'I don't create controversies to sell my movies'
Kannada actor-director Hemanth Hegde’s film Nimbehuli (sour taste of lime) hit the screens last Friday to mixed media reviews and public response.
The film also marked Hindi cinema’s showman, Subhash Ghai’s foray into the South under his Mukta Arts banner.
The film has been in the making for a while and was hit by several controversies. There were production problems, and then one of the female leads, Komal Jha, expressed her ire against the director.
This was followed by a controversial song that irked right wing extremists. A character in the film that resembled former Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi provoked party workers.
Hemanth Hegde had faced protests from Bajrang Dal activists during the making of his last film Housefull over the installation of a Charlie Chaplin statue.
In this interview, Hemanth Hegde clears the air about the controversies that seem to be chasing him and his expectations from the movie.
Why is the film titled Nimbehuli?
Because it mirrors our lives. Life is sweet and sour but there is a tinge of sourness in everyone’s lives even though there is sweetness.
We should be able to laugh, enjoy and live with both the tastes.
The film reflects this feeling.
Image: A scene from Nimbehuli
'I am an actor-director and not the other way around'
Why did the film take so long to release?
I made this film with a lot of passion.
There were date issues with the actors and that led to the delay.
We faced issues with everything. We had an issue with the heroine, a song, and with a character that sort of resembled a political leader.
Why have you been labelled a controversial director?
I don’t quite know why this has happened to me. Somehow controversies seem to be chasing me.
In a country like ours, one who speaks his mind is always considered controversial.
People who call a spade a spade are termed controversial.
There should be someone who should be able to stand up for what he says. For how long can you live being a ‘yes man’ or ‘ji huzoor’?
Since I can’t take things lying down, controversies seem to be chasing me.
I don’t create controversies to sell my movies. They are always good.
What do you have to say to people who say that you are at ease directing yourself rather than others?
True. I am basically an actor and acting comes naturally to me. I am an actor-director and not the other way around.
As they say, once an actor, always an actor.
Image: Hemant Hegde and Madhurima
'Komal Jha acted totally unprofessional'
How did you convince the showman of Hindi cinema Subhash Ghai to produce a Kannada film?
I met him in Mumbai long back when I lived there for two years. He liked me and my approach towards work.
He gave me the green signal to do this. But this came after I worked under his banner for the film Khanna and Iyer.
My association with him continued even after I returned to Bangalore and that was when this film happened.
Given Subhash Ghai’s proximity to actor Anupam Kher, why was he not able to get him on board for this film?
We had a problem with our lead actor Komal Jha. She didn’t pick up my calls. She did not respond to us and she did not give us her dates.
She acted totally unprofessional.
It took six months for things to settle down. The scenes with Anupam were required in combination with the actress. We had lost Anupam’s dates by the time everything got settled.
So I lost an opportunity to work with a great actor like Anupamji.
What was all the controversy about the Ayyo Rama song and Bullet Prakash’s character that resembled Karunanidhi?
These controversies were needless. Bullet Prakash plays a character called Karuna Ranga which resembles Karunanidhi.
The look was just created to make it interesting. It is not intentional but an incidental resemblance.
DMK activists saw the film somewhere in a Chennai studio and brought a stay on the release of the film.
About the song, I can say these activists have no other work to do.
Hinduism is an inclusive religion that is so broad-minded. It has withstood so many influences for centuries and remained its own for so long. I don’t think such things will kill our religion.
Image: Komal Jha
'Komal Jha acted totally unprofessional'
What was the controversy that involved Komal Jha?
It started off with competition among the three heroines and how they could outdo one another.
Komal put her foot in her mouth and went to the media complaining about her costumes.
I got angry and reprimanded her in print. The controversy got blown up. Things just went way out of hand.
Will you continue to act in films you direct?
Yes. I will continue to act. I have rediscovered my love of acting.
I wish to title my next film Sshh 2. This has nothing to do with Upendra’s film and it is not a sequel either.
I am ready to pay a premium to buy this title more as a mark of respect towards the team that made the film Sshh.
I was fascinated by the title when the film was released. The film will be a taut thriller.