After a rural entertainer Utthara, director Ratanrishi returns with a romantic thriller Artiste
Ratanrishi with Santosh Kalwacherla
Director Ratanrishi (earlier known as Thirupathi SR), who forayed into Telugu cinema with the rural entertainer Utthara, takes an ambitious turn with his next - Artiste, a slick romantic thriller. The film, headlined by Santosh Kalwacherla, Krisheka Patel also stars Kalakeya Prabhakar, Sonia Akula, Tanikella Bharani, Vinay Varma and is produced by James Watt Kommu of SJK productions.
The film, whose first glimpse grabbed many eyeballs, is nearing completion and gearing up for a mid 2024 release. In a chat with OTTplay.com, here’s a peek into the world of Artiste, where Ratanrishi tells us what we could expect from the film, his learning from his debut and how he plans to take his film to audiences.
Artiste - the film, genre and its world
Artiste is inspired by true incidents. Though I may not be in a position to reveal the inspiration now, audiences will recognise it as they watch the film. I don’t want to box it under a romantic thriller. More than a genre, it is driven by an emotion; there’s a love story with thrilling elements. It’s unlike the staple investigation thrillers, the screenplay and the characterisation are fresh.
When someone is on a killing spree, we loosely call him a psychopath, but here the pivotal character identifies himself as an artiste. That he does something so professionally, he believes it’s an art. The film doesn’t encourage violence, but creates enough curiosity for one to know more about the murders.
Inspired by a true incident, but expect cinematic flourish
While Artiste is inspired by a true incident, it is mostly fictional with cinematic sensibilities. It’s an incident that everyone is aware of and went viral. Yet, you’ll invest in the film emotionally. The antagonist in the film dons a mask and indulges in crimes on women. Is there another villain? What’s his motive? We purposely edited it in a particular way to trick audiences in the glimpse. The film has a non-linear screenplay, will be engaging. I may not be telling a new story but the screenplay will be unique.
Learnings from his debut Utthara, casting and bringing crowds to theatres
While I was making Utthara, my intention was to stay true to the material and didn’t want to dramatise it. I realised I may have been wrong to cast newcomers for the story. I have committed a few mistakes too - in terms of commercial elements, release plans. A good, successful film is one that makes money. I realised it was necessary to draw curiosity to bring viewers to theatres.
The ideology of the ‘artiste’
Many may presume Artiste is associated with a painter or an actor in films, plays. In my film, the ‘artiste’ is a killer. He wants the murder to be perfect and even says, ‘human life is precious..don’t do a haphazard job, kill perfectly’. His character is a satire on society. He treads a wrong path but commits crimes with conviction.
On the lineup of Artiste - a balance between young energy and experience
I have nothing against stars or newcomers. But, one must be practical. I am one film-old, the producer too is making his presence felt and even if the actors are debutants, it’ll be difficult for us to reach out to audiences. It’s easy to grab attention with a known face and their presence will initiate conversations.
The lead actors in Artiste are debutants but the supporting cast is full of seasoned performers - Satyam Rajesh, Tanikella Bharani, Kalakeya Prabhakar, Vinay Varma, Bhadram. They liked the story and were really supportive, appreciative of my filmmaking. Their presence motivated me to push myself harder with promotions. We’ve set aside six months for the campaign.
Portrayal of violence in Artiste
For those who told that the film encourages violence, I only have one point to share. We borrow inspiration from our surroundings and films holds a mirror to the society. Truth is so strange that audiences may not believe it when we make a film out of it.
There’s good and bad even in our epics - Ramayana and Mahabharatha. It all depends on what we take from them. Artiste tries to tell a story from a criminal’s perspective. Without glamourising gore, the violence in the film is stylish. There are no unnecessary monologues, punchlines; the criminal has a philosophy. Every character in the film is unique and has a purpose in the story.
Promotional strategy for the film
I believe Artiste will be liked by audiences and has good commercial potential. Now that we’ve released the glimpse, we’ll plan our promotional/release strategy based on the response we receive for the teaser, songs. Artiste may be a Telugu film, but is a story with a universal appeal. It’s a film driven by the visuals more than the dialogues. While I took an organic approach to make Utthara, I’ve adopted a cinematic style for Artiste.
On a final note…
One thing I can say with confidence - the viewer will stop looking at his phone right in the opening scene. From a mind-boggling twist before the interval to the scenes leading to the climax, I am sure about keeping them invested in the story. There’s dark humour in it as well. While the situation may be serious, you’ll be surprised with his ideology. The teaser, trailer will offer a deeper look into the story.