don't see this as a negative. If you tell a different story and convince the audience, I think it will work. Despite all this, if they still compare, it is only due to the love for the previous film, and nothing more.

Many films after KGF: Chapter 1 have looked to replicate its style and design. How do you see this trend?

Every film is influenced by another. Cinema is a hundred years old, and if you ask me where I get my ideas from, I would credit films like Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. But yes, I have created KGF in my own way. When I see others being influenced by my work, it’s humbling. KGF is not just a commercial movie, and I'm glad the offbeat elements are being appreciated too. I have likely been influenced by a million other people. So, why shouldn't somebody else be influenced by my work?
How do you plan to unwind after the release? Will you be watching the FDFS?  

I don't watch my movies after release. I've not watched Ugramm, for instance. Neither have I watched KGF: Chapter 1. I have already watched KGF: Chapter 2 many times in different languages, and I don't think I will watch it once again.

I’m not sure I can afford to take a big break. Perhaps a small one? And then, I’ll be heading to Hyderabad to shoot for Prabhas' Salaar.

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