The actor-filmmaker’s directorial is dropping on Zee5 on January 13, almost two months since its theatrical release.
Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana (GGVV) is coming to OTT on January 13, 2022. Raj B Shetty’s second directorial, the film, an underworld story set in Mangaladevi, Mangaluru, in which he played one of the main characters, was widely appreciated by critics and audiences alike when it opened in movie halls on November 19. “November 19, 2021 will be the day that Raj B Shetty ceases to be known for Ondu Motteya Kathe. Hereon, he is Shiva, actually Shivanna, a character that’s not only unlikely to be forgotten, but also announces the arrival of Raj, the actor, who makes you feel his every emotion. Let’s roll out the red carpet for him, already,” reads the OTTplay review of the film. And boy were we on point as far as the red carpet goes. Raj was well and truly the toast of town.
And yet, after the mandatory promotions for his film, Raj retreated to the comfort of his hometown Mangaluru, where he’s been finding peace in doing nothing and chilling with friends. He admits to being disconnected from the film. “I am happy and in a different zone. I have just been relaxing, playing volleyball with friends and doing things, other than cinema, that I love,” he says and adds, “GGVV was supposed to release in June, but came out in November. In the time between June and November, no one considered me a great filmmaker, even though the film was ready and I didn’t add anything to it subsequently. Just because audiences have seen it now and say that I am a great filmmaker, I don’t actually become one. Yes, I am thankful for the validation, but I don’t find any value in that. In fact, after a point, every time I got a message congratulating or criticising me and the film, I began to read the first and the last line only and respond ‘Thank You’. The last time I saw GGVV was at the premiere; I have not watched it with friends or family since. Yes, I had seen it ‘n’ number of times prior to the release, but the reluctance in watching it again is because I am done and dusted with it. Raj, the filmmaker who completed the film, is not there anymore – he finished it two years ago with the mindset he had back then. Today, he is a different person, and if he is to judge this film, I don’t know what he’ll find. After a film’s release I tend to disconnect, because a burden has been lifted. Making a film is a joy, but after that, the economics of it kick in. If you know that the film will recover its worth, you are done with that burden and you can move on. The present Raj is trying to achieve something, which the Raj of GGVV has not seen.”
And although he is not keen to keep talking about GGVV, Raj knows that it will open many doors for everyone associated with it for a couple of years at least. He is also hopeful that it’s OTT release will pave the way for other Kannada films to be picked up by the platform. “Kannada films have not had a national market at all. All the pan-India films have released in different languages to cater to set audiences. GGVV has not been dubbed into any other language and is releasing in Kannada. If it clicks, it will be a bonus for the industry. Also, Zee5 is not widely considered a popular platform. We got a lot of feedback asking why we didn’t target Amazon Prime or Netflix, but my question to them is, when there is so much monopoly, how do you even get anything for your film? Unlike Malayalam films, which get picked on Netflix, Amazon Prime, SonyLiv and Zee5 among others, we have only Prime to reckon with. If GGVV does well on Zee5, it will change the scenario for other Kannada films,” Raj reasons.
The problem, though, is that if GGVV opens doors for other Kannada cinema, what will be the follow up film(s)? The track record of Kannada films on OTT has not been great so far, barring maybe one or two movies. “I’ll explain it like this. After GGVV many scripts came to me, but they are, honestly, very disappointing to listen to. Mind you, these are scripts from new-age makers who believe in GGVV, not the commercial cinema filmmakers. That should answer your question about the follow up cinema. See, when Ulidavaru Kandante released, it didn’t do well at the box office, but for people like me it was such a boost of confidence that you can do a film in your language. Buoyed by Ulidavaru, a few years later, Ondu Motteya Kathe was made in Mangaluru Kannada. Ulidavaru Kandante made sure that Ondu Motteya Kathe got made and because of that Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana came about. I hope that these films inspire some filmmakers to bring great content to our industry. It is a slow process, but I believe that it will happen,” he says.
Harking back to the issue of bad scripts, Raj rues, “I really want to act in good films, but where do you find them? I am not able to find them at all.” But are these scripts trying to build on his image as GGVV’s Shiva? “Thankfully, no. But the offers are, like, for instance, the Kannada remake of a hit Malayalam film. They wanted me to play a negative role. I don’t want to do a remake though. I might lose some money, but I won’t do it, because I don’t understand the logic in doing a film/character that someone has already done. It is a beautiful piece of art in another language that should not be messed with. The reason that I am able to say no to these films is that I am not worried that people will forget me. I don’t understand that, even though I know that this need to be seen and remembered is what drives most artistes,” says Raj.
In turning down offers, isn’t he risking being alienated as someone who is difficult to work with? “I have no issues with loss of work or not getting any projects at all,” he quips. Is there a sense of overconfidence speaking here? “It might be or might not be; an overconfident will never realize that he is. I don’t think it’s overconfidence, though. I see films as a holy process that completes me as human being and not just as work. I am looking for films that allow me to learn along the way rather than those that make me look like a better actor or even star. I don’t want to do stuff that will make me grow as a star; there’s no such intention. Maybe at a certain point of life I had such aspirations, but today, I think that the star culture is a venomous thing to want. The approach that I am looking for, in anything in life, be it a volleyball game, a conversation with you or films, is that it helps me find myself or realize something I don’t know. I don’t see the point in achieving success with a regular formulaic film that doesn’t fulfil me as an artiste. I often tell my friends that I might do, say, 10 films, and then go sit somewhere and do nothing. In fact, when Praveen Shriyan, the DOP of GGVV showed the film to some of his friends prior to the release, they were confident it would do well at the box office. Praveen actually didn’t wish for that to happen because then, I might not make another film for many years,” he signs off.
Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana, which stars Raj, along with Rishab Shetty and Gopalkrishna Deshpande, among others, is currently streaming on Zee5.