The actress has been making calculated moves to further her career by declining hardcore commercial subjects, exploring the OTT web series space and doing offbeat yet entertaining cinema.
When OTTplay called Mysuru hudugi Roshni Prakash, she was in Goa, where she is currently shooting for Pradeep Varma’s next Murphy, in which she is paired with Prabhu Mundkur. “We’ve been here for about 20 days and have another eight to finish the film,” says the actress, as we settle in for a conversation about films, theatrical releases and the shift to OTT platforms, considering she has made baby steps in that direction.
With a handful of projects in her kitty, Roshni is happy to be back in front of the camera, but she admits that she is worried about the prevailing situation owing to the pandemic. “Over the past few years, on average, 250 Kannada films used to release annually. For almost two years now, hardly any have, and films that were ready back in 2019 are still waiting for a theatrical opening. In the time since, so many more have been made, and everyone wants a theatre release. Most of these projects were made for the big-screen experience, but even if they decide to forego that and opt for an OTT release, not many platforms are jumping at the chance to pick up Kannada content. Even though the film industry has been badly impacted by the pandemic, and theatres are only operating at 50% capacity, the bright side is that everyone’s still enthusiastic about making movies. The teams of the films that I am a part of or have been having script narrations with are all confident of being able to release in theatres and having a hit in hand. I just hope things get better,” says Roshni.
But aren’t audiences still iffy about going back to movie halls? What is the guarantee that they will be back in droves if 100% capacity is allowed? “Audiences are not really filling up even at 50% capacity, but filmmakers are operating on the basis of the fact that consumption patterns have changed. The OTT boom in the past few years has introduced people to a wide variety of content, which they are consuming voraciously. So, even though film teams are still trying to push for the theatrical experience, they know that they can fall back on OTT platforms, if nothing else works. Right now, it is a question of whether we will adapt to the OTT scene and make content accordingly. There is a battle within the industry now, as people try to figure out what to do and how to channelize their creativity,” Roshni reasons.
The film industry, she adds, realizes that OTTs are a lifeline now, but Kannada is not exactly hot on the list for platforms. “I don’t know if we can blame platforms; we are also not coming up with content that people would really want to watch. Today, people are still talking about films like Dia and Love Mocktail, which came out at the beginning of last year. Have we not been creating content since? Ideally, there should be something that becomes a talking point every month. Look at how the Malayalam industry has adapted, from Irul to Joji, Malik, Kuruthi, #Home, etc., there have been so many movies that we have all watched and enjoyed. They have mastered the art of making films on limited scales, without compromising on quality. So, now is the time for the Kannada industry to pull up its socks and prove itself to OTT platforms,” says Roshni.
Being a part of that movement and making content that people would want to watch has been her focus since getting into films, adds the actress. “Audiences today are smart; you can’t just put out random content and hope that people will watch it solely for the star power of the cast. If audiences cannot relate to the subject, they will not watch it. After my last Kannada release, Kavaludaari, which had quite an intriguing subject, I did a few Telugu and Tamil projects. In fact, I forayed into the web series space with 11th Hour for Aha, after which I shot for another Telugu show that will premiere on a leading platform by the end of the year. I am contractually bound not to reveal more at this point, but this will be an interesting series and has at least 20 other well-known names on the cast. In Tamil, I have done an as-yet-untitled female-centric film with director Jagadeesan Subbu (of Bakrid fame),” she lists.
Back home, Roshni has just finished the Kannada remake of the Tamil film Oh My Kadavule, called Lucky Man, in which Darling Krishna is her romantic interest. Roshni’s choice of films have not exactly followed the traditional route with run-of-the-mill commercial entertainers - Kavaludaari was a thriller with a difference, and her next is by the maker of Urvi, who is known for his offbeat subjects. Then why Lucky Man? “You are right; I have always leaned towards content-oriented cinema that give artistes enough breathing space to perform. And while Lucky Man is a proper commercial film, it has substance too and the character has something to offer to the narrative. It also seemed different from the other roles I have been doing; my motto is to keep experimenting and this fit into the scheme of things,” she explains, but is quick to add, “As an artiste, I have realized that I need to cater to all kinds of audiences and that everyone should know me. A commercial way is the fastest means to that end. So, I am now trying to find a balance between doing commercial and offbeat cinema.”
In fact, commercial films come into consideration only if the story appeals to her. “I will never do a film that boasts a fantastic star cast, but doesn’t offer me a great role. I have actually declined a few such offers, even though the money was tempting and the cast seemed amazing. But I made those harsh decisions because I have a vision for how I want to build my career. I am here for the long-run; I don’t want to do a couple of films and then be forgotten. I have to make right choices, so that people believe in Roshni Prakash the actress. Having said that, although this is my chosen career, I can’t only do work that makes me happy. It needs to be something that audiences will be willing to pay and watch, and most of the time, commercial films make the cut,” says Roshni, adding, “Lucky Man had a good team to be associated with; Krishna is an amazing actor.”
Murphy, meanwhile, is a film she is quite excited to be a part of. “The shoot in Goa is at a 400-year-old mansion, an experience that I am thoroughly enjoying. But that apart, when Pradeep and Prabhu approached me for a role in the film, I knew instantly that this was the kind of project that I want to be associated with. I am really looking forward to present Murphy to audiences, because it has a beautiful love story with a lot of twists and turns along the way,” says Roshni.