Being a bankable star is the priority, and his directorial debut, Ninna Sanihake, he hopes, will pave the way.
October 8 marks the culmination of a journey of just over two years for actor Suraj Gowda, as he finally presents his directorial debut, Ninna Sanihake, to audiences. “Heading into the release, I feel confident, but it is judgement day and I am anxious and curious, because audiences are, ultimately, kingmakers. They decide whether my perspective on cinema is what they were looking for. I have tried to tell a nice, breezy family entertainer and I believe that nobody will be disappointed watching this film. We have a lot of things working for us already, like, for instance, the songs; every single one has been appreciated and trended online, including the cover version that I did along with the film’s leading lady, Dhanya (Ramkumar). For a love story, songs being a hit is a major criterion and the fact that we have ticked that box gives us immense confidence that people will come to theatres,” says Suraj, adding, “The trailer, which gave audiences an outline of what we are trying to say with this film has also been appreciated. The sheer number of people who have watched it on Youtube puts us almost in a superstar movie category; it’s not what an independent filmmaker would have. This is very empowering to go into the release, as the first film since 100% occupancy was allowed in theatres, while still unsure if people will make it to theatres. In such uncertain times, these things – response to the songs and trailer - give me the confidence that Kannada film audiences will not let a good movie down.”
The response to the sneak peek audiences have got into Ninna Sanihake should also be empowering for Suraj, considering that he has been vocal about the fact that he wrote the film because he wasn’t sure of his career taking off in the right direction at that point. “As an actor, you always depend on a director to give you the right kind of roles and genre. In deciding to write and make Ninna Sanihake myself, I feel that the complete responsibility is on me; it’s nice to take credit or blame for whatever happens to the film. Earlier, I have heard people blame the editing, direction, etc., when a film fails at the box office. With Ninna Sanihake, I will have clarity about its fate and that I am the reason for its success or failure. Right now, I know that I have done my best and I am waiting to see what’s going to happen. Growing up, I saw a lot of mainstream commercial cinema. And as a filmmaker, you tend to make cinema that you’d like to watch – Ninna Sanihake is one of them,” says the actor-director.
Rom-coms, adds Suraj, is a genre he loves, which is also why he chose it for his directorial debut. “If this film does well, I think I will start getting the kind of roles I want to do and that I can bring numbers to the box office. The only thing that I want to prove to the world, at this point, is that I can be a bankable star; that’s the only way I can work in more films,” he says. As the actor and director, Suraj says that he had a better understanding of his strengths and weaknesses and could play up the former to his advantage, which is unlike working with another filmmaker, who may or may not read you correctly.
Now that he has made a film in his comfort zone, what’s next for Suraj? Another directorial? “I have heard a fantastic script from another team and that will likely be my next project. But that does not mean that I will not direct again. I have written a couple of scripts, which are ready to be greenlit. A lot of people think that once you turn director, it is difficult to work with other filmmakers. I, however, want that because I want to know their perspective of cinema. Working with other directors is fun and much more relaxing, and you get to learn a lot from how they want to present you onscreen. I don’t want to only keep directing myself, unless, of course, audiences want me to do that. But it will also depend on how Ninna Sanihake does at the box office – a good showing means audiences like my perspective and a bad one would mean that I shouldn’t direct and just stick to acting, perhaps. I will abide as per the audience’s wish, I want to give them what they want to watch,” he states, adding, “If audiences allow me to, I want to do more films and on a much bigger scale. If I don’t contribute to the economics of the industry, I don’t think I truly belong to it. If I just remain an actor and do ‘n’ number of films and performance-oriented roles that don’t contribute to the box office, when you want to do your next, all that matters is how much money you brought in and not how well you acted. Whether I am acting or directing, my films have to contribute to the box office – that is the aim.”