Rakshit Shetty was in the news last week when the team of 777 Charlie released ‘Life Of Dharma’ to celebrate the star’s birthday. In this conversation, he speaks about Charlie, Avane Sriman Narayana, Punyakoti and the writing process. Excerpts
Does the box office result matter to you?
Obviously, it does, because it means a better budget for my next film, for Punyakoti. However, the records and number games don’t matter to me. I have Charlie to finish, and I don’t believe that you must make at least one film every two years. I just want to do good films. Twenty or 30 years later, when I look back and show my films to my grandchildren, they should feel good about the film. I don’t want to make a film that won’t be relevant then.
You’re okay to wait it out, work on it, give it a few years and then release a film. Director Rakshit Shetty can wait, but can actor Rakshit wait that long? Or, will you write roles that suit your age?
I’ll write roles to suit my age for sure, but even otherwise, I think that is one place where the director in me has overtaken the actor. I came to the industry to be an actor, which is why I do films with other directors whom I trust. For example, I did Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu with Hemanth Rao (They are also collaborating for Sapta Sagaradaache Yello). Even in Charlie. I trust Kiran Raj so much that I don’t even have to get involved in the script. I just do a reading with him, and give him some inputs that he takes if he feels they are necessary. Otherwise, I just go to the set, do my job and come back. I can manage as an actor, but when I’m writing something and also acting in it, I like to focus on detailing and don’t mind the time gap.
You’re someone who has a lot of ideas for feature films, but you also accommodate acting opportunities with directors you trust. How do you prioritise?
That’s the reason I’m developing a writing team, so that I don’t have to sit and write a few subjects myself. I trust a few writers working with me, and give them the subject to develop. Sometimes, the idea keeps churning in my head too. For example, I’m focussing on Punyakoti, but I also think about Richie (the lead of his debut directorial Ulidavaru Kandanthe) once in a while. I’m excited to play that character once again. Whenever I think about Richie and get any ideas, I give it to my writers. I’ll have to sit with them in the last draft, because I need to add the Mangaluru dialect of Kannada and the way Richie speaks. Otherwise, they are writing it and I’m writing Punyakoti.
Is there a timeline that you are aware of, because all the projects you spoke of are big ones?
I always have a timeline in my head, but I never follow it. I should get better in scheduling it and following it too, because that is something that I learnt during Avane Sriman Narayana. It took three years to make it, but it could have been done in two-and-a-half years. When the script was ready, I wondered if we could really shoot this film. The first option was to obviously find real locations, and we visited so many forts, before finally realising that a set would work better. I was scared as to how we would put up such a huge set, since we didn’t have that kind of a budget. Then, we figured a way for that too. There are a lot of things in ASN and Ulidavaru Kandante that we explored for the first time. I had no idea about act one, act two and act three. There was so much innocence on my part in terms of writing, but I just knew that there is a writer in me. When I wrote Kirik Party, all I knew was there is an act one, an act two and an act three and that I had to follow a structure. I wanted to get even better in terms of writing for ASN, so I read around 10 books. A few of them were books that I had read before, but not understood. And I looked at Ulidavaru Kandante and Kirik Party as references to what went wrong, and I improved.
What were the books you read?
One of my favourite books is My Story Can Beat Your Story. It gives you a formula to follow and gives you examples of filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, who has followed that formula in a film like Pulp Fiction, and Christopher Nolan, who follows that formula in the biggest of biggest films. That book gave me a basic understanding of structure. After I read the book, I compared it to my script of Kirik Party, and I realised that I have followed the formula in its entirety. And the places where I didn’t follow the formula were the places where the audience thought there was a lag. If I follow the structure properly, there is no chance for a lag. Now I can write it with the formula, consciously, and break it where I want.