Ahead of Yuvarathnaa's release on April 1, 2021, Puneeth Rajkumar talks to Baradwaj Rangan about how being a reality TV host helped him connect directly with fans, the way he approached his role in Yuvarathnaa, and his dream for a great film studio in Karnataka.
Let's talk about your reality TV shows 'Kannadada Kotyadhipati' and 'Family Power'. When Kamal Hassan did Big Boss, he said the show took him closer to the Tamil people in a way that his films have never done. It almost made his interaction with them direct. Did you have that kind of experience with your shows? What did they teach you?
'Kannadada Kotyadhipati' brought me a lot of things. Initially, I was very scared. I agreed to do the show because it was 'Kaun Banega Crorepathi'. My favourite star Mr. Amitabh Bachchan sir had done this, and it's been our favourite show too. We're also great fans of Mr.Siddhartha Basu because we grew up watching his quiz shows. So, for me, it was a privilege meeting him, and the greatest thing you could do is be trained by him. That made me accept.
Initially, I was concerned, because I'm an actor. As an actor you can get as many retakes as you want. Here, you're throwing a question and you wait for an answer; it's like playing a game. It did take me a couple of training sessions but the only advantage I felt was that I talk a lot and get along with people really well. I love spending time with them, finding out about their lives, about how things are going with them. That was the opportunity when I did a show like 'Kannadada Kotyadhipati'.
I got to talk to a lot of people, especially people from rural towns across Karnataka. The lives they lead and the happiness they have and their journey made me feel really amazing. The show went on well because I like talking to them. It's also a fabulous show, it's a true show. You sit with them, talk to them using your knowledge, you see them win money and go, which makes you happy, because you're not giving them the money. You're just the presenter of the show.
It allows you to mix with people you'd usually not encounter in your day-to-day life…
Yeah. It's amazing to see the stories they have and the lives they lead. In fact, I would say I learnt a lot about life, nature, and being good to people. It's great to see them. We have so many activities around us but we still lack peace; they have that.
Without spoiling anything about Yuvarathnaa can you tell us about a scene that you found challenging? Something that after all these years, you're still 'wow this was a really tough scene to do.'
All the scenes were so close to my heart. It was natural, probably, because the director made it feel so comfortable. I didn't really have to struggle much and think 'how do I perform?', 'how do I take it forward?' At the maximum, the lines would have been difficult. I would have probably rehearsed a couple of times more, and asked the director for a minor change. Other than that, it wasn't difficult because as long as the director who's visualizing the scene is comfortable, I'll try and give as much as I can for it.
You have been observing the Kannada film industry right from the time you've been observing your father. The industry has undergone a few changes. Independent films like Lucia have emerged and we also have big movies like KGF. Do you think the industry is changing or are these one-off ventures that come and go?
I wouldn't say that they come and go. Probably some of these ventures would stay and people would continue to make something different like Lucia or U Turn. Take films by Rakshit Shetty and Rishab Shetty or our own Kavaludaari.
I think they're all here to stay because the industry always has ups and downs with scripts. Off-late people are trying out experimental scripts. You don't need a big budget to make a great film today, with the equipment we have. In fact, you could make it with a phone. People have a lot of options.
When it comes to films like KGF, they had the option to enter different industries. So, they spend more money and make bigger films.
What are your dreams for the Kannada film industry? What would you like to see happen in the future that is not happening now?
First, I think we should get a great studio in Karnataka. We need a bigger studio where other industries can also shoot and exchange technologies. I hope it happens soon in Karnataka.