Getting Kannada movie stars to bare their souls
Nanna Haadu Nannadu went beyond many celebrity chat shows as Kannada filmdom's top stars were heard baring their souls like never before.
This kept television viewers glued to the daily show, whose popularity may be attributed to the comfort level the stars shared with it's host and fellow actor Vinaya Prasad.
Over 35 film industry artists appeared across 50 episodes in the first season itself. Apart from their films, artists spoke of their school and college days, family and friends. This being a musical show, the guests were also asked to recall some of their most favourite songs.
Vinaya, who has just completed the first season and is readying herself for the second -- which most likely will telecast on weekends -- speaks to Shruti Indira Lakshminaraya about hosting the popular show. Excerpts:
How was the experience of hosting Nanna Haadu Nannadu?
I am a fan of film music myself and even practice light music. This show was a double treat for me as it was not only music-based but also allowed me to interact with my industry colleagues.
A heart to heart and affectionate conversation was possible with each of them. I was offered the show by Suvarna channel when I was really busy doing Telugu films. But due to the Telangana row in Andhra Pradesh, the shoot of a film got cancelled. Since I had free time on hand, I took this project up and I am very glad that I did.
Image: A scene from Nanna Haadu Nannadu
'Singer Vijay Prakash's journey to success was interesting'
Which were your favourite episodes?
The one with Ravichandran tops the list. I had never heard him speak so much before. He has had many hits, but the loss he incurred after making Shanti Kranti in four languages is something he is yet to come to terms with. He recalled the turmoil he had to go through.
Director S Narayan's road to stardom also moved me. I believe there were days when he went without food, walked half way to Chennai to gain entry into films and bought food by writing letters for someone whose handwriting was not legible. Today Narayan's production house is known for treating the cast and crew with sumptuous meals!
Singer Vijay Prakash's journey to success was also interesting.
What marked your journey into the world of television?
I was involved in theatre activities in my school and college days. Also from when I was ten-years-old, I used to be part of programmes hosted by All India Radio (AIR), Mangalore. Abdul Rehman Pasha, an employee of AIR and a close family friend was the one who gave me those opportunities.
He then got a job in Doordarshan (DD), Bangalore. Pasha again contacted me and asked me to audition for Badukinalli Ondu Tiruvu, a serial that DD was planning to launch. I shot for the pilot episode and it was a while before they got back to me. However by then, I was married with a one and a half month old daughter. The serial, one of the firsts by the channel, was a huge hit.
I was also part of the first mega serial launched by a satellite channel. Udaya TV wanted to air the Kannada remake of Tamil serial Shakti. Given its popularity in Tamil Nadu, 15 production houses had come forward to make it. All of them conducted a survey as to who should do the main role and 13 of them zeroed in on me, going by the results.
I also acted in the first mega Malayalam serial, Sthree. This soap had global viewership. I have also hosted and designed Knock Out Cine Quiz, a film based quiz programme for a Kannada channel.
Currently I am shooting for Kannada serial Bangara. Totally I have acted in 6000 Malayalam, 2000 Kannada, 500 Tamil and Telugu episodes.
Image: A scene from Nanna Haadu Nannadu
Photographs: Vinaya Prasad and Vijay Prakash
'My idea of a modern dress didn't go beyond trousers and long kurta'
Were films a natural shift?
I debuted as a heroine with the successful Ganeshana Maduve opposite Ananath Nag. Someone from the team had spotted me on the sets of Badukinalli Ondu Tiruvu and offered me the role, I was shocked and told them that I was a married woman. I also told them that I would not mouth vulgar dialogues or do obscene dance moves and roll on the grass with the hero. My idea of a modern dress didn't go beyond trousers and long kurta, I added.
The list of my don'ts was so high that I expected them to change their mind. But they said that mine was a performance oriented role and that the glamour part was being given to someone else. They thought I was lucky as I had done well for myself on television even after mothering a child. They wanted to cash in on this luck factor.
They however had a few conditions. For starters, they wanted me to change my name to Madhuri as Madhuri Dixit had emerged as a big star during that time. I refused saying that my name also contributed to my 'luck'.
Next they didn't want me to reveal to the press that I had a child. I refused point blank. They took some time to decide but came back not just with a yes, but also an advance of Rs 5,000. Even to this day, many heroines are not paid for their first film. But 19 years ago, I was paid Rs 20,000. There was no looking back since then. I even went on to win awards for my performances in Atanka and Karulina Kugu.
Image: Vinaya Prasad and Ravichandran
'The only problem I still have when I shoot in Kerala is the smell of fish'
You got a lot of offers from Malayalam industry at the beginning of your career too. How did that happen?
Let's just attribute that to my curly hair that makes me look like a Malayali! Jokes apart, I was offered Perumthachan, after the film makers saw my photograph in a magazine. This offer came to me six months after I had done Ganeshana Maduve. I was apprehensive about the film as I didn't know the language. But then I realized that emotions had no language. I received the Kerala Critics Award for my role. The only problem I still have when I shoot in Kerala is the smell of fish.
Were there no objections from your family given that you entered films after marriage?
My late husband V R K Prasad was an award-winning editor. We enjoyed each other's success. As and when I became popular, people started referring to him as Vinaya's husband. While this bothered me, he never let these remarks come between us. As for my daughter, who is now a trained dancer, she had just one problem. She never liked me crying on screen. She wanted to see me only in Ganeshana Maduve kind of roles.
Who were your favourite co-stars?
Vishnuvardhan and Ananth Nag. While Nag is a natural actor and is sans artificiality both on and off screen, Vishnuvradhan was a warm person. He was graceful and I'm ever grateful to him for if not for him, I would have not got the comic and popular role in Neenu Nakkare Haalu Sakkare. And how can I forget the Baare santhege hogana baa song that we both shot for?
Image: Vinaya Prasad with Vishnuvardhan in Aptharakshata
'It hurts to see how heroines are mostly limited to dance numbers'
What are your current projects?
I am working in a lot of Telugu movies. In Kannada, I just have one film, FM Radio. The other scripts that came to me had nothing much to offer.
How do you think heroines and character artists are portrayed in today's film?
It hurts to see how heroines are mostly limited to dance numbers. Films are all about heroism these days in our industry. Even the screen space given to character artists is limited. Even when a character artist is saying his/her lines, it's the hero's face that is shown. The modulation and reactions given by other characters are wasted.
How have you seen the film industry change over the years?
In today's films, stories have taken a back seat. Lack of scene order is the other issue we are facing. In today's industry, cinema is more about business rather than relationships. It is very difficult to hold any conversation keeping aside a business angle.
What do you do in your free time?
I listen to music and even practice light music. I am a fan of S Janaki. I also read books, especially poetry. I am fond of Jayanth Kaikini's writings.
I am also planning to direct a family entertainer so I use my free time to work on the script. Long after Prasad's death, I married Jyothi Prakash Athre, a creative director, and together we are working on this project. Also through my production house, I want to hold shows where light and folk songs will be sung in rural areas. I wish to popularise famous poems and poets through these shows. I also plan to launch chat shows and musical programmes on television.
Image: Vinaya Prasad